Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas in Maputo, 1986; a short story

Our house in Maputo, 1986-90
No one had told her Mozambique would be hot at Christmas.  Not this hot.  Sweat ran down between her breasts to pool in her bra.  She opened the oven door to check the turkey they had brought from neighboring Swaziland and a burst of heat scorched her face.  She brushed back her damp bangs and slathered the bird with melted butter.  There must be a place for the stuffing.  It was her mother’s recipe, brought from a land where Christmas meant snow-covered pines and afternoons at the sledding hill.

“Why am I doing this?” she asked herself for the hundredth time.  The gas flame glowed blue beneath the rusted oven floor that served in place of the missing rack.  She maneuvered the stuffing pan into place and slammed the door.

She adjusted the temperature on the missing dial with a pair of pliers and tried to remember how lucky they were to have such a large gas stove when the rebels so frequently knocked out the electricity to the city.  She wasn’t feeling very lucky.

Her husband had volunteered to set the table—in the dining room where the antique air conditioner clanked away.  It didn’t lower the temperature much, but it did take some of the humidity out of the air.  The children were curled up in the same room, reading their Christmas storybooks and playing with new toys.

She wiped sweat from her flushed face and turned on the potatoes.  Soon they added their steam to the sweltering kitchen.  A can of cranberries, a plate of raw veges and a jar of olives, all brought from Swaziland and saved for this moment, completed the meal.

“Time to eat,” she called when the turkey was out and the potatoes mashed.  The rest of the family scurried to help.

“Man, it’s hot in here,” her husband proclaimed as if he had any idea.

When all was on the table, she sank into her chair.  Her husband opened the Bible.  The children grew quiet.  Only the air-conditioner on the wall continued its incessant noise.

“And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…and Mary brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.”

She took a deep breath of de-humidified, slightly air-conditioned air.  It wasn’t about pines or sledding or even her mother’s stuffing after all.


  1. Thanks for the wonderful reminder! Especially as I'm missing a white Christmas. :-)

  2. As we lamented our lack of snow yesterday, my daughter reminded me that snow was never part of Christmas growing up in Mozambique. May the God who became flesh and dwelt among us, draw near to you as you draw near to Him.

  3. As an Aussie we never have snowy Christmases. So long ago we went to cold ham and pork and fresh salads. Your post is a good reminder of what is important at Christmas.

  4. Cold ham, etc, would have been a good choice for Mozambique. I had to learn.

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