“Never say never”, I know, but I’m going to say it.
I will never again complain about Christmas and all its accompanying annoyances:
- Being bundled up so tightly that I can barely move
- Hauling heavy boxes out of storage
- Decorating the house
- Too many cookies
- Maneuvering through overcrowded parking lots
- Wondering what to buy for gifts
- Standing in lines to pay for nothing important
- Buying gifts with virtual money
- Clanging bells that make me feel nervous
- Pipped holiday music that makes me feel nervous
- Imagined conversations and arguments about gifting, “Jesus is the reason for the season”, traditions, and Santa – should we tell the truth to children or not?
Waiting for this day and spending more time alone than I’ve ever done in my life has made me appreciate the Holiday Season with a renewed spirit of gratitude.
This isn’t my first Christmas to be separated from family, but it’s the first time to not be with my children. On December 14th, the last day of school, I watched as my colleagues took off to countries all over the world: Nepal, India, The Netherlands, the UK, the States, South Africa, Denmark, … and my waiting began.
These days are like the longest night of my life – the night Eliza tried to be born. As she rocked back and forth in the birth canal, flirting with birth, then retreating again into the dark warmth of the womb, my doctor kept telling me, “maybe 15 more minutes.” It was in those “15 minutes” that were repeated again and again, like the movie “Groundhog Day”, that I managed to get through the waiting by breaking the time into small pieces that could be tolerated.
And so that is how I am getting through these waiting days as well.
As winter winds stir the desert, I read for a while, and then I take a walk. I sit by the pool and read some more and then I listen to the calls to prayer that mark the time between the setting sun and the rising moon. I cruise in circles on Dubai’s highways so I can take a yoga class, and then I circle some more so I can get back home. I buy nothing important, but I take my time when I stock up on shampoo and toothpaste. There are no cookies in Fujairah, so I scroll through FaceBook to see the cookies my friends are making.
As the winter winds stir the desert, I recall the plastic Christmas light bulb earrings and the bells that I always wear around my neck in this season, and I put on my Indian ankle bracelet because it is a string of tiny bells. I watch “Make-up tutorials for older women” and practice what I learn. I play solitaire. I watch the construction going on outside my window. I walk to a coffee shop and spend too much money on a tall, cold Frappuccino with extra caramel sauce. Time ticks on; I know that because I check my phone regularly to see the time and date.
Two hours have passed, then two more. Half a day, then a full day. The next day arrives. I am sure of that because I check the date and time on my phone again. And again.
The waiting is excruciating, and yet, it isn’t too bad, I think. I check my phone again.
I planned my Christmas day to the minute so that I would not feel the desolation of time that feels as if it is not moving:
- Watch the sun rise over the Gulf of Oman
- Eat falafel and eggplant as I drive through the mountains to a dried-up riverbed
- Listen to silence in the valley between mountains
- Dance with the wind that stirs the desert and whips my hair over my eyes
- Swim in the pool at exactly noon
- Watch a movie at the mall and eat buttery, overly salted popcorn and drink a cold diet Pepsi (carelessly forgetting that it might hurt my tummy later)
- Watch the moon rise over the Gulf of Oman
Complaining about the inconveniences of the holiday season is a luxury. I had not thought of it that way before, but now that I’ve lived through the season without any of those things, I promise myself to never take those things for granted. Never again will I complain about the inconveniences of the Holiday Season because I will never forget this time of waiting.
The hours of Christmas day have gone now.
I did everything on my list:
Sunrise over the Gulf of Oman
The silence of the valley between the mountains
At the pool at high noon
Lapping waves at the Gulf of Oman
And now, my son and his father have boarded their plane out of JFK Airport and tomorrow I will drive to Dubai to meet them. Then together, as the winter winds stir the desert, the three of us will explore Fujairah and surrounding areas as we wait for my daughter and her boyfriend to arrive four days later. I hope that our time together is a time that feels as if it is not moving, though I do look forward to that magical moment when all five of us will be together!