In the smallest corner of the Universe, December looks a lot like nostalgia. It looks a lot like a reminder that I'm not staying for long. Frostbit mornings aren't strong enough to keep old women inside their houses when they could be blessing each house in the town instead. Armed with plastic flowers, colorful shawls and a faith stronger than that of kings and soldiers, they tenderly cradle their saints between their arms. Rosaries twisted around calloused fingers, fantasy pearls twirling around prayed whispers. A virgin Mary figurine patiently stares at me from the living room, her eyes downcast and holding back tears. She's got the same kind of sorrow as my tías do when they light up the candlelights of the altar, when they beg for small mercies and kiss her long cape.
In the origin of it all, December smells like my Yeya's house. It smells like the stories she tells when kneading the dough for pumpkin turnovers. Like clover, cinnamon, and ginger. Like her wedding, her mother and her children. My grandfather sits in uncle Waldo's abandoned room, careful to keep himself away from the rest of the world. Even still, December also smells like the marshmallow boxes he used to gift me, and the stories he's never told. December smells like the both of them, so distant from the other yet unintentionally intertwined, her lavender perfume and his Irish Spring cologne. Smells like the dust-covered house they formed with scraps of themselves, the sweetened milk my mother grew up drinking and a shared wish to see the Christmas lights of the Alameda.
At the other origin, December is deep-rooted and sacred. It is nothing if not traditional. The nativity in clay figurines is sprawled over the entrance, completely blown out of proportion. The pine tree scratches the ceiling, and all the love seats are just there to keep it company. There are futile attempts at saying grace because none of us know how to be properly thankful. Grannie's slippers move around restlessly, never more joyous as when there's a full house and plenty of mouths to feed. She's growing fonder, softer, as the years go by. She grows more insistent that I stay here as the months go by. Grandpa thinks it's wonderful that I'm moving away to study sociology. He's been a medic for over sixty years, and deep down, a humanist for even longer. So in December, I keep my mouth shut and my eyes wide open. My cousins and brothers are never louder, though. Politics at dinner, economics during board games, and medicine when opening presents. All the gruesome facts about their professions are swallowed down along with mulled wine, overpowered by the devotion in their eyes.
In the end, December is a reminder of the little time I've got left. Of the white snow that's never gonna fall in northern Mexico. It makes it all the harder to cut down my roots, twisted and bleeding around my ankles. But I've got my father's pocket knife and it makes my hands firm. When put under the light, it reflects stories of his youthful winters spent in white sand beaches. And like snow, saltwater will never reach my little town. The closest to white and pure that breathes here are the mornings after Sunday of Saints, my friends' clean laughter and mamelukes in my cousins' children. I've studied, categorized, tasted ten years of the colors that December twists in these streets, and no matter how many beautiful paintings they create, I yearn for white. Like a blank slate, like a crescent moon.
White like the path that will lead me somewhere December has a different face, where origin and end merge into one. And even still, the gentle winters don't manage to scare little town away from my heart, they can't tear the thorns from my skin. In the smallest part of the Universe, December begins, as it does each year, with the cadence of a change.