Friday, December 09, 2005

"Jonn, NO! Do not take my picture!"

This is what I love most about winter: the feeling of waking up in early morning darkness and looking out the window to see snow falling onto snow. This is what I love most about Christmastime: having enough time off from real life to focus on your real life. Everyone in wool socks, my father preoccupied with building the perfect fire, my mom already suggesting board games, my sister at the piano plucking out the notes of some carol that my mother tries to sing along with from the next room, then stops singing to say, "It is so nice to have you both home." She pours a splash of rum into my eggnog, and hers, and runs around in her bathrobe until eleven because the whole days is stretched out wide open in front of us. My sister and I have watched the same movies for a decade -- Sixteen Candles, the BBC Pride and Prejudice, Uncle Buck, Beetlejuice, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I love that my mother, to this day, sits with a notebook in her lap while we open presents on Christmas morning, jotting down what my sister and I have received so that we will remember everything when we write thank-you notes. I love the Christmas Eve service at the Unitarian Church in Nashville, everyone holding their tiny white candle while we sing Silent Night. I love that my father, every Christmas morning, trying to take pictures of us opening presents while my mother says, "John, no! Do not take my picture like this." And he always takes pictures anyway and then wanders around, playing with the stereo, making coffee for my mother and leaving the sugar out on the counter next to his banana peel.

Last Christmas marked the first time that I was not there; this will be the second. Robert and I were by ourselves last year, in Thailand. We went to the beach and drank pineapple juice out of coconut shells and went swimming in the ocean and read a three-day old English newspaper from Bangkok and he cut his leg on coral. We ate dinner by the water, with chopsticks--red coconut curry with prawns--and all day I thought, "This is so strange. We're skipping Christmas."

This year we will be in Brazil with his parents, who are wonderful although, of course, they're not my own. I didn't think it would be a big deal but I woke up this morning knowing, all of a sudden, that I am going to miss my family. My sweet sister. She told me last night that she'll come visit me in New York next summer and I said, "That is so far away!"
How is it possible, I wonder, to grow up with a sister you see every day for years and years and then to live, of your own volition, a life that allows you to see each other only once every twelve months? I need to make more time for her. (Which is funny because I know that I annoy her to no end and she thinks I am too demanding, too dramatic, too over-the-top with my emotional displays...and I always respond by being even more so.)

She will be 24 in less than a month. It's probably the last thing she wants but I am promising myself that next year I am going to be there with her on Christmas morning, beside the tree, smiling for my father's camera in our mismatched flannel pajamas.

4 Comments:

Blogger Urban Barbara said...

I love the picture you drew of opening the presents with the camera snapping.

it sounds like your family is precious to you and that is wonderful to read. make the time to spend with them so you are enriched by the experience.

brazil-huh? you are leading a travelling life....must be a good packer.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous camille said...

It is all so vivid! I love it!

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK! Tennessee next year! I'm in!

1:25 PM  
Blogger Meg said...

sarah, i love your description of our family on Christmas morning. it is oh so accurate. i will miss you dearly this christmas. please come home soon!!- i want to sprawl out on the couch with you and watch Real World marathons and 80s movies and then scrounge around the kitchen looking for something sweet to eat.
love you,
meggie

10:19 PM  

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