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St. Nick's Outlaws

By Jim Colombo


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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo


Chapter 27


On Christmas Evening Lupe and Rosa came to visit Jim and his parents.  Mary and


Rosa discovered their love of baking cakes, pies and cookies. Jim had bought Mary a


deep fryer that she showed to Rosa with pride.  "It's great for making doughnuts," she said.


Rosa had heavy cast iron pots and skillets, and she was impressed with Mary’s 


lightweight aluminum cookware. Mary had made some almond paste cookies from a


French cookie recipe. Rosa tried a cookie and had to have the recipe "This is the best


cookie I’ve ever ate," said Rosa.


“Mom, you said that two nights ago at Tia’s house," said Lupe.


“This is the best cookie I’ve ever ate tonight,” said Rosa.  The ladies laughed and


Rosa said, "Every home made cookie is a good cookie."


Lupe and Jim sat across from Joe.  Lupe noticed Joe’s left knee was shaped


different from the right knee. Jim had told Lupe that Joe had lost his left leg below the knee


during the war. Lupe didn’t mean to stare, but Joe noticed. Joe explained that he lost his


leg trying to save a friend. Lupe mentioned that her father was in the ninety-first division. 


“So was I,"  said Joe.


"He didn’t make it back," said Lupe. She had a far away look in her eyes searching


for a father she never knew.


"I ‘m sorry," said Joe.


"Say it’s time for some Christmas cheer,” said Jim.  Rosa and Mary came back to


the living with trays of cookie and cups of hot wine. All drank cups of hot red wine with


honey, cloves, and slices of orange, lemon, and lime. It was a Swedish drink called


gluge. Lupe and Rosa enjoyed the almond paste cookies. Rosa and Mary discovered


that they had worked in the canneries at different times in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara


when they were children. They had similar childhood experiences living and working on


a farm. Both families were comfortable with one another. They were one family now,


and Jim could invite Lupe and Rosa to visit any time.


After a pleasant evening of getting acquainted, Jim accompanied Lupe while


Rosa drove home. Jim spent time with Lupe sitting on the sofa in the living room.   Lupe


said, "I admire how brave your father was during the war.”


“Your dad was also a brave man,” replied Jim.


 They sat  and held each other in silent thoughts of love. He could feel her love pass


through him.  Love went beyond physical attraction, sex or self.  Love was thinking more


about Lupe than himself. Love was wanting to be with her all of the time while doing


nothing.  She was the grace that sustained his soul. The nuns and brothers spoke about


souls as white tablets that kept records of sin. Jim believed that a soul contained one’s


unique essence. Jim told Lupe, "A soul is who we are, and what we feel emotionally. When


we die our soul leaves us, and we become empty bodies that return to dust. I think some


of us are more aware of our senses, and have insights that others miss. Some are smarter


than other, feel more joy or pain than others.  A few can see the universe, touch the stars,


and experience true love on the passage through life, as I have with you.  You make my


life very special." Lupe inspired Jim.


Lupe hugged Jim and said, “You make my life very special too.”


They sat in silence for a while as she thought about what Jim had said.  Then Lupe


said in a soft whisper, "I have relatives in Watsonville. Would you like to join my mom and


me for New Year's Eve?"


"Where will I sleep? I don't want to impose the first time I visit," said Jim.


“Trust me. It's okay. I have already asked my mom and she said yes. She and I will


sleep in the living room on a sofa bed and you’ll sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor, if


that's okay with you," said Lupe. 


"I’ve slept in a sleeping bag before. I don't mind as long as I am with you. I‘ll ask


my parents. I’m sure that it is okay," said Jim


Jim’s parents said no at first, but allowed Jim to go after he said, "Lupe and Rosa


invited me to go."


"Bring something like a ham or roast," said Mary.


Jim asked Lupe what they would like. Lupe said, "They don’t eat roast beef that


often. It would be a treat for them."


Jim asked Lupe, "When was the last time you and Rosa ate a steak. Lupe looked


surprised and said, "Oh, we never eat steak.  It’s too expensive."


Jim asked, "How many family members will we be visiting."


Lupe paused and counted the family members, “There will be nineteen.”


Jim visited his friend Jim Fatu at Gadd’s Meat Market. Fatu started working for


Mr. Gadd when he was ten sweeping the floor. He would be a journeyman butcher by


the time he graduated from high school. He arranged for Jim to buy a twenty pound sirloin 


roast wrapped in string.   Jim thanked Fatu and paid for the roast.


It was December 31, and Jim had lunch with Rosa and  Lupe.  Then they left for


Watsonville in Rosa's 1949 black, two-door Chevrolet.  Rosa's brother Arturo was a


mechanic and sold Rosa the car at a fair price. Arturo took care of the car when Rosa


visited him and his family in Watsonville. The car needed an oil change and a tune up.


The drive from San Francisco to Watsonville took two and a half-hours. Rosa was a


cautious driver and stayed in the right lane, never going faster than forty-five miles an


hour. They traveled south on Highway 101 and turned east to 156. Watsonville was


halfway between Gilroy and Salinas, east of Monterey. It was a poor agricultural part of


California. A few wealthy landowners ruled the majority of poor Mexican farm workers.


Arturo worked at a Mobil gas station in town. He and his wife Anna had two sons


and three daughters. Arturo worked hard to support his family, and Anna worked as


hard caring for her husband and children. Rosa had two sisters, Rita and Rosalie. Rita


was the youngest and had been married to Eduardo for four years. Rosalie was the


oldest and had four sons. Rosa was born ten months after Arturo. Rosa's mother Maria


was seventy-two and her father Raul was seventy-five. Raul was a tall man now bent from


farming. He walked with a cane in his right hand. Maria was a tiny lady with long gray


hair and had a beautiful smile like Lupe. Rita and Eduardo worked at the Safeway


supermarket in town. They had met at the store when Rita was a clerk and Eduardo


worked in produce. Rosalie worked at the Wells Fargo Bank in Watsonville as a teller.


Rosalie’s parents lived with her and her four sons. Her husband Juan was killed in a car


accident a month after he bought a life insurance policy. He was driving east on 156 and a


man fell asleep at the wheel going west. It was early morning and the sun rose above the


hills. The car crossed the yellow dividing line. The glaring sunlight blinded Juan. Suddenly


a car came out of the glare and was front of him.  He saw the driver look up in shock. They


hit head on. The two men died instantly in a pile of twisted metal.  Rosalie bought a new


home with the insurance money.  She believed that Juan’s spirit was in the house.  Some


times a white bird fluttered by her bedroom window for a while.  Then it would fly away.   


The one thing that Jim admired about Rosa's family was that they worked hard, never


complained, and lived graciously with what little they had.  They had dignity and were


devout Catholics.


Lupe was wondering what Jim had brought in the canvas gym bag that was so


big and heavy.  He teased her when they left San Francisco telling her that it was guy


things like soap, after shave and deodorant. When Jim opened the gym bag and gave


the twenty-pound roast beef to Arturo, they were very grateful. Lupe hugged Jim and


said, "You are a nice guy. I am glad you're mine."


The children admired the roast for a while. Anna said, "I have a small Dutch oven


for pot roast, but this roast is too big. Is it okay. if I cook it like a stew?”


 Jim told Anna that was fine. She had a small garden with fresh tomatoes, red


and green bell peppers, onions and carrots. The ladies started baking biscuits and cooking


dinner. Jim and Arturo talked about sports and cars.  Dinner was served at eight.  The


children sat at one table and the adults sat at another.  After dinner Rita began serving


two homemade apple pies that she had baked.  Coffee and dessert were served.  Later


the men went outside and smoked cigars.  Jim lit a cigar and took occasional puffs.  The


ladies spent the balance of the evening washing dishes and catching up on the latest




At ten thirty all left for eleven o'clock mass to celebrate New Years Eve. The


sermon was about the New Year being an opportunity to help one another. Mass ended


just before midnight. Father Ramon counted down the last moments of 1962. "Happy New


Year, 1963," he said. Every one shook hands and wished each other a Happy New Year.


 Lupe hugged Jim, and said, "I love you."


"I love you very much, Angel."


The organist began playing "Hail Holy Queen." The congregation sang and held


hands. It was a simple New Year's Eve nothing like last year's at Jane Harmon's. It was


a humbling experience for Jim to be accepted by Rosa's family, Father Ramon, and the


church members. They had a simple way of life. They believed in God, family, and hard




After mass they came home and ate a fried doughy pastries topped with powdered


sugar and cinnamon. An hour later  it was time to sleep. Arturo gave Jim a sleeping bag


and a heavy blanket. The next morning when Lupe got up, she said, “Did you heard a


lion roar, or maybe it was a dream.”  Rosa agreed.


“Some white guy was sleeping on the porch and was snoring. I told him to leave.”


Lupe looked confused. Then she realized that the white guy was Jim. She laughed


and said, "It was you. I hope that you didn’t scare the kids.”


The family members woke up at sunrise. The children were watching the New


Years Day parades from New York City and Pasadena on television. They were


well-mannered.  Jim was a curiosity for them.  After breakfast Jim played with the boys


throwing a football. The girls watched their mothers prepare and cook an early New Years


Day dinner.  The men and the boys watched the Rose Bowl on television.  Later Lupe sat


with Jim and asked questions about the football game. She wanted to know more about


sports. Dinner was served at three o'clock. They ate beef stew with biscuits and gravy,


ears of corn, and a large bowl of peas was served. The adults drank homemade red wine.


One of the church members made wine and sold it after mass. He donated wine to Father


Ramon, who was very understanding. The ladies served coffee and a chocolate cake for


dessert. After dinner Jim and Lupe went for a long walk. It was a great New Year's Day.


The next day Jim helped Arturo changed the oil and gave the car a tune up. Later


Lupe and Jim walked to the Neighborhood Park and listened to a Mexican band playing


traditional songs. Lupe taught Jim how to dance to the Mexican songs. She was impressed


with the white guy's moves. They walked home and arrived at dinnertime. Leftover stew


was served and wrapped in flour tortillas. A salad was served made of tomatoes, onions,


and avocados with oil and vinegar. The men drank beer. The ladies drank iced tea.


After dinner Jim and Lupe went for a walk around the neighborhood.  The adults sat


outside on old sofas on the porch or on the stairs.  Rosa thanked Arturo for the oil change,


the tune up, and the hospitality. Two hours later Rosa, Lupe, and Jim left for home. Anna


and Arturo invited Jim to come again.


"Thank you. It’s up to the boss," and Jim pointed at Lupe.


Lupe laughed, and said, "Yeah, sure."


Rosa drove and Jim and Lupe sat in the backseat.  Lupe got comfortable, hugged


Jim, and quickly fell asleep. They arrived at Jim’s home at ten o'clock. Lupe woke up and


smiled.  Jim kissed her and thanked both ladies for a great New Year's.  Lupe and Rosa


thanked Jim again for the roast.  He said, "Good night," and the ladies drove away.


Jim’s parents had waited for him. His mother asked, "How was the trip?"


" It was great," and told his parents about the three days in Watsonville. Then he


said good night and went to bed.


Jim lay in bed thinking about Lupe. He held the crucifix that she had given him, and


he said a prayer of thanks. Lupe was a plain chubby girl who Jim would have ignored


given different circumstances. He considered himself lucky to have her. She had


introduced him to a new world. He wanted to repay her for the all of the love and


happiness she had given him. She now had an inner beauty that was radiant. Maybe he


was the only one who saw her beauty.  She was always happy and smiling. True beauty


was inside, not physical. Jim was always attracted to Mexican ladies. He believed that his


experience was unique because Lupe was a Mexican lady.  An attractive white lady would


be different, not as loving and thoughtful.  His friends had said that white ladies were very


demanding and cold.  Jim had more self esteem because of Lupe. When he played sports


he was motivated to play his best.  Mr. Kepen brought out the best in him when he played


football. That was one level of performance. Lupe took Jim to a higher level. Before rage


and hate motivated him. Now it was her love.






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