December. It is here again. You would think I would be ready. After all, I have been around for a few of them by now. And, like snowflakes, there are no two alike. There have been small pockets of Decembers in my life that have been fairly reliable in terms of how they played out. When I was little, when my daughter was little. That was all about Santa and candy and magic. I have always leaned toward a fondness for tradition and that is what makes my new Decembers a bit difficult.
Any vision I used to carry about the big family gathering around a long table with a giant roasted turkey being carved by the patriarch of the clan at the head need to be put to rest now. That is not likely a scene that will ever realistically play out for me in this lifetime. Those dreams died with the end of my marriage a few years ago and thinking back, they really never even came close to the vision then either. There was no large clan. My family was dispersed across the country. There was only one child. None of it conducive to that Walton's Family scene I kept in my head for so many years.
The loss of that dream can still sometimes cause me to feel sad. As this festive season starts gearing up here in tropical Queensland, it is easier to put that vision aside. They still blair Christmas songs in the malls and it always catches me off guard. Why the hell are they playing this music in the middle of summer? That is my initial thought, before I realize with a heavy heart that Christmas is coming again. The traditional Santa themes are present here too. I see the Photo with Santa area in the malls set up much like it would be in Canada and I wonder how jolly that poor fellow must really feel in that get up when the mercury is hovering in the thirties just outside the doors.
I am slowly adapting to the differences, but this one is going to take some time. I quiz my partner about growing up here. What was it like for him? For his kids? What did they eat? What did they do on Christmas Day? Did they hang stockings on the barbeque? Did the patriarch of the family demonstrate the art of peeling prawns at the head of the table instead of turkey carving? I am trying to understand. To assimilate. When in Rome....and all that.
Thoughts of recreating my northern hemisphere festivities swirl around in my head, like visions of sugar plums, but then they melt away as fast as an early snowfall. It would be like moving to an English speaking country not knowing the language and refusing to learn it. So, I observe. This is my second go round now. Still early stages. Last Christmas we entertained his whole clan. We were house sitting a friend's ranch and all I can say is thank gawd for walk-in refrigeration. I spent a bit of time in that fridge. Every time I could no longer bear the trickles of perspiration running down my spine and legs and brow, I would step inside that chilly Nirvana and close my eyes and imagine Canada. How we used to chill our wine bottles in a snow bank outside the back door, or sweep the snow off the front steps for the third time that evening to keep them clear and safe for guests. How the oven would be working overtime in the weeks leading up to the big day with all the baking. BAKING! Forget about that now. Turning the oven on here is to be avoided like the plague. As much as I would love to regale my new friends and family with my Christmas baking and my grandmother's genuine Tourtiere recipe, it just ain't worth the pain.
Last year I attempted a real Christmas tree, but it did not really work out, its thirst was unquenchable and the needles dropped faster than a hooker's knickers at a bachelor party. No, this year, I have gone with fake trees. One home made from pallets at the front door and another inside our small lounge. It is actually one of those cherry blossom trees with lights that you see everywhere now in the shops. I decorated it and arranged the branches into a more conical shape and turns out I like it. It suits the room and my inability or desire to care for a living tree in this climate.
Last night as I lay on the lounge after dinner staring at the twinkly lights and reflecting colours, I got the notion to put on my favourite Christmas music. A wee voice in my head told me that might not be a good idea, but old habits die hard. I got about halfway through the CD - A Charlie Brown Christmas before my heartstrings were about to burst and turned it off. There is something about music that just transports me to other places and times. In this case, to Christmas's past and my beautiful memories of my sweet Emma's childhood years. You know, those moments that remain in your mind and heart forever. The ones that you wish you could hold on forever and repeat again and again. But that is life. Constantly moving forward no matter how much you wish you could freeze frame the moments.
It brings to mind a quote I read recently that said "Don't look back, you're not going that way." Memories are wonderful things, but best not linger there too long. In that vein, I bring myself back into the now, this moment, and see I am surrounded by many beautiful things. The Agapanthus is blooming beside my front walk, the Poinciana trees are a riot of reddish orange blossoms, the Oleanders are peaking and the Frangipani trees are a sight to behold in the most glorious colours imaginable. None of these grow in Canada in December. This my new reality. And just when I think that there really are no comparable colours, I notice a vine in bloom right outside my window here in the most perfect red and white, like it was made for Christmas.
It is as though it was placed right there, right now, to appease my soul. To offer me a small token of my past and remind me that although this new version of Christmas is vastly different than what I am accustomed to, if you look around you eventually find what you are looking for, without even realizing you were.