Longtime readers of this blog may recall the joy with which my Catholic family celebrates various aspects of our faith. For instance, each April for the past few years we have hosted a family dinner in honor of the birthday of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. We lit a candle in front of his portrait — yes, we had a portrait of the Holy Father in our dining room — and dressed up our home in yellow and white (the colors of the Vatican flag). My wife prepared a German feast complete with German wine and chocolate cake. We love our Papa and even though he would never know of it, we wanted to celebrate his special day with him.
Tonight, in honor of the birthday of our new pontiff, we went a bit more low-key. You see, it’s not because of his “stylistic” differences with his predecessor. It’s not because we don’t love him every bit as much as the former pope. It’s simply because we don’t know exactly how to host an Argentine feast so close to Christmas! So tonight after mass I stopped by a great little shop here in town where the proprietress makes nothing but empanadas, and she makes them to order. And they’re goooood.
I had been into this little joint a few times in the past year. The woman behind the counter seemed to recognize my Anglo-Celtic-Jersey mug in this strange sea of Texans. Through her accent she glanced at my card while ringing me up and said “Ah… I no see you in a long time, Mr. Harvey.” “Yeah,” I said back. “You move?” she said. “Nope, still in town. Just been a while I guess.” I didn’t know where this conversation was going so I attempted to further it in my own fashion. “It’s the pope’s birthday so we thought we’d celebrate.” At this point a knowing look came over her face. “Of course,” I thought to myself, “the pope’s Argentinian, she’s Argentinian. She must know what I’m talking about.” She jumped back into the conversation thus: “And he how old?” “77,” I said. “And he still doing OK? He see his doctors and all?” Clearly the train had come off the tracks. I was about to see whether it had struck any bystanders. She continued. “My husband is 75 and people say ‘My God, he 75!!! AY!'” The woman is 40 if she’s a day. What was she talking about?
I looked her square in the eye and said slowly “You know I’m talking about the pope? In Rome?” At this point we both said together “Pope Francis!” It also became clear to me that her English is so poor she used the word husband to refer to her father and that she thought I had been talking about my “pop” and not my “pope”. Ay indeed.
Maybe next year we’ll spring for an Argentine flag or I could just play my copy of Evita. The food, by the way, was even better than I had remembered. Happy birthday, dear Holy Father! We love you! Long life to you! Please learn English so I can write you a letter and get one of your signature cold calls on my cell phone?