Thoughts on the night before Christmas 2016

I’ve been wanting to write some words all day. I haven’t been writing much the last few days, enjoying my time on leave instead. I’ve been playing Stardew Valley, Watch Dogs 2 and finishing up some odds and ends of Final Fantasy XV, as well as watching The Crown on Netflix. I’ve also been playing with my kid, running errands and finally sorting out her American citizenship (which I promise I will write about soon). It’s been a lovely time away from work, time in my own head, and time with two of the people who mean the most to me in the whole world. I’ve been thinking a lot though as we head into this holiday, about where we are and where we are going. I recently wrote a post about what I’m thankful for, so that’s not exactly what I want to do here, but I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts into a discernible order. So, instead of putting them into order, here they are in all their chaotic beauty.

My heart is heavy when I think about the world at the moment. Whether you believe the story of the nativity is truth, or a parable, it feels rather important at the moment. Mary and Joseph were fleeing persecution, and no one would let them in. Finally, a kind person let them into their barn, where Mary ended up giving birth. It’s a story that is meant to remind us that even in our darkest moments, light can come into the world. That even the most poor and desperate people can bring something beyond value into this world. It’s a reminder during the dark days of the Winter Solstice (which feels odd when we celebrate down here in South Africa seeing as it’s summer) that light and warmth and goodness can return to the world.


And I think about the darkness that seems to be descending at this time. Countries around the world are closing their doors to the poor, to the hungry, to those in need. We all have blood on our hands for the violent deaths happening around the world. We are all standing by as innocent people are killed, young people are radicalized and demagogues rise to power. And while I don’t believe the nativity story is historical truth, I do believe it is a powerful symbol. I do believe it’s a time to be reminded of life, of hope, of the eternal chance that things might change, that love might return to the world.

J.K. Rowling actually put together a beautiful message saying exactly this. There is also the opportunity for change, for transformation. We can change our lives at any time, in any way. We just need to put our heads and hearts into it, and believe in our own power to manifest that which we desire. And this time of year, I know what I want. It isn’t about presents or material things. I spent some time wrapping Harley’s presents today, feeling so conflicted. I sat among her mountains of toys, wrapping yet more presents. I didn’t buy her much for Christmas – I don’t want that to be the point of the holiday. I will let things slide this year, but going forward, it’s something I’m going to insist upon for everyone else in her life, too. Sure, buy her a present if you want, but the holiday time is more about family, about togetherness, about love and being in a safe place. Sort of like this wonderful, funny song:

I think that’s also why I am happy and sad this year. Like he sings in the song, wherever you are in the world, when this time of year comes around you want to be with the people in this world who make you feel safe, who make you feel loved. This will be my 10th Christmas with Dean’s family. The first time I came for Christmas, I was visiting South Africa, meeting his parents and siblings. I was young, our relationship was fairly new although already quite serious, and I was so excited and nervous. This will also probably be my last Christmas here for a while. I mean, who knows what the future holds, but the plan is for us to move to the States over the course of the coming year. That probably means that this time next year we will be in our place in the States, or visiting my mom… who I am missing a lot right now. She has been waiting for me, drinking white wine in the sun, waiting for me to come home for so long now, and I’m so, so ready to move back to the States. It has been too many years since we lived on the same continent, since we were able to see each other without making all the plans. I am excited for next year, when we can be together to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and just random days when we get to see each other.

But this Christmas is new for me, even as my 10th one in this country. Last year at this time, my baby was in the hospital. Now, she is home, filling our place with love and laughter. There are big moments that I know I’m meant to remember, but really, I had one of my favorites this evening. I took a shower and Dean was watching Harley, but she kept on crawling off to the bathroom to bang on the shower door. Over and over, our entire family fit in the smallest room of our home. We laughed and blew kisses and banged on the shower doors together. It was the kind of thing that can only happen in a family, that can only happen in a home filled with love. I am so lucky to have that. I know that right now there are people who are struggling, who can’t go home for any number of reasons, who are missing loved ones. I am lucky to have my wonderful husband and baby girl with me. I already have everything I could possibly want for the holidays.

So, as my heart is filled with love but also some sadness, I am mostly happy. I am happy to be with people I love. I am happy with how things are going in general. I am happy when I imagine what could be in 2017. I know there were be struggles and hard days, too, but mostly I am excited and happy when I think forward. Whether you are celebrating Hannukah, Christmas, Yule or any other late-December holiday, I hope that you get to experience love and joy, or at the very least, hope.


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