I know, I know. We all feel that sense of anti-climax after Christmas. The present buying and wrapping, decorating the house, cooking, getting excited for the children coming home, travelling to friends and family, constant activity and mania – then nothing.
By Boxing Day the limp balloon of expectation has deflated into the inertia of waiting for New Year. A long, long week of over indulgence, forced jollity and ennui.
Normally the Captain would be rallying the troops but he is sick. The third Christmas in a row, which would give any psychologist food for thought. We spent last night at the Bronovo hospital in The Hague getting him sorted. The Captain is now in bed, out of it on prescribed and over the counter medication, and the children are going stir crazy.
Let’s face it, the older two have never lived in the Netherlands, this is not their home. They have no connection to anything or anyone here except us. They’ve done all the touristy stuff they ever want to and have no desire to keep doing it every time they visit.
The weather right now is pretty grim and Missy is struggling in the arctic temperatures and desperate to get back to the relative warmth of Louisiana and her real life there. Joe and his girlfriend have arrived from northwest England and enjoy it here, but like Missy, find being in the Netherlands far removed from their real life.
They are not residents or tourists. They have come home, but it isn’t home – they are foreigners in a country where they are unsure of the cultural rules and codes of behaviour. They are never here long enough to fully absorb it. It isn’t their home and never will be.
In the short time we are together over the Holidays we have to meld the USA, UK and European cultures we live in during the year, and recreate the sense of family the five of us have made for ourselves over the years. It’s complex and because it’s Christmas emotions run high.
I hate this limbo before New Year, there is no normal structure to our days and, being realistic, our routines are not those of Joe or Missy. So what is normal for us in the end days of the year?
We play cards, charades, and go eat at the Hard Rock café in Amsterdam. Not earth shattering or exciting but a touchstone for each of us to reconnect with each other. We watch the same movies, laugh over family stories, josh and chat. Every year at this point I get maudlin and melancholy and hate myself for feeling this way. And no, it’s not alcohol induced.
At the back of my mind the spectre of Joe and Missy heading off again is looming in the dark place in my psyche and we have no plans for when we’ll get together again. They could live on the same street and we might not see them for months but having hundreds, and in Missy’s case thousands, of miles separating us is difficult for me to get my head round.
Joe and Missy will enjoy their time here and go back to their lives quite happily, especially Missy who is counting the hours to being home, in her own bed, and seeing her dog. Her life. As it should be. Her quote for this year has been, ‘I don’t know how y’all live in this awful weather’. Truth be told Missy, neither do we.
So here I am, sitting in my closet thinking it all through. For the last 27 years we have spent Christmas at home (wherever it has been) trying to give us stability and continuity through some pretty tough life challenges. We created something which has remained the same while everything around us has changed, including us.
Our family Christmas no longer reflects who we are or who we will become. No wonder the kids are bored and I’m in the closet. To say nothing of the sick Captain.
I mentioned last Christmas I thought it was time for a change and was shot down by Captain and off-spring, but maybe now is a good time to reopen negotiations. Perhaps we should establish new traditions to accommodate the changes in the lives we have and will have as the children create their own families, wherever they choose to settle.
This is a positive and constructive way to move forward for all of us. It’s exciting. Oh yes, this could be very, very positive. I’m thinking sunshine, travelling and fun, not a god damn turkey in sight…
Well said…you’re not alone in this – just more honest than most!
It’s the inevitable farewells that do me in.
Wonderful post that gets to the nitty gritty of the importance of holidays and balancing an expat life not necessarily shared by adult children. New and sunny might just do it!