Monday, December 23, 2013

Of Cabbages and Kings

It's the time of year for reflection, it seems.  I don't know why journos and bloggers feel like they have 'sum up', pick 'the best of', or, most annoying of all, recycle the same old tips on 'surviving Xmas'.  If we wanted to make lists or look back, maybe we should have done it mid year.

shredded words
lie pleading
in the gutter

I think the most special part about this time of year is that it feels like summer has finally arrived, and most people can now kick back for a few weeks at least.  It's gorgeous, even in Wellington. We've been here for 4 months, the first three spent shivering in our eyrie up in the Korokoro Hills.

 the wind
rattles moody fingers
under our roof
rolls cloudy marbles

One month to go here, and just under a day until Christmas.  As I write, I am sitting in a trendy rented cottage in Petone, staring at a punnet of strawberries I am planning on eating all by myself.  My husband at this moment is in Auckland, most likely persuading a small but determined 17 month old that she *does* want to go to bed. I am not alone though.

there's a monkey
climbing the playground
of my ribs. Fiddling
with plumbing.
Sometimes I see a face
pressed against 
the window of my belly.

If I was going to make a list, I'd start with this event - the baby is due in late March - and work backwards to now.  There's so much to do and yet every day I continue to procrastinate.  Work is busy but not hectic, but sometimes/often I find myself checking the paper, Facebook, email - anything except what's on my mental to-do list.  Is this pregnancy brain? I don't think so.  I can't afford to slow down, not now. Soon -

two little mouths
four little hands

This year, my daughter 'gets' Christmas a bit more.   My husband and his sister drove up north and hiked into a forest (well, a tree plantation) to kill a tree, dragging it home modern caveman-style in a trailer.  Sofia thus discovered she loves Christmas trees, or more specifically, decorations. But destructiveness isn't her game.  With the persistence of a small dog she regularly fetches baubles, fairies, candy canes - anything within her fast-growing reach.  Her gifts are offered with the air of a job well done, such that you can't do anything except thank her politely.

Santa, on the other hand - excuse the pun - leaves her cold.  She's met him twice so far; easy when he's everywhere from shopping malls to community parades to daycare Christmas parties.  (No wonder he can visit all the rich houses in the world in a single night.) Both times she's been nonplussed as to why a colourful and elderly gentleman wants to have his photo taken with her.

pineapple lights
and tinsel -
so tasty!

I find the scent of dying pine nostalgic, even though my parents only had a plastic tree - every year more of its branches disappeared, no matter how carefully we disassembled and put it back in its box.  Eventually we gave up putting it up altogether.

My parents have always been ambivalent about celebrating Christmas.  They tend to do it only if there's a lot of family around. I remember Christmas parties all squashed into my aunt's apartment in Hong Kong, where my aunty donned a Santa hat and gave out presents, and a Christmas concert by the kids was compulsory. This performance requirement persisted well into my gawky adolescence, despite protestations that I was no longer a 'kid'.  Home karaoke systems came out around this time which only made it worse. Despite since accumulating a wealth of embarrassing moments on stage, I still cringe at these memories.

do that once more
for the camera -
aww, how cute!

These days, we celebrate Christmas twice.  On Christmas day we're with the Croatian side, digging into ham, turkey and the traditional baked treats - raffiola, hrstule - that are made laboriously by hand for feast days. This is one of the only times in the year the men are welcomed into the kitchen to help. A day or two after we're with the Chinese side, stuffing ourselves on steamed crayfish, giant crab, and salmon sashimi.  My dad gets up early to go to the seafood market so he can bag the liveliest targets, then spends the rest of the day imploring my mum not to overcook/overclean them as she bends her back over the sink, ignoring him.  As the afternoon wears on and the adults adopt positions of increasingly horizontal somnulence,  posses of rugrats tussle for space on the trampoline.

Christmas day is when the ostentatiously costly presents are distributed; a few days later, it's red packets.  I prefer the Chinese way.  Best not to feel the need to give anything, but if you're going to give, give money. That way the giftee can choose what they want.  In the case of babies, the gift is banked for the future.

if only
we could bank
time, taste, summer -
if only
nothing would change.