Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Morning

Finally, after years and years of failed attempts, I found a way to get my Christmas wish of sleeping in on Christmas morning - just move to Korea! Normally, on Christmas Eve I make my dad (who's still a kid at heart) promise to let me sleep in the next day. It never works. Every year that booming "Ho ho ho!" coming from downstairs jars me out of a contented sleep. Not this year! (To be honest, I kind of missed it.)

Last night I was up quite late having a private Christmas Eve celebration - I cooked a delicious pepper steak and then enjoyed some fresh strawberry cheesecake and a frozen coffee that I picked up from a coffee shop on the way home. I watched "A Christmas Story" (about the little boy who wants a Red Rider gun) and "It's a Wonderful Life" (an essential tradition of mine), then went to bed pondering the deeper meanings within one of the greatest films ever made.

This morning, I woke up around eleven, musing to myself about how different this Christmas is from the norm. Usually my parents and I have a special breakfast with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece, which I really look forward to each year. We have a delicious, leisurely meal, with each person's gaze occasionally meandering over to the tree and the pile of colorful presents both under and around it. My niece noticeably wiggles a bit in her seat from the anticipation. Finally, after the dishes are done, we settle ourselves in the living room. I play Santa each year, doling out the presents to everyone. Every year, I find myself almost wiggling with anticipation at this point, since I'm so eager for people to open the gifts I took such care selecting for them. Later, we head over to my aunt's house (or the family comes to ours) for the big family Christmas. Food seems to stretch for miles, as do relatives, and everyone is loudly laughing, talking, and embracing (or in the case of my nutty aunts, sharing fart and poop stories, and making Grandma squirm and question whether there were a few mix-ups at the hospital many years ago). Later in the day, Dad usually makes our favorite winter treat, snow cream (for the non-Michiganders, it's ice cream made out of snow, which we usually have an overabundance of).

Among past Christmases, every one brings back special memories. I remember fondly the year that we were at Disney World for Christmas (that was one of my presents) and I made a paper tree the night before. Or the year when I wanted a troll doll more than anything in the world, and opened a huge box to find that my mom had gotten me twin troll dolls. There was Cassandra's first Christmas, when Dad and I were so excited about the talking worm doll that we found for her (which she loved). There was the year of the Furby, when Cassandra's Christmas present from her parents first charmed us all with its cuteness, then later drove us nuts with its demands. There was 2005, my favorite Christmas, when Dad gave me my treasured HUGE atlas of the world (which I miss more than any other possession that I left behind) and a beautiful turntable, which I had wanted for years. There was the year that my sister got married, when Mom gave her and her husband a pair of pantyhose stuffed with presents rather than stockings.

After I got out of bed, I let Jasper out of his area, then put my cinnamon rolls (I picked them up at the bakery last night) in the microwave and heated water for my instant coffee. Gosh, I really miss Dad's coffee! I took my breakfast back to the bed, and set about opening the large package that came from my family for me. Or rather, tying to open the package. I think Dad may have been in charge of taping the box! Jasper was desperately trying to gain my attention, so I gave him a "decoy present" to distract him. (Last night, I wrapped two treats in several layers of scrap paper, then sealed it with a couple pieces of packing tape. I figured it would keep Jasper busy while I opened my gifts - and I was right.)

After getting the box open with the help of a large kitchen knife, I poured its contents onto the bed. Mom, Dad, Aunt Diane, and Uncle Richard - thank you so, so, so much! You four are "assa," as my students would say! My favorite gift was the set of gorgeous new pajamas. Aunt Diane and Uncle Richard's card left me a bit mystified at first - I thought that Aunt Diane's writing must be really messy, since she had written "Have a cheery Christmas" in such a way that it looked like she said "Have a cheesy Christmas." I laughed at the thought of teasing her about it later. When I opened the package, I learned that she meant to write "cheesy" - it was lovely, glorious, impossible-to-find-over-here Bluebell cheese! I am also beyond delighted by the box of trail mix bars (non-existent over here) from my parents. What a great haul! I can hardly wait to eat my hot cereal tomorrow, and I plan to ration the cheese so that it will last me for my last two months.

After I finished my breakfast, I gave Jasper (who was still hard at work on the "decoy present") his real gift. Since he's already a gender-confused eunuch-dog, I figured it couldn't get any worse, so I gave him a doll. He proved to have plenty of boy left in him, since the first thing he did with her was undress her! Of course, being Jasper, he didn't play with his doll right after he finished unwrapping her - no, he went off in search of the wrapping paper left from the "decoy present" and played with that a bit longer first! He's currently happily chewing up (and shredding) wrapping paper while resting his head on his doll. It has been a good Christmas for both of us so far.

I love my new pajamas!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"