The tree is half-decorated, the cards are half written, half-stuffed, half-addressed. There are greens to spread about the garden beds, and deck the bookshelves with, garlands still to be hung. My family is scattered around the world, and right now is when I'm most conscious of the fact. Memories of Christmases past float about in the air, hanging with each childhood ornament upon the tree. I let the kids decorate their little playroom tree tonight, and panicked when they wanted to help with the big one, too. What if they broke something? What if they broke my memories??
A woman in choir who confessed to her love of material things during our end-of-term party last week, told a story of how one year their huge Christmas tree, which was covered with her well-loved and coveted ornaments collected over the years from several different countries, was knocked over, smashing to smithereens everything that was in the least breakable. She left the house and walked around the neighborhood in the freezing cold for several hours because she was too upset, too enraged, too anguished to go back and face the death of her beloved ornaments. I think it was the death of memories she was mourning.
Every year I buy some sort of Christmas ornament, for myself and for each child, and every year we get a couple from my mother as well, continuing a tradition she began for my siblings and I. When I grew up and moved away, I already had several ornaments of my own to start with. Another tradition she gave me is saving the covers and usable parts of Christmas cards, to cut up and use as gift tags on the presents that are lovingly wrapped and placed under the tree. I have a box full of the top halves of Christmas cards, some of them saved just because they're beautiful.
A stack of Christmas books rests on the coffee table in the living room: Christmas in Scandinavia, Tomtemaskinen, A Christmas Treasury, Toot & Puddle's I'll Be Home For Christmas. Christmas videos are stacked below the stereo, old favorites, full of memories and song. Christmas cookies lie in wait on the counter, in tins, in tupperware, in the freezer. Chocolate and peanut butter, gingerbread, iced sugar goodies. I really do have Christmas on the brain...are you sick of me yet?
I am glad to be living away from the States at Christmastime, despite my homesickness; away from the super-materialistic rampant commericialism that is so unescapable there. Here, at least...HERE, in Flyinge, it's white lights in the trees, advent lights in every window, hanging stars made of red paper, white paper, gold, silver, and wood, lit from within, glowing. It's cheery greetings from our neighbors, and from Rosemarie at the store when we stop to pick up packages. It's a notice for a Julmarknad in Lund, a last chance to buy handmade decorations of iron, or straw, or wood. It's candlelight and greenery, good food on the table, visits from friends. It's the look in my children's eyes as they ask once more, "Is there really a Santa? Is it you? Is it daddy?" and you know they still aren't sure; they still believe. It's the hope of snow, but the resignation of those used to winter in Skåne. It's the knowledge that the equinox is only a week away.