Thursday, December 29, 2005

Holidays Elsewhere

In a year full of displacements, Christmas abroad was particularly disorienting – at once magical and strange. To be close to Yvonne’s grandmother in Holland, we rented an apartment in Naarden which we stuffed with holiday cheer. This included a squat, heavily-decorated Christmas tree, bunches of tulips and squadrons of tea candles.

All our lives we have journeyed back to our family homes in Eugene, Oregon for Christmas. Predictably, we always dreamed about having our own family Christmas, complete with creating our own traditions and special meals. Instead, our first Christmas dinner away from home was concocted in yet another efficiency kitchen with its wafer-thin cookware, dull knives and tired, temperamental stove.

After the extravagant specialization of Parisian food shops, it was painful to be back to a land of Supermarkets, bad bread and one cheese (Gouda, albeit with infinite variations). Dutch markets have their own compensations, however, including Roggebrot (black full grain bread), Stropwafeln (small waffle cookies) and Pofferejes (mini pancakes).

On Christmas morning, our boys generated their own waves of holiday cheer. The morning started with their opening their big gifts from Santa – yes, they still believe in Santa! Alexander’s present was addressed first to San Francisco, then to Paris, then to Naarden – proof positive for him of Santa’s global reach and excellent E.D.L. (elf-driven logistics). We adults were excluded from Santa’s largess, being at the age where all we have to look forward to for Christmas gifts are neckties, baked goods and factory close-out sweaters.

Yvonne’s grandmother also loved being in the circle of a family for Christmas. Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, the combination of family, flowers and enthusiasm of our youngest and oldest participants made it a successful and memorable Christmas.