you know that i am a sucker for christmas. though it usually gets stressful around this time of the year, i love presents and always have ever since i got a barbie that came with her own bottle of fragrance. a bottle with a pink bow on top to close it and a heavenly smell. well, at least for a ten year old.
another year, i remember well, i got a new bed for christmas. it was a bunk bed for one person with a desk attached and enough space underneath to play. my parents had set it all up in the lounge for me and how excited was i when my mother allowed me to sleep downstairs. thirty-something stuffed animals had to be brought down in addition to pillows and blanket and when i was finally happily sitting on my bed it … squeaked. loud enough to concern my father who had built it and no, i couldn't sleep in that bed, something was wrong! how i convinced them, by tantrum or smiles, i don't know, but he and my brother took the entire bed apart and rebuild it in my room the same evening.
these days it is not so much about presents for myself, but i actually love giving gifts. i think there is nothing more wonderful than finding that perfect gift for someone you love and you can already see what their face will look like when they open it. this year i have already declared to 3 different people that they are getting the bestest gift of all and i mean it.
we had beautiful christmases when i was little. well, of course there were the odd ones out like the year when ariadne, our dalmatian, ate the entire goose. or the year when my dad forgot to buy champagne and then decanted a beautiful 20 year old bottle of red which was corked. there was also the year when my brother and i were left in charge of decorating the tree and decided to make a chic, all black, gucci tree and hung black cassette tapes instead of tinsel on it. let's just say gucci is not a good look for a christmas tree.
but overall our christmases were wonderful. i would watch the last unicorn, we would go to church, and then my parents would ring a bell in the lounge, announcing that the children could come inside for presents. first there would be some singing, then a champagne toast, and then i would be led to my pile first because back then there were no grandkids around yet and as the nesthäkchen i was entitled to go first.
my parents made us never wait and sit through dinner before presents. i'm still grateful for that. it also meant more peace on the dinner table afterwards. our traditional dinner is a bit of a funny one and i actually don't know how it came along but we would always have herring salad and smoked salmon with baguette. eventually foie gras was introduced and in recent years my dad always makes a ragout fin in pastetchen as a starter.
after dinner lazy family that we are, we would change out of our holiday finest and put on our pjs and watch tv. i wish i could tell you that we played board games and told stories and danced around the tree or whatever else other families do, but that would be a lie. we would eat chocolate truffles and watch sissi reruns. it was fabulous.
the morning of the 25th i would usually be the first up and sneak downstairs. the lounge would be cold with a nice smell of candles hanging in the air. i would snuggle up next to my new toys and watch cartoons and probably eat some more chocolates too. after all anything goes for christmas breakfast.
the same ritual each year… until my parents got divorced. then everything changed. mind you i was a grown-up and i guess it shouldn't have mattered. but you know what? it always matters regardless of your age.
my brother started to celebrate christmas with his own family and my mother, well, turns out she doesn't care all that much about christmas after all. i went back home every year to celebrate with my dad. one of my sisters would join us, sometimes an aunt, usually one of his friends who was also alone. it would be a somewhat odd assortment. and while i know that it is probably a good christmas spirit to bring people together who have nobody else and my dad made it really nice for us, it never felt quite the same again for me.
i started to long. to long for a christmas like kevin, home alone minus the kevin being actually home alone part. a christmas with big chaotic house full of a gazillion people, full of family – laughing, fighting, eating on long tables.
i found this here in cape town. the big chaotic house, the long tables, more kids than one can keep count of or possibly name the family relation to, the laughing, the fighting. i loved it.
my dad who has visited me a few times loved it too. this year was supposed to be no exception but then everything changed with his heart surgery. we are returning to a small christmas at home. part of me still longs for that big celebration in the sun. the other part of me is exchanging recipe and gift ideas with my brother and my sister. my dad has ordered a christmas tree and told me i am in charge of decorating, he can only watch and drink wine this year. this part of me has bought and wrapped all the presents just in time and is now praying for the suitcase gods that it will close. this part of me is happy to have a dad to celebrate christmas with, because that is the one thing i have learned this year, that actually nothing else matters.