Despite my absolute obsession with Christmas, being merry this time of year has been a challenge. So many things conspired against my joy and good cheer during the holidays. Being far from loved ones has put a big fat wet towel over my desire to wear a ridiculous reindeer-antler headband. Clearly, it was serious.
That's not all I didn't do. This year I didn't write cards. I didn't make cookies with my best friend and sing songs with family. I didn't make a giant dinner with them, eat too much, and watch "White Christmas" while everyone chatted over coffee. I didn't stare at my cousins, and note how their faces have changed/grown. I didn't go to the mountains and stare out at the white peaks, hot chocolate in-hand. These are just a few of my traditions that define the holidays. Love. Friends. Family. Memories.
But I'm not sad today, despite all I'm missing out on. Of course, I ache to see the people I usually spend this time with. I want to pull out my ridiculous "ugly" sweaters and be the one who makes all the inappropriate jokes.
I know they're four thousand miles away, thinking the same thing I am, wishing we were all together. But it comes down to one thing: I knew what I signed up for.
Life as an expat is a ying/yang experience. You wear berets. Ying. You eat crème brûlée. Ying. You walk past the Eiffel Tower and watch it sparkle. Ying, ying, ying. You miss your family like crazy. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaang.
It's a fast-moving roller-coaster of highs and lows that leaves me wishing that I could just pick up my family, plop them down here and say "OK, now you all GO BE HAPPY, and I'll see you for dinner." It's so simple in my mind.
I'm making a tart au citron out of all these effing lemons. I sucked in the city streets and went for holiday drinks with expat friends here. I skyped with my family, it was the next best thing to being there! I made cookies here with my French fam, and we had our own inside jokes around the fire. Our glasses were filled to the brim with Champagne and wine to die for. We ate Fois Gras, Chapon with roasted vegetables and Chestnut purée, stinky cheeses, and of course... my chocolate chip cookies! We even had snow, by god, SNOW in PARIS! It's been pretty magical.
Let's not forget the other benefit of having family far away at Christmas... PACKAGES!!!! I love getting my favorite goodies in the mail. Thanks everyone for being so thoughtful and meticulous in sending me my favorite gum, oatmeal, brands of relish and loads of other precious goods that are so hard to locate here.
New traditions are creeping in to my "perfect Christmas" picture. I feel so blessed to have two families that are so wonderful when some people don't even have one. I have to say, the hubs & the hugs really got me through the yang of this year's lack-of-family.
Whatever you're doing, wherever you are... don't forget, it's Christmas, and no matter how many things are plotting against your happiness, there are a thousand little things that are in your corner. Add them up. Make an army out of them.
And have a very, Merry Christmas!!
ps - a little something to brighten your day...