It's that time of the year. It's that day. December 24th. Christmas.
It was my first Christmas away from home today, the first time didn't spend it with my family, the first time I wasn't there or didn't fly back. Last year I came home on December 24th at 2.25PM, went from the airport straight to my grandma's house and got to be with everyone. Not this year.
It was a conscious decision. I bought a one way ticket and that's good. But today I honestly wished teleportation existed in real life.
I would have gone home to Illmitz in the late morning of the 24th, taken a little walk around the frosty vineyards around the village or maybe driven out to the lake to stroll around there, because where I'm from is so incredibly beautiful, I'd want to say hello to every inch of it and smell the clear, cold air. Then I'd have spoilt my appetite for dinner by having lots of cookies instead of lunch. And a huge cup of tea, probably Winterzauber or Hagebutte. I'd have spent an hour in the afternoon getting ready for the evening, getting dressed and putting on nice make-up to look pretty for all the people I love so much. I'd have sneaked into the living room at one point to put all my presents under the tree while trying not to see anything that was already under there, so as not to ruin any surprise. I'd have gone around the house with my uncle blessing every room with incense and holy water, like we'd do every year. Then I'd have sat around the Christmas tree with my grandma, my mom, my two pretty cousins and my wonderful aunt and uncle. And their loved ones, too. I'd be all nervous because I'd know I'd read the gospel or a Christmas story for everyone, one of three texts that my grandma picks every year for my cousins and me to read. One for each. Nervous, because I want to read it perfectly for them. We'd sing then, Silent Night first and then Kling Glöckchen and Oh Tannenbaum and what have you. We'd sing the first verse of each song perfectly and then forget the exact words and hesitate and jump back in when the first person remembered how the song went on. Somebody would laugh. All of us would laugh. Then it'd be time for presents and I'd moan and groan because being the youngest I'd be fishing the presents out from under the tree and distribute them around. But I'd love it anyways. I'd be excited for everyone every time they'd open a package. I'd be happy that one of my presents came in a bag, because I'd put everything I got into that bag and keep it next to me for days. Then, dinner. Then, the annual discussion about whether or not we could have Balasn that day. Yes, we can. Thank you, Sarah. Then, I'd call my dad to find out if I could already come over. Get in the car and drive to Pamhagen, smiling the whole way at the decorated houses and the smoke in the air. Listening to Christmas songs and singing along loudly, and falsely. Thank God mom didn't accidentally leave our Ö3 Christmas Hits Vol. 1 and 2 in Vienna! I'd be sad that I'd miss the first visits by relatives, but it'd be OK, because I'd see everyone the next day. In Pamhagen, it'd be a smaller and more quiet celebration with my dad and my grandparents. After, my dad and I would sit together in the living room, next to the tree, and ignore the television and eat peanuts. Lots of them. The next day, first we'd go visit my grandma's sister and look at her tree and have a cup of coffee or tea. Then, after lunch, I'd go back to Illmitz and we'd all spend an hour trying to coordinate the order of family visits - who will visit whom when and when will they come to our house and is that really a good idea, because if we go to that house first will we still have enough space for those other really good cookies in our bellies... oh my. Then we'd go everywhere and sing carols for everyone and chat and admire their trees and hear about their presents and their celebrations and be happy that everyone's well and get tons of hugs. Late that night, on the 25th, when everyone's asleep, I'd snap my finger and be back here. And go to bed happy to dream about those beautiful people I'm so lucky to have in my family.
Every year, my favourite Christmas song in the time leading up to the 24th would be this one:
Because every single year, for as long as I can remember, we used to drive home for Christmas. From Vienna to Illmitz and Pamhagen. I remember those drives. The way the landscape looks and the sky. And I'd listen to that song and look forward to that feeling of sitting in the car, driving home.
This year, for the first time, I didn't do that.
All those things I described, that I would have done and I used to do, I couldn't do.
I thought it'd be fine; after all, it was my choice not to go home. I had not imagined it to be this hard. I've been having a wonderful time here and I love being here and I'm happy I'm here and I would make the same decision again if I had the chance to change anything. But today there was a lump in my throat.
But, here comes my little Christmas miracle and the best present in the whole world, I got to be there. Right there, with my family. Via Skype.
I got to say hello to my grandma and my mom and my mom's boyfriend and my aunt and my uncle and my cousin Sarah and my cousin Diana and her husband Sigi and not only did I say hello, I saw them all. I could smile at all of them and see them smile at me. And they all looked so pretty and handsome and festive and happy! I got to hear my grandma pray for all of us and listen to my cousins read and to Sigi who read my part. I got to sing Silent Night with them, as if I wasn't not there at all. And we sang Oh Du Fröhliche and at the beginning of every new verse I stopped for half a second along with everybody else and we all started back up when we heard how Diana sang, because she's the one who knows the lyrics best. Sing, pause, sing. Laugh. I got to be there when they opened their presents, I got to hear the Thank Yous and the Oh Wows and I got to see huge happy smiles and hugs and great, now I'm crying again. Just like this afternoon.
I love these people. So. Much.
They then went to have dinner and I went on to call Pamhagen, on the phone. I talked to my grandma and my grandpa and my dad and heard about their Christmas tree and their presents and how they all were doing and I got to tell them I loved them and that I wished I could be there but that in my heart, I was.
Then I went out to buy some food and wine that I can bring to my friend Andrew's house tomorrow, because he is a sweetheart and invited me to Christmas lunch with his family tomorrow. Then I'll find out what Christmas in Trinidad is like. And I got some small gifts for Bernie and Richard and Saviour to give to them tomorrow morning, because that's when Christmas happens here in Trinidad. I even did some laundry and cleaned up my room.
Then I got to go on Skype again, to be there when the first visitors came by. The ones that always come by our house on the 24th (while I'd usually be in Pamhagen and who I'd then see at their houses on the 25th). Extra special for me, because my godparents Irmgard and Herbert and my cousins Karin and Iris were there. And so many others! During that call I could hardly understand what anyone was saying, because we're a loud bunch. Everyone talking to everyone at the same time, everyone happy and chatty and, again, I got to be there! And remember how I said that we go caroling within the family, my aunt Christl and my cousin Elisabeth sang a song for me. My family went caroling in Trinidad today! We made history this afternoon. Oh, you can not imagine how happy they made me, they sang a song just for me!
I wish I could say THANK YOU FOR TODAY to everyone in person, but I did put my mom to the task of individually hugging every single person there in my stead. If I saw you and talked to you today on Skype, I thank you for that. If we talked on the phone today, I thank you for that. If we talked or exchanged a comment via e-mail or Facebook today, I thank you for that. And if we didn't talk at all and just thought of each other, I thank you for that too. Dear family, I love you. All of you. You are special, you are beautiful, you are appreciated.
And all my friends, you are special and beautiful and appreciated too. I might not have sent out Christmas cards or put up a special message on Facebook or anywhere else, but I still hope that every single one of you had exactly the day you were hoping for.
It's not about Christmas, it's about the fact that no matter where I am, I'm with you all the same.
Home is wherever I'm with you, even via Skype.
You made my day.