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Awaiting a Christmas feast in Charlotte – and a new arrival

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DIEDRA LAIRD - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
Edith Giron Jerez, second from left, with her kids, from left, Jackeline, 14; Sophia, 22 months; Edith, 7; and Angel, 12. They are holding traditional Guatemalan dishes. Jerez, a Charlotte woman from Guatemala, is preparing food from her homeland again this Christmas; that is, if she’s not in labor. Her due date for her baby boy is Dec. 24.

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Edith Giron Jerez has an elaborate Christmas spread planned for her four children.

Tamales made with chicken, green peppers and olives, wrapped in a banana leaf. A rich cake that is almost like an apple pie. Chocolate made with cacao powder.

And the salsa, made with pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, butter, cinnamon, peppers, two kinds of tomatoes and three kinds of chiles. It’s a recipe so elaborate that Jerez only makes it once a year.

The big day of celebration is set for Christmas Eve. That is, of course, unless Jerez is in the hospital giving birth to her fifth child, Emmett Alexander. Her due date is Dec. 24, on the nose.

Jerez has already had to take time off from her housekeeping job. She won’t be able to return to work until February.

With her boyfriend, Alejandro, stuck outside of the country waiting for legal entry into the United States, finances are tight at the Jerez home near Firestone Park in northwest Charlotte.

That’s why she has registered her three youngest children – Angel, 12; Edith, 7; and Sophia, 1 – to receive presents from the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau. The program helps parents in need with Christmas toys for their children, bought in part with money from The Charlotte Observer’s Empty Stocking Fund. Jerez has one other daughter, 14-year-old Jackeline.

Jerez, 32, was born in Guatemala and came to the United States in the mid-1990s. She spent several years in Los Angeles with her sister; the two moved to Charlotte in 1999, seeking job opportunities and more affordable rent.

Her sister has since moved back to Guatemala, and her boyfriend is in Mexico.

“He’s so sad because he said, ‘I won’t see my baby boy born,’ ” Jerez said.

That means what has been a festive family get-together will be a bit sparse.

“It’s very, very hard,” Jerez said. “It’s very sad alone with my kids.”

So food will be the main event of the family’s Christmas traditions, but the children are hoping for something special under the tree, too.

Angel is hoping for a skateboard. Edith, some high-heeled “princess shoes.” And for Sophia, a tricycle.

And probably for them all, a new baby brother.

Dunn: 704-358-5235; Twitter: @andrew_dunn
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