It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!
-The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
The second day of Hanukkah. Two days until Christmas. It really does come either way and it’s a good thing because I have been beyond useless in hastening the season, or spreading joy or the spirit of love and kindness. I have been way too focused on just surviving each moment as it appears in front of my nose.
The thing I love the most about island life is how little you need. How the constant coveting of things fades into the background like a toy left out in the sun. I love how I fell right back into wearing seven-year-old flip flops and the same faded t-shirts and ragged shorts I wore when we were here last. My expensive jean fetish (ahem, AG Angels, I still love you!) pushed aside, too hot, too pretentious (too thick-wasted, dear baby, really? at 13 weeks?). Here, faded cotton is its own chic.
I love how I haven’t seen a single magazine or catalog to make me feel like there is a perfect holiday season to attain if only I never slept and my children had off switches. Not a Pottery Barn with its ever shifting, just out of reach, seasonal decorations, not a William Sonoma with its complicated recipes and three dimensional Christmas village cakes. Not a Garnet Hill Kids or LL Bean with their ridiculously adorable winter outfits for toddlers, miniature puffies and leggins and pea coats. Things I can’t afford, at least not like that, all at once in such overwhelming, dizzying quantities. Things I don’t need, or even want, and yet the images make me long for a little more perfect in my life. I adore giving gifts and the traditions of this season, but every year I dislike the way these glossy pictures of imagined perfection make me feel – inadequate.
Everything has it’s pros and cons, even sparkling oceans and eternal sunshine. Island life too has its dark side. Simplicity spills over into apathy. I’m afraid I let the uncertain start to this pregnancy and the sickness and the lack of motivating glossy pictures convince me that it was enough to drift on the gloriously repetitive days filled with sun and sand and swimming and tired summer-sated children.
I have done nothing for the holidays. No tree. No menorah. No cards. No presents. Nothing. This isn’t like me. I love traditions. I am the least crafty person alive on earth today, but I make our holiday cards every year, reveling in the hours of time spent perusing a beautiful local paper store. Cookie decorating. Hanukkah. Gifts for everyone. Usually, I am there, making it happen.
This year, it has all slipped away from me. And it hasn’t. It’s still here. It’s just a feeling, after all. A feeling that will be there when they wake up on Thursday and find their stockings and eat fancy star cookies for breakfast. That will be there when we watch the new movies Grandma sent us all morning and then put on our bathing suits and head to the fancy pool for the whole afternoon. I know I’ll rev it all up again next year, probably more than I should, with renewed energy. For this year, it’s enough to light some candles and spend the day together.
If I’ve seemed unhappy, lately, I’m not. A little more tired and squeamish than usual, but all in all, happy. Here’s some joys of our season.
This is our house in Washington. One to two more feet were expected last night. Oh, the gratefulness that wells in my chest. Ten day forecast in Saipan: Sunny and clear. High 87. Low 77. Every single day.
No, sorry, don’t miss it. Do you see those windows? They are 80 years old and they leak like they are not even there. I miss people though. I miss you!! You are worth every flake and shovel and shiver.
One of my favorite things about the holidays is how sentimental I get. Matt might call it annoying and weepy. Everything brings tears to my eyes. That commercial with the runaway teen calling home for Christmas should be banned. That causes the full, sobbing hysterical cry. I love things like that, that stir you deep inside and make you think and feel and be more fully invested in life.
It’s often little things that twist your heart the hardest. I fight tears every single time one of the kids drops their food on the floor and I tell them sharply “no, yucky, dirty, I’ll get you another one.” I’m reminded that in Haiti, where my daughter was born, mothers are sometimes forced to feed their children mud cakes. They form small patties of the clay-like mud and fry them, hoping the scant minerals and filler will sustain their babies until circumstances change or aid arrives.
Sometimes, I close my eyes and try to imagine it. Try to put myself, beaten and beyond hope, bent under the baking sun, there in the reddish mud, forming little cakes of dirt. I picture my hands, covered in mud-like dough frying the cakes over an open fire pit. But, when it comes to handing the dirt to my children, my pudgy, spoiled children who routinely refuse the most tempting of foods, cheese, rosy apples, black beans, crisp carrots, when I try to imagine handing them dirt to eat, my mind fails. The image dissolves. I can’t fathom it. My life experience leaves my unable to wrap my mind around such desperation.
I end up wondering if we really live in the same world. Is that the same world where I can stand at the peak of this island and see the Pacific stretch in every direction, impossible turquoise fading to sapphire, fading to deep midnight blue? Where bananas grow wild by the side of the road? The same world where I’ve stood in awe before Angkor Wat and the Taj Mahal? The same world I live in, where we throw away food because it touches the ground, where we wash dishes and clothes in water clean enough to drink.
That is true luxury. Cranberry cashmere throw blanket, bottomless Godiva chocolates, William Sonoma espresso machine and a Tiffany’s diamond necklace for Christmas luxury. Fifty presents for every child luxury.
I am so very, very lucky. (Also, picture proof that I have had the holiday spirit in the past. Um, lots of proof. Got carried away. Sorry. Also, sobbed openly in a coffee shop because HOLY CHRISTMAS SPIRIT, my kids are cute…and so little…hiccup.)
Holiday Fun 2006 – 14 and 16 months old!
Holiday Fun 2007 – 26, 28 and 5 months old!
Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Wishing you all, each and every one of you, the luxury of love and friends and family this joyful season. Love, the AnyFamily, Stacey, Matt, Garrett, Saige and Quinn.