This has been a strange season for us.
They say moving and integrating into a new culture takes two years or more. Now at Christmas I feel the disconnect more than I have yet.
When I was a kid, we’d have Christmas Eve celebrations at my grandparents’ house. That was my favorite day of the year. There would be a big feast featuring Grandma’s Key Lime pie, among many other good things, and the house was usually packed with aunts and uncles, cousins and friends. These were my maternal grandparents, Jud and Marian – but they also invited Hal and Joy, my paternal grandparents.
After the meal (at which we always sang the doxology), we would sing Christmas songs, often accompanied by at least one guitar and sometimes a flute.
Then Grandpa would get down the huge old family Bible and read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke and say a few words. Then we’d pray around the room, thanking God for His blessings and and praying for those who couldn’t be with us or who were ill.
Then, at long last, we would open the presents.
With such a big, fun, extended family there were always lots of presents.
This year, though, we’re alone. I was going to make a Christmas tree from driftwood, as there are no pines we could cut… and then our car died by the side of the road, killing even my driftwood plan. The vehicle has been dead now for over a month and there are no signs that we’ll see it again any time soon. The mechanics say it needs a new engine and they’re trying to find one.
Last night I worked late on some projects just to keep my mind off the past for a bit.
Jud and Marian are long gone and sorely missed.
My Grandpop, Hal, died last year, leaving another painful hole in the family.
One branch of the family we no longer even speak with, as they literally created their own cult and have done quite a bit of damage.
Even if we were back in the states for Christmas, you can’t go really back.
Those days are gone.
And so, I worked on getting a project done and kept my mind occupied.
Today I woke up haunted by the ghost of Christmas past… and then heard the cheerful little voice of a two year old as she burst through the door of my room.
“Mewy Cwismas! Mewy Cwismas, Daddy!”
Merry Christmas, daughter!
Once I hit “post” on these thoughts, I’m going to get my Bible out and read the Christmas story to my own children.
We are all disconnected from perfection and not everything works out the way we’d expect. A friend of mine just lost his wife to cancer this month. Many of you struggle with health problems and financial problems, busted marriages and unexpected traumas.
I’d give a front tooth to eat a slice of key lime pie with my grandmother Marian again.
Or to hear Grandpa read the Christmas story.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
I love the rain forest and the coffee, the little farms across the mountains, the glorious surf and sea breezes. I am truly quite content.. except for this nostalgia for what cannot return.
For those of you feeling a little melancholy this Christmas, may you find peace. I don’t think it’s wrong to miss those who have gone on before us, or miss the halcyon days of our childhood, or remember family members when they were happy. Rachel lost her own beloved grandmother a month ago, which is hard on her.
But in a few hours we’ll hike up the mountain to a Christmas feast with some neighbors who were kind enough to invite us over, despite our differing cultures and races. That means a lot. And it’s going to be quite entertaining, I’m sure. This will be the first time we’ve been invited into the home of any locals.
For now, it’s time to have a cup of coffee and read to the children.
Thank you all for a great 2016 and I hope you have a wonderful day… I am more than blessed, driftwood Christmas tree or no driftwood Christmas tree.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
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If you want a little cheer and warmth from the tropics, you might enjoy Rachel and my attempts to harvest coffee: