On Friday morning it finally sunk in that, for work-related reasons, there will be no Christmas for us at all this year.
As hard as I'm trying to ignore this fact, and focus on my professional duties, I have that horrid wrenching feeling, that comes when one is forced in a direction that is clearly not of the Spirit's choosing! Which manifests, first as anger, and then as profound sadness.
I'm reminded of a story that my mother recounted to me when she one day tried to take my older son, Eben - at that time a young toddler - into town in his stroller, and she had taken a different route than I would normally have taken to make that journey from her house. He threw a massive tantrum, and began screaming "Wrong way! Wrong way!".
I was raised in a home where Christmas was a big deal. It was a time of wonderment (is that a real word?) and family tradition.
About 2 weeks prior to Christmas day, my father would take me to buy the tree and then he would lug it home over his shoulder, as we never had a car. I wasn't usually allowed to get involved in decorating it, as he was -still is - very particular about the way he likes things done. I respect that about him. And certainly as far as tree-decorating went, he made it look perfect!
My mother would bake a cake (based on a Dundee cake) a few weeks in advance, and feed it with brandy in the meantime. She could do that without needing to follow a recipe or cooking instructions. She was an amazing cook! My father would line the baking tin for her with brown paper and string. I loved the smell of the paper as it baked. He was also responsible for mixing the ingredients, which, with so much fruits and nuts was very hard going, and also for the iceing and decorating. A hard white iceing over a marzipan base brought into stiff little peaks, inevitabley with a little sledge ornament and some holly. And I remember something odd about that, when they mixed the iceing they added something called "blue bag", a laundry blueing, which made the iceing stay whiter than white. And although I never liked that cake, it was still an important part of Christmas for me.
My mother also baked homemade mince tarts. She made the fruit mincemeat herself, adding real farmhouse "scrumpy" cider (you have to remember, that we are Somerset folk!) that my father would procure from a nearby farm. The house filled with the smell of baking and spices and fresh pine tree and she and I would get a little bit tipsy sipping scrumpy as we baked.
These are just a few of the wonderful memories of this season that I have. Most of which are visual and/or olfactory in their nature. And more than anything, are about that indescribable magical feeling of cold, dark Winter evenings, lights and sparkle, sharing and excitement.
When I moved to Costa Rica, life changed alot! I have never been able to come to terms with the fact that Christmas falls at the beginning of Summer here. Forgive me, but the thought of hanging out on a tropical beach on a stifflingly hot Christmas day, just doesn't do it for me! Then there's the fact that there can be no replication of traditional meals as it is not possible to find any of the ingredients here, and no tree will survive more than 3 days in the house even if watered.
Add to that the impossibility of leaving the Peninsula to shop for Christmas presents for Nilo, who has just turned 8 years old, or , more so, of creating that build of excitement that comes through craft making and preparation together, I realize that, somehow, I have to let go of Christmas altogether this year. I'm not sure how to do that! I wish for the Spirit of Christmas past to manifest itself and lift us off into the "how it used to be". But instead, I am working long hour shifts, with no real breaks, in the blazing sun, full on, until the day itself, and then starting all over again on the 26th!
Friends, please continue to sew holiday cloths... bake as much as you can, go do late night shopping surrounded by pretty lights and pretty window displays... make homemade christmas cards... beautifully wrap presents... relish every sprig and sparkle... enjoy the company of your friends and family... take lots of pictures... and blog about it all!
Snowy egrets roosting in a bare tree, lake edge yesterday evening.