Last week’s column

Orange County Reg­is­ter — North County News-Tribune; Date: Dec. 19, 2019; Sec­tion: News; Page Num­ber: A3

Pla­cen­tia is a com­mu­nity to celebrate

The hol­i­days are always filled with too much to do and too lit­tle time to do it. We take our busy lives and make them busier with what­ever tra­di­tions we embrace. Even our city has addi­tional events each Decem­ber for us to enjoy. I’m in awe of the energy and resources it takes for Pla­cen­tia to help us celebrate.

It’s an embar­rass­ment of riches, one that I’m always happy to experience.

This Decem­ber began with the Pla­cen­tia Com­mu­nity Prayer Break­fast, held at the Pla­cen­tia Round Table Women’s Club. It’s a lovely morn­ing of peo­ple from dif­fer­ent orga­ni­za­tions in the city, gath­er­ing together to reflect and be thankful.

I was thank­ful they were serv­ing coffee.

Mayor Pro Tem Ward Smith was our emcee, and set the tone by observ­ing that no mat­ter what kind of orga­ni­za­tion we serve in, we are all part of the com­mu­nity. Lit­tle did he know how that state­ment would keep com­ing back to remind me of what was important.

The morning’s speaker was Letty Gali of LOT318. Her story was an inspi­ra­tion to any­one who wants to serve oth­ers but doesn’t know how. Accord­ing to her, every­one has time, tal­ents, or trea­sure. All you have to do is show up.

From the morn­ing break­fast, I shifted gears to attend the City of Pla­cen­tia Hol­i­day Tree Light­ing Cer­e­mony. It’s always a treat to watch young dancers from the local acad­e­mies, lis­ten to choirs, and see the kids’ faces when Santa arrives.

I also really appre­ci­ate the atten­tion they give to Hanukkah, telling the story of the Fes­ti­val of Lights. It’s a boun­ti­ful sea­son for many faiths.

This year, I hung back and watched the action. Fam­i­lies recorded their lit­tle bal­leri­nas, their faces glow­ing with pride. Moms with tod­dlers con­tin­u­ally cor­ralled their kid­dos, try­ing to keep them con­tained with­out caus­ing any meltdowns.

I remem­bered doing all of those things with Mar­cus, and felt a cama­raderie with them. It didn’t mat­ter that I didn’t know these peo­ple, or that my own child was grown and gone.

We were a community.

The fol­low­ing week, I was in down­town Pla­cen­tia for the 25th Annual Tamale Fes­ti­val. Dale and I have gone for many years. It’s always lively and always crowded, and there are always long lines for tamales.

This year was no dif­fer­ent. We decided to branch out and get tamales from sev­eral ven­dors. It meant stand­ing in more lines, but it was worth it. We bought from El Can­tar­ito, Raffa’s, and Impe­r­ial Mar­ket. They were all delicious.

By the end of the evening, I felt like I’d eaten my way through the whole festival.

As we stood in yet another line, I was struck by the friend­li­ness of every­one around me. We were all wait­ing, hop­ing they’d still have tamales by the time we ordered, frus­trated when the line stopped, and yet…

Every­one was talk­ing to each other and laugh­ing and enjoy­ing the moment. I can’t begin to describe the diversity—it seemed that every eth­nic­ity was rep­re­sented. We were strangers and we didn’t care. At that moment, we were all enjoy­ing the music, the food and the cerveza.

Yes, we saw famil­iar faces, and shared com­mon sto­ries and jokes, but by the end of the evening, I felt like I knew every­one in that mas­sive crowd. Like Ward said, we were a community.

I do hope they don’t all want to exchange Christ­mas cards.

Long­time Pla­cen­tia res­i­dent Gayle Car­line tracks those moments that shape her days as a wife, mom, com­puter whiz and horse­woman. E-mail her at [email protected].

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