Maybe it’s because I’m pregnant again or maybe it’s because I miss home or maybe its because I feel the holiday season approaching. Maybe it’s because I feel the holiday spirit sooooo deep within me that Christmas music at any time of year is music to my ears or maybe it’s because I live on a tropical island where most days of the year I appreciate warm weather, but during the holidays it just makes me miss a warm coat, a Hazlenut hot chocolate from Starbucks, and a cozy couch. Or maybe it’s a collection of all of these things, but this year the holiday season is totally screwing with me.
A few weeks ago I went to Casa Cuesta* because I had heard that they were all dressed up for the holidays. In the Dominican Republic, they set up for Christmas on my timetable, the end of October. You would think that this would help my Christmas spirit but it actually makes me miss home even more.
When I walked into Casa Cuesta, I was excited to be taken over by the magic of Christmas. What I got instead was this twisting, heart squashing sadness. My heart felt heavy. It was so overwhelming that a few times I thought I, a grown woman, was going to cry in the middle of the store.
Christmas makes me emotional on a normal day. I have been known to cry just thinking about it but that’s an I-love-Christmas-so-much-I-want-to-hug-it kind of cry. That wasn’t this cry. This was a Christmas-dream-slipping-away kind of cry and it was very foreign to me for this time of year. What I started to feel was that this idea of Christmas, my magical, spirited, hopeful idea of Christmas or what I had always dreamed of Christmas being was becoming unavailable. Like in Back to the Future where Michael J. Fox looks at the picture of his family and they are slowly disappearing. That’s what was happening to my Christmas.
I have a very clear picture of Christmas in my head: a house FULL of decorations from years and years of collecting, a Christmas table set with our Christmas tablecloth and Christmas plates and glasses and candles aglow. A full Christmas tree that smells like pine with strings and strings of light and homemade or quirky ornaments that we’ve collected from different places. Snow and cold weather – so cold that its too cold to go outside so we sit inside and bake cookies or cook meals and drink warm chocolate and listen to Christmas music, preferable in front of a roaring fireplace. And this is all happening next to a Christmasy, snowy town square where they have town tree lighting festivities and cut your own tree famrs that you then carry home through the snowy path. It looks like this:
I know I am too big to fit inside these plastic molded Hallmark Christmas Village Squares but I swear to you that since I was a little kid, I have dreamt of living here. Saying Hi to Parson Brown, the Sleigh Ride attendant or Jimmy, the newspaper boy as we walk with our hats and mitten to chop down our tree and see the Christmas Choir sing Silent Night at the Square. I am aware that this sounds slightly silly but I have always imagined it. And right now, I couldn’t live further away from Christmas Village:
See that’s the thing with life. What I have gained in time off to write, house being cleaned by maid, and beaches in December has replaced hot chocolates, snowstorm school closings, and a reason to wear scarves. My new life includes drastically hot weather, constant need for A/C, and no foreboding threat of a snow storm. It also doesn’t include stability and I don’t mean stability in an Am I provided for type of way.
In the life of an Abroad Teacher you are on the move, always thinking of the next place you’re going. Its one of the things that I love about being abroad. I love that our apartment has plenty of storage space, mostly because it isn’t overstuffed with trinkets and boxes and unnecessary stuff that I always found necessary to keep. But because of the beauty of living minimally and on the go, the opposite also happens. There is no room for saving trinkets and boxes of ornaments and unnecessary stuff that I always want to keep. So when I walk into Casa Cuesta and see a beautifully decorated Christmas table with elegant holiday plates and stunning candle holders, I feel a loss. Maybe I’ll never have that. Maybe now that we’re living abroad, I won’t have Christmas trinkets that will become family heirlooms. Maybe I’ll never have my own house filled with Holiday Cheer beyond a few strings of lights and a makeshift Christmas tree.
And that, for me, is just unbearable. Traditions can come in things you do together but they can also come from pulling out an old ornament and saying Remember when we got this at that little market our first Christmas together?
When Husband and I started dating we started our own holiday tradition. In the beginning of December, we would both take off a day from work and travel into Manhattan, my favorite Christmas destination. We would spend the day walking around with our bundled up coats eating honey roasted peanuts having soup for lunch and trying to keep the tips of our nose warm. We would walk around looking at the famous window displays of Macy’s and Saks and Tiffany’s. We would stop by the Rockefeller Tree and take lots of touristy pictures and wonder at the beauty of such a tree. Somehow we would always end at St. Patricks Cathedral for a moment of warmth and stillness. Perfection.
Last year, with all of our obligations, we were barely able to see Manhattan. We ran in for a quick dinner, I hopped out of the car for a Starbucks treat, and the tree – well – we weren’t even able to see it from the car. Even my plan of bringing Baby She-Babe for her first NYC Christmas was squashed. Not enough time.
And so again, that’s the thing with life. The grass is always greener, you can’t always get what you want, and blah blah blah – other such sayings. To have somethings you have to give up others but you just have to find a way to make the really important things possible. I may not live in Christmas Village (…yet) but what I do have right now is home. There’s a reason that there are so many remakes of the song “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.”
I’m married. I’m a mom. I’m 32 years old. And I still want to be home for Christmas. Why, I wonder? Well because home is where these traditions and these images still exist. My parents still put up their same trees that we’ve had for 32 years. The table is still set with the same double-sided, quilted placemats of Santa flying through the air with his reindeer and the gold deer candleholders. Our beautiful Christmas plates and Christmas glasses wait patiently to be used on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) where my mom will fill the house with the smell of roast pork and yuca and arroz con gris and other yummy things to fill my belly. I’ll come home from the mall and wrap presents on the same floor that I’ve wrapped presents on for the past decade or two, carefully positioning the presents under the tree so that you could see my masterpieces of wrapping paper and meticulously twirled ribbon. Outside the air will smell cold but inside the air will smell like family, like warm love.
So, for now, until I find my own Christmas Village, I’ll take that and work on the rest of my Christmas Village dreams one magical holiday season at a time.