Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter Lights

This is a love letter to the holidays, to the cold in the air and the winter lights in the trees, to the trees in windows, and to the way the holidays remind me to be eternally grateful for what I have instead of dwelling upon the things I do not. This is a love letter to the holidays, to memories of holidays past and in hopes of holidays future.

Christmas and I have always had a love affair. I remember wearing a set of pink footie pajamas when I was four and watching my dad suit up for a work holiday party. Somewhere in the boxes of photos we have at home is a picture of me with streaky, dirty blonde hair that is flat as a pancake, and my dad holding me and wearing a red tie. That was the Christmas before I knew what divorce meant, when I was still a child and innocent.

I remember the anticipation of presents, and lots of presents, when I was a kid. Somewhere at home there is a video of my brother ravenously ripping open all his gifts while I painstakingly unearth each and every present, as if I want to keep the paper intact. My brother is screaming "chow down, Lindsay, chow down!" as he hungrily unwraps all his presents in a family record 4-5 minutes. He's center stage until a few minutes later when I scream out "I GOT A BOOM BOX!" Whenever I watch the video now, I laugh deeply.

I remember what Christmases were like after my parents divorced--one year with Dad, another year with Mom. Years with Dad meant going to the bay area--Castro Valley or San Leandro, to be specific-- and having a bicultural Christmas with his longterm Hispanic girlfriend, Jean, whose family went ALL OUT banquet style. There was of course ham and turkey, but also carne asada, pizole, and homemade tamales. The house was bursting with people. I was often the only kid there, which also meant I was bored to death and would hide away in a spare bedroom with the family parrot and read on the hardwood floor in order to pass time while the adults watched football and the Food Network. Christmases with Mom meant just our immediate family, as everyone else who was family was out of state, so things were much smaller, much quieter, but a little less lonely.

I remember the first Christmas we had with my sister Arianna, and how excited I was to help her open her first presents. She could still fit in my lap then, and I could still cradle her in my arms and carry her around the house. I was nearly thirteen, and she was only 8 months old, but I can't believe how quickly time has passed since then, now that she's nearly 11.

As I reflect on all these Christmases, all my different Christmas experiences, the one thing that I can say now in my 22 years of wisdom is that Christmas for me is no longer about the presents. In fact, I really don't want much anymore. What I've come to learn about Christmas, as corny and cliched as this may be, is that it's never about the gifts. It's always about the people. And now that I'm 6,000 miles from the people I really love, this Christmas makes that fact even more evident.

I have to say that despite being 6,000 miles away from you all, I have never felt so damn blessed just to count you all amongst the good people I know and the people I am blessed, so beyond blessed, to call you my friends and my family. I have never felt like I have had so much, and I can't help but feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude, and I truly mean that. I am the wealthiest young lady on this planet when it comes to my family and my friends, and I really wish you all wonderful holidays and as much love and luck as I think I've had this past year.

So not only is this a love letter to the holidays, this is a love letter to you all. Thank you for being a part of my life, no matter how big or small a part. It's funny the way people connect, the way people ebb and flow in and out of your life, so no matter if you're coming or going, if you've known me a while, you've known me a long time, or barely know me at all, I still thank you.

This is about the winter lights I saw walking home yesterday. I had gone to the large church in Saint-Germain for a Advent concert on the organs, and I sat there on a wooden pew in a 400 year old church in awe of the ceiling and the stained glass and the music. This is about the winter lights in the trees and hanging from the buildings that reminded me why I love the holidays, and why I love you all.