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Pod Corner: A memorable Christmas dinner


Next, a story from Bella Herrera (ph). Herrera recently took part in Colorado's Youth Empowerment Broadcasting Organization, or YEBO. YEBO worked with Colorado Public Radio to produce and record a live storytelling event for students, then collected those recordings for the podcast My Story So Far. Bella's story is about a memorable holiday meal and how sometimes you have to love people in your life just for trying their best.

BELLA HERRERA: Oh, my God. Hi, Eric (ph). Hi, guys. My name is Bella. This is essentially a story of my first Christmas with my father. OK. So I'm obviously still a kid. I'm still very much so a child, not 18 yet. But when I was a much younger me, a child, we used to go to either my grandparents' house or we used to host Christmas. And this is very important. So there were three things at Christmas every year, no doubt. I always looked forward to these three things - enchiladas, tamales, arroz rojo. And my family was in charge of making enchiladas.

So around a week before, my mom, she would plan everything out for Christmas. She would have us wrap the gifts like a month before. She knew what she was going to wear. She knew what we were going to wear. She knew what ingredients we need for the enchiladas. Like, she would literally write down a whole list, even though we - that was our recipe. We knew the enchiladas.

So my mom, she's very straight cut, you know. She plans everything out to the T. And it's actually very interesting because my father is not like that at all. He's the complete opposite of that. Which made it very interesting to live with my father, because in 2019, my parents divorced after, like, a long separation process. And, you know, when you get divorced, you have to make a schedule with the court, you know, co-parenting. It's a big deal, I guess. So my parents' schedule for the holidays was that they would rotate every year. She would get us for Christmas Eve, and then my dad would get us for Christmas Day.

So my dad is a very spontaneous person. He doesn't like to plan things very well. So about, I would say, two days before Christmas Eve dinner, the most important dinner in our family, he had no idea what he was going to make, no idea at all. So, of course, the pressure was on. He rushed us to the stores. We went to Safeway, King Soopers, Walmart. God, Walmart is hell. Y'all know. Y'all know Walmart during the holidays. So two days before Christmas, stuff was out of stock. So we were just getting everything we could, just the scraps of what all the people left over for us. So I had no idea what my dad was going to plan, but I did have faith in him.

So December 24 rolls around. We do all of our Christmas traditions. You know, we like to open gifts early at my dad's house. We never wait. And then, of course, we have to, have to, have to watch our favorite Christmas movie. Y'all ready for this? Y'all ready for this? The best Christmas movie out there is "Die Hard" - 100% "Die Hard," number one. It's the best Christmas movie. Love Bruce Willis. He's an icon.

So imagine me and my siblings in the living room, a very small living room in his two-bedroom apartment. I'm sitting on the floor with my bed to the couch because I'm too cool to sit on the couch. And my dad's, you know, finishing up his meal. He's, you know, finishing up sides and everything. We're just - I'm looking over. I'm waiting for him to call me over at the table because, like, I'm kind of hungry, you know. So when he calls us over, we all - we gather around. You know, there's a roast in the center. There's some mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, corn, some fixings here and there. You know, some zero lemonade, some iced tea, that kind of stuff.

And I look up at my dad, waiting for him to tell us something, you know, because that's what you do. You wait for your parents out of respect. I look up at him, and he's just - he looks so sad and nervous because this is his first Christmas with us. And he looks up at us, and he looks around, and he's like, I'm sorry, guys. I know that this is a sorry meal, but I tried my best. And that, like, honestly broke my heart just to hear my father say that.

And I look back on that day because I remember that that was kind of like - not the first, but the most memorable moment with him that showed that he actually cared for his kids and that he would fight for us and give us the best experiences he possibly could. And it's definitely, like, I don't want to bash my father's cooking, but it wasn't something I was used to. It was - there was no enchiladas. There was no rice, not even any beans. Like, come on. Like, you just got to put them in the slow cooker. That's all you got to do. But I understand. I understand. You know, it's my father. You know, he's not - he's, you know - I told him that we'd eat anyways. We're not really picky, you know. And that I was just - I was really happy just to be able to spend that moment with him.

And that was one of the lessons that I learned is that the experiences don't change how you feel about people. They just make your feelings possibly stronger. And that's definitely what happened with me and my father. I cherished my father so much for that. So I learned that spending time with your family is more important than the experience itself. So yeah. Thank you.


DETROW: Our storyteller was Bella Herrera. After telling her story, Bella said, I hope my story helps other children of divorce and shows them it's not something to be ashamed of. Bella now studies media and production at the University of Colorado, where she's working on a podcast of her own. Her story was produced by Luis Antonio Perez, Emily Williams (ph) and Rebecca Romberg (ph). It was edited by Joe Erickson (ph) and taken from the podcast My Story So Far from Colorado Public Radio, part of the NPR network. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.