As a family, we’ve celebrated Christmas in the same way every year – familiar food, decorations, and traditions linking us to the past we’ve left behind and the unknown future ahead. From each place we’ve taken some of the local flavour and carried it with us to the next Christmas.
We’re scattered over the globe now, living individual lives in different cultures but this is the time we get together, close the door on the world and just be.
Like many families we have rituals and customs linking us with our relatives and friends wherever they are. We do the same things at the same time and there’s a sense of connection despite the differing time zones and geographical distance. We feel part of a bigger whole.
Aside from the religious aspect (yes I know, technically, it is the sole reason, but bear with me) the symbol of Christmas and family for me is our tree. It stands quirkily decorated, not with designer precision or fashionable baubles, but adorned with memories of the people and places who are forever woven into the fabric of our lives and hearts. Each year the decorations are unwrapped with love and care, and the memory behind each one draws me back to a special time, place, or person.
Christmas is a time for reflection on so many levels.
In the past few years, since the older two have left home, and particularly as our youngest has started university in Vancouver, Canada, thoughts have turned increasingly to the lives we lead and the impact this has had on our children. And let’s face it, the impact on us as our children are often far from the nest.
Whatever we say publicly about the positives of global life, deep inside there is often a quiet voice wishing the children were closer and we could see them more often. Hug them, breathe them in. That sense is most acute at this time of year, for me at least.
It’s complicated. There are no right and wrongs, we have to figure out what works best for us and our children and in our rational moments we pull ourselves together and get on with it. We all know life moves forward and generally celebrate it with open arms, embracing the challenges.
Sometimes on a quiet, gloomy winter afternoon like this, I sit by the tree watching the lights flicker on the ornaments and relive memories. My global sisters are in many of them.
They know who they are. I see their smiles, laughter and support in the mismatched and sometimes tacky decorations bought as a joke or a dare. Among the comical and fun are the ones which touch my heart, bringing dear friends close, as if they’re sitting in the room with me. I remember the glorious times when we have been a part of each others lives, watched each others children grow, even if it was for a short while. And I smile knowing somewhere in the world they too are reflecting and waiting for their children to come home, just like me.
Happy Holidays to my global sisters and expat moms everywhere… have to dash, there’s a plane to meet…