It has become a ritual – we fly home for Christmas. Or to be more specific, we fly to where our home was before we moved half way across the world to where our new home is, which happens to be the place that is the only home our daughter as ever really known. So our little family of three crosses nine time zones and takes flight for 14 hours and heads off. We (I) pack too many things and come back with even more, and because it is the holidays stress levels are high. Entirely too high.
Christmas night, after the table was cleared and the presents were opened, I lay in bed and listened to the windows rattle against the frames from the winds. My parents had just finished listening to Dylan Thomas recite “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”, as they sat by the fire clearly exhausted from the day. My daughter kept asking if there were more presents for her to open – she wanted 61. This is an arbitrary number – it is the number she uses for just about everything. And I was wrapped under layers of down thinking about the holiday. As a child Christmas was everything. It was often filled with joy, and whatever problems or pain or stress the adults might have been feeling was never really felt by the kids. Maybe this was because there were too many of us. Maybe it was because as children we were protected from all of the stress that our parents were carrying. We were oblivious to the pain an angst that the world could sometimes present to us. But in recent years and months and even days I have seen too much pain and sadness – pain that I do not think children should have to ever see or be exposed to.
As an adult and a parent I do my best protect my daughter from the pain and sadness that I sometimes find myself experiencing, but I do not always succeed. She sometimes knows that all is not perfect – that sometimes I am exhausted, but she also knows that she is loved, and that no matter how hard the winds blow or how difficult things can get during our transatlantic journeys our love for her us unconditional. There is no greater gift than this.