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Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Christmas Thoughts

It is the last weekend in November and my little family and I sit down to watch our first Christmas movie of the year. There is Tigger and Pooh Bear and the little pink Piglet all dancing about singing happy songs about the Christmas tree and the joys of giving. Even Eeyore manages to crack a smile! It’s a simple children’s movie about how the inhabitants of “the hundred acre wood” help “Santa” deliver all the presents on time. The movie was very cute and our Butterfly thoroughly enjoyed it, especially “Tigger” who’s bouncing about seemed to inspire in her more energy than usual. Eeyore was, of course, greeted with great enthusiasm he was after all the very first Disney character she met. Despite our enjoyment I did start to wonder what happened to the types of Christmas movies we watched as children. The ones that spoke about the real reason for the Christmas celebration, the ones that acknowledged the religious aspect of Christmas time, it all seems to have been forgotten or shoved aside. With all this going around in my head and the prospect of a family less Christmas this year I was yet again not looking forward to Christmas. The Butterfly however seemed filled with enthusiasm at the prospect of Christmas and asked over and over where our Christmas tree was. So to satisfy her curiosity and rescue my ears from Butterfly’s constant refrain of “Ummy, geta chrisamas tree, getta chrisamas tree” I dragged the Mauritian off to our local “get anything” store and bought a few more decorations and a little nativity scene and promised Butterfly faithfully that we would erect the Christmas tree the next weekend. I could not bring myself to put up the tree in November even though we were in the last days. I was hoping that by the following weekend the Butterfly would have forgotten about her obsession with the Christmas tree and be more involved in her new “Dora the Explorer” colouring book. However all that happened was the “office” walls were beautifully coloured in and Butterfly now thinks that “Father Christmas” is a chocolate shaped like a fat man with a beard and filled with caramel. So now she insists “Ummy, getta Farfur Chrisamas getta chrisamas tree.” Oh woe is me, how I wish she would harass her father sometimes.

Saturday morning dawned warm and bright so with the Butterfly hopping around my ankles and the Mauritian lording over the kitchen and the cooking of breakfast I dug out the Christmas tree and decorations in preparation for the task. In a rare moment of genius the Mauritian put on a CD of Christmas songs, which helped to set the mood and the Butterfly and I got down to business. Up went our little fibre optic Christmas tree with some plastic candy canes, bells and mini Father Christmas’. We hang some tinsel on the window a “Merry Christmas” sign on the door and some plastic mistle toe over the lounge doorway. At the base of the tree is a small nativity scene and a fake present box in which I store the tree decorations throughout the year. There is also a dancing Father Christmas, dressed in green baggies and a red t-shirt with the words “Ho, ho, ho, Dude!” printed in white. He is wearing a pair of sunglasses and carrying a surfboard and when you turn him on he shakes his booty to a Beach Boys tune. Hanging on the side of the bookcase on which the tree stands is the Butterfly’s enormous Christmas stocking, on it is stitched a Christmas tree which has tiny flashing lights, it’s very cute and the Butterfly enjoys it but we’re going to have a job finding little gifts to fill it up with. On our antique bar stands a silver glittered star, bought for the top of the tree because I forgot the tree came with one already and a wooden dye cut snowman that I painted just for fun, unfortunately he is a yellow snow man cos the white paint supplied with the kit painted on clear. So I mixed it with the yellow paint thinking it would make it pale yellow, that didn’t work either, so we have a snowman with liver disease. Lastly I wrapped a delicate chain of gold coloured bells around the tree and we were done, I stepped back to survey my work and the Butterfly stepped forward and removed two candy canes! I scolded her and put them back she laughed at me and took off two others, thus establishing the pattern for the day. Throughout it all the Christmas carols and songs played in the background and the Mauritian’s laughter at my attempts to convince the Butterfly not to touch made for a wonderful morning and filled me up with that long forgotten feeling of Christmas spirit.

It is one week later and the only decorations left on the tree is the chain of gold coloured bells, the fake present box is bent out of shape and the lid has been stripped of its wrapping paper. The dancing Father Christmas has been banished to stand on our antique bar because the Butterfly is terrified of him and the star is glitter less. There are still two weeks till Christmas I hope the Christmas tree will survive.

This weekend we went shopping for Christmas presents for the Butterfly, how exciting that was for the Mauritian and me. We were like kids in, well a toy store. With the Butterfly distracted by a displayed baby gym we went about ooing, aahing and jumping about in excitement as we found more and more toys we know she will enjoy. We were about to be financially ruined had the Butterfly not realised she was alone and came looking for us. We quickly put everything back and innocently stood waiting for her to come to us. We then guiltily move on to a different isle and after half an hour in the store we left with a salad for supper. Over supper we wisely decided on the presents we would buy that would represent gifts from her grandparents, her parents and of course “Farfur Chrisamas” which the Mauritian will purchase after work during the course of this week. We topped off our weekend with another Christmas movie all about “Frosty the Snowman,” a round of monopoly at which I was thoroughly destroyed while Christmas CD's played continuously and an early night in bed with some good literature. I really did feel like I was filling up with the spirit and excitement of Christmas time.

But as I sit here struggling to straighten out my thoughts and place them into some sensible order I am reminded of all those glorious Christmases spent in the company of my numerous cousins, aunts and uncles. The cousins charged about passing those balmy December days in play oblivious to all the work that went into making those Christmases so memorable for us kids. It was such a magical time everyone was smiling and happy and I am sure there were many mornings that the grownups quietly nursed hangovers while the children screeched and ran about having slept long and well the night before. It is only now that I realise and appreciate just how much effort and organisation went into those Christmases. It is only now that I realise just how much joy my parents and my uncles and aunts gained from those busy holidays. We all have so many memories of that time; they seemed so happy and carefree.
The cousins are now scattered haphazardly across the globe, the aunts and uncles much calmer and happy to spend Christmas quietly with their children and grandchildren and look back fondly at those crazy days. Those days when Christmas wasn't just about who got the best present or which house was lit the brightest with energy sapping Christmas lights or grabbing that Christmas bargain before they are all sold out or buying the biggest turkey or ham. Those days when Christmas was about celebrating family, friends and the birth of Jesus, for many believers, our Saviour and teacher, when Christmas was about true giving that came from the heart and not from a need to be noticed. Those days when people respected the religious days and closed their stores and whether they believed or not spent a day in peace and harmony with their families. I used to love Christmas but somewhere along the way, somewhere in the working adult stage I began to not look forward to Christmas and everything that came with it. The crowds, the, the frayed tempers, the cost and those dreaded work Christmas parties, where your manager got drunk and actually claimed to like you.

We are alone for Christmas this year. For the first time in my life I will be spending Christmas with none of my family and that makes me sad. I know that this is because we made the decision to start a new life here at the end of the world and I will never regret that decision, but this is my first Christmas away from home and the prospect seems so lonely. Then it occurred to me that even if I was in South Africa for Christmas this year, it would just be us anyway because my baby brother will be somewhere in northern KZN, my brother the fireman and my delightful sister-in-law will be celebrating a white Christmas in their home in California and my now “retired” parents will be spending Christmas in Tanzania with my big brother and his family. With this realisation came the reminder of the invites we have received from people to join them for a meal at some point over the Christmas weekend. So many people who were strangers only six months ago are willing to open their homes to us new comers and help fill the Christmas weekend with cheer. Their kindness to us will not replace our family but it will fill the gaps left in the distance between us. So with this reassurance, a grateful heart and the contagious excitement of the Butterfly I am looking forward Christmas, the prospect of doing things differently and the chance to make new magical memories with new friends.

As we approach the end of this year and into our second year residing at the end of the world I wish you all, my family scattered around the world, those yet to be born and those no longer with us, my friends old and new a blessed, peaceful and magical Christmas. I hope you will all be filled with the spirit of Christmas and look forward to it. I hope you bring in the New Year in with laughter and love and I hope you will all be back on this web page reading my blogs!

Merry Christmas one and all and God bless!