Friday, December 25, 2009
The summer when I was 9 years old, my family and I moved from Belgium to Italy. It was difficult, as I'd just spent 5 years in Belgium (the longest I'd been in a country) and was inconsolably sad having to leave my friends. I was adjusting to my new life in Italy, missing my friends, trying to figure out what was going on in my life; all during that odd, awkward adolescent stage. Additionally, in late November we decided to move from the house we were in to an apartment building in Caserta, moving farther away from Gricignano and Pinetamare and Lago Patria and all the few friends we had made since.
This Christmas was also different because my father was assigned overnight-duty at work from December 24-25. Having always lived in Europe and never been around relatives for the holidays, it was normally my parents and brother all together for Christmas Eve, having a special dinner and watching movies and playing board games - only once was he ever away on a ship for Christmas, but I was too young to remember it. For the first time that I could remember, my dad wasn't going to be there.
Everything was set up to be a devestating Christmas for a 9-year-old girl: no friends, no dad, changed routine, most of our stuff was still in boxes. We hadn't even done St. Nicholas day that year! (Apparently it's celebrated differently and on different days in Italy.)
But that Christmas is actually one of my favourite memories.
We made do with what we could; we set up a small, sparse tree behind the couch in the middle of a bunch of boxes. We turned on the TV to any english-speaking movie we could find (it was Wizard of Oz). I remember my mom wrapping some of my dad's gifts, sitting there watching with my brother and I. And I especially remember the bean bag game my mother had made stitching pieces of felt together with beans in the middle. We used an empty Tide box and spent hours tossing the bean bags into the box across our massive living/dining room area, making up games and challenges. My mom said we could stay up, even though Santa was coming, because we could wait for dad to come home. Santa would work around us, it was no problem.
I don't remember what gifts I got that year, I don't remember playing with toys, I don't remember all the things a kid would probably remember about their Christmas. I do remember falling asleep way before dad got home, and way before Santa came to the house. I do remember waking up at 8am to the sound of my dad coming home from work, and my brother and I running out to the living room to wish him a Merry Christmas and being delighted to see a mass of presents magically under our tree. I remember having breakfast together as a family, knowing that I made it through my first Christmas in Italy, and it was different--but wonderful. Because my family makes it so wherever we go, whatever circumstance we're in.
That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
apologies for the rudimentary "colouring" going on in this - i only have the touchpad mouse, so Photoshopping for colour was a bit...harrowing.