Christmas Stuff…ing

I have always been equally stressed & excited about Christmas preparations.  Having not grown up with the holiday myself, I always fear I will get it wrong somehow and yet I love the season.  This year, however; was different.  After having been away from our home on Maui for 5½ months I just couldn’t get in the spirit.  Christmas was the primary concern of our Children during the discussions which preceded our travel. Questions asked: How will Santa find us? What if we are in a predominantly Muslim country?  Can’t we just fly to Minnesota and surprise visit Wendy and see snow for a week and then come back?

Bernie and I did our best to assuage the nervous tension of our little ones.  Scarlet (nearly 11) asked the most questions and has the sense that Santa will soon stop coming to her and this could indeed be one of the last Christmas of her childhood.  Holidays abroad are less joyful for me and somehow slightly more stressful, the main difference was compressing the preparations & shopping into two days instead of two-months! At home, we would have started playing Christmas music around Halloween and doing Christmas puzzles, drinking hot chocolate, watching Christmas movies., etc.

During our Christmas Eve break from shopping, Bernie asked me when we were having breakfast what I wanted for Christmas and I struggled to come up with anything.  Usually I know exactly what I want and it is usually something like a delicate piece of jewelry, a pair of Italian shoes, clothing, etc.  Having gotten rid of so many things, nearly everything, in order to take this trip, I feel that I am somewhat changed by it and no longer want things just for the sake of wanting them or just because it’s a holiday and that I should get something because that is what is expected.

Our friend Fatma from Egypt, surprised the girls with a small collapsable Christmas tree which Scarlet put up in one of the mini rooms of our hotel complete with ornaments, telling the girls that it was from Egyptian Santa. Our girls when to sleep reluctantly on Christmas Eve with nervous anticipation. But Chinese Santa was very clever and left a note and a trail of coins leading to Devin’s room where the presents where found in small piles with each child’s name on a small card.  The girls awoke bright and early to discover this surprise to my delight and experienced a magical Christmas abroad.

I am acquiring things along the way; hopefully useful home items, handwoven wool rugs from Egypt, a small ceramic pitcher from Portugal, not just knick-knack clutter. It feels somehow wrong to ask for more when I have so much and am living my dream of long-term travel.  I have mentioned this in an earlier post, but reality surpasses the dream.  I never could have imagined that I would travel to this level and at this length, it just sort of happened.

Usually every November, I go through the house with garbage  bags and bins and collect things that we can simplify (get rid of) before the new influx of stuff arrives at Christmas. Simplify has become somewhat of a dirty word around our house with the girls running around screaming “Mama is simplifying, hurry hide your stuff”. I would love to move away from a gluttonous Christmas and toward a more heart-felt version filled with joy and good will and away from all of the STUFF. How does one accomplish this?  Well it seems that our family is on its way toward this goal.

One Christmas miracle this year is that Scarlet told me she doesn’t need to buy a whole bunch of stuff when she gets back  to Maui.  Let me explain this… when we were selling off our possessions on Maui I sold most of Scarlet’s extensive lego Friends collection on Ebay.  We spent hours, maybe even days sorting and separating and devising the best approach to sell them off and we came up several small lots of 100+ pieces… I assured her that she would earn money from this sale and upon our return to Maui she could spend it on whatever she wanted for the new house. I started the 13 auctions at .99¢  never dreaming that I would only have one bidder. This bidder won all 13 auctions, insisted on combined shipping and after receiving several hundreds of dollars worth of legos for a grand total of 13¢ less than $13 + shipping left me my first negative feedback in 7 years of Ebay-ing, apparently I had left out 2 pieces that she had seen in the photographs.  I was so upset as was Scarlet by this event that I promised her $200 in spending money upon our return….the amount that I had expected to get from the sale of the legos. She would like to spend the money on a new desk instead of on frivolous treasures.

Rose Latte, Brick Lane (Photo Credit: Devin)

At this very moment, New Years Eve day, I am feeling like heading home.  I know it will pass but at this moment Grace has a fever, Devin is sick, I feel exhausted…Somedays I have had enough.  The family spurs me on.  Bernie says I am not ready to go home yet. Scarlet says we told everyone we were going to do this, we can’t quit now. I recite the serenity prayer over and over before bed and pray for acceptance, courage and wisdom.

I resolve to lead a simpler life upon my return home. Happy New Year to all of our friends, family and readers.