christmas morning

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

I am a sentimentalist. My earliest understanding of grief came to me on the pebbled playground of elementary school, kindergarten. Like a magpie, I treasured a holographic Lisa Frank sticker of three brightly colored balloons. Please imagine the logistics of a 5-year old trying to hang on to a flimsy piece of tiny paper on the battleground of recess - I promptly lost that sticker chasing a little boy across the rubber tires. Oh, my heart. I can still smell the dust of the pebbles, clouding around me as I frantically scoured the Earth for my beloved balloons. Needless to say, I never found that sticker, and I cried. Oh, how I cried.

Dramatic retelling aside, as a child I was saddened to the extent of my emotional capability at the time. I grew up into an even more emotionally deep human being, which 9 times out of 10 is something I value about myself. The 1 out of 10 being the times I openly cry on an airplane in the middle of the day half-paying attention to an emotional moment in Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice.

Growing up I had the best Christmases. I know, I know. Every middle-class American human who had the privilege to grow up in a nurturing family environment feels this way. But y'all, Adams Christmases were bomb. My Mom's green card doesn't say it, but she is Mrs. Klaus. She tells a story of how she absolutely fell in love with Christmas, even in Korea when the holiday was just becoming fairly popular. As a child she saw a town all lit up in Christmas lights, and from that moment on, she has never looked back. Jingle all the way.

Each year, as far back as I can remember, our halls were bedecked - mangers, animatronic Santas, garland, tinsel, sleigh bells on the door handles, mistletoe over the entryway, you name it. Each year Dad braved our sloped roof to string lights. Mom tied pretty velvet red ribbons across our fences. My brother and I made countdown cuffs of construction paper to tear apart each day of December before the Day of Days: CHRISTMAS. I can't convey in words how magical those Christmases were, not counting the one year my brother and I planned to shoot Santa with an Inspector Gadget gun. In all fairness, I was likely coerced.

So. I love Christmas. It goes without saying. Factor this in with my aforementioned sentimentality, I was feeling slightly anxious when I learned that I be spending my first Christmas away from home. That at all of 27 years old I would not be waking up in Texas in the wee hours of the morning to a beautiful tree and presents and delicious food and staying in my pajamas all day bothering my family with Christmas cheer. Due to a combination of health issues, travel, and vacation days meant that I would be apart from my family. WOE IS ME, RIGHT?

Except not. Not by a long shot. Because I wasn't apart from family. All kidding aside, I obviously had nothing to be sad or self-pitying about. I still got to shower my loved one with Christmas cheer (as in, since before Halloween, pester my boyfriend with holly jolly nonsense and deck out our tiny apartment). On Christmas Eve and the following morning I got to wake up next to that wonderful boyfriend and share a new memory of the holidays together. I got to spend Christmas Day with his family, who feel like mine. I got to hear my parents' and brother's voices. I got to shower the people I love with well wishes and picking out the just-right gift as a token of appreciation. And, even from thousands of miles away and the fact that I am almost 30, my family spoils me (family: please stop lavishing your super thoughtful gifts on me).

And it makes sense, when I thought about it. Once I listened past the mournful refrains of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" playing in my mind, I realized some things. My brother has been away from family for Christmas several times. Growing up, my Dad spent many Christmases abroad with the army. And Mom has a birthday like 5 days before Christmas which isn't even fair (just kidding). At every turn of my life, I've just had to push through the 'challenge' a bit to see the other side...even something as innocuous as a Christmas morning.

Christmas will never lose its cheesy magic for me. It's something I will pass on to my kids along with a genetic propensity for youthful skin and bad vision. Each year I will do my best to give them the same type of wonderful memories I have cherished through the years.

This year? My magic came right after Christmas. My boyfriend and I were driving back from home on New Year's Day, having spent the previous night drinking too much with friends and ringing in 2017. We had planned something totally indulgent, but not too far out of the way. Just outside of the city, we pulled off the highway and went down a tree-lined road. There, we stopped and saw, in person, a gorgeous farm house.

We had come across the house on a whim, one night on the couch doing random Google searches of things we want but could never afford. Yep, file that under "fun adult things that a couple of 27-year olds do". Adulthood is cool, kids! The farm house was love at first sight. And for several nights after we would get into bed at the end of each work day, study pictures of the house, even map out its floor plan. I'm not saying we're obsessed, but I'm not not saying it. We would fall asleep gushing over each perfect detail -- windows on either side of the fireplace with the wood-burning stove! a porch! acres of rural seclusion!! --and scheming up how we could win the lottery and buy that incredible parcel of heaven on Earth.

There, sitting in the car together on New Year's Day, hungover from the night before, we saw that dream house of ours in all its smaller-in-real-life-but-still-impressive glory. It's a house and land we'll likely never be able to afford. But sitting there looking at that house, I thought of all the other dreams we had been cooking up together since we met. Hopes that we share for each other and with each other. What we want for our life together. And I cherished the fact that ever since I met that guy, I haven't looked back. I just look over at him and find a new favorite thing each time.

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