Here in the tropics, it's very difficult to get into the Christmas spirit. Every day the weather is about 80 degrees and sunny. Palm trees abound, and the lush landscaping reminds me nothing of the harsh windy, snowy days of my youth in Minnesota. I called the US the other day for something and the person on the other end of the line said, "Happy Holidays" (which I suppose is the PC version of Merry Christmas these days) and I almost said, "what are you talking about....you mean it's Christmas over there?" There are no decorations on people's houses here; I mean, people are lucky to have a shack with a curtain for a door so certainly they have no need for a pine bough wreath for their non-exist ant front door. Christmas lights? Remember, most of the time there is no electricity here....so all that effort would be a waste of time. That is one thing I can definitely say I DO NOT miss about Christmas in the US....all those hours spent untangling the outdoor Christmas lights!! The last couple of years, I gave it about an hour, then I threw away the string of lights and went to Walmart and bought a new set. I mean, $10 for a new set is worth the agony of untangling the mess from last year! I think that is one of the mysteries of life.....how come when I CAREFULLY wind the strings of lights and CAREFULLY place them in the box.....then something like 345 days go by and they somehow tangle themselves into a giant ball? Or, how come the same string of lights that worked last year suddenly goes dark the very next year without even being plugged in! Do they use up their lifespan in the box?
So , today I decided to decorate for the Christmas Open House I am having next Saturday. I have probably already invited 40 people and since I find myself inviting everyone I see that I like, so I'm sure I'll be up to 60 by next weekend. I'm only serving appetizers and cookies and wine, so that should be manageable.
I took out the boxes of Christmas decorations I had brought...7 boxes in all. I well remember being in Austin in March and randomly selecting some decorations while the movers were waiting on me....from the 12 or so boxes of Christmas stuff I own. When I opened them today, I had no idea what I'd find. I have only opened 4 of them, but so far, so good. I brought the tree and set that up. It was strange to have to "unfold" all the little branches, because of course the movers wrapped the tree in paper to resemble a torpedo. Luckily the lights were already on the tree, which actually posed a problem. The lights are 110 electric current, so that means they require a transformer. Transformers are scarce in my house (I only have 3) so I have to put the tree where I can plug in the lights into an existing transformer. That meant the tree needed to be in the living room near the computer. There are only two outlets on the transformer, so whenever I am on the computer (which is one plug) I have to decide if I want to have the lamp on (the remaining plug) or listen to my ipod in the dark (because if I plug in the ipod, I cannot plug in the lamp). Such electrical complications. Then eureka! In a box, I found a 110 electrical strip that has 6 outlets! But now the question....could I safely plug the strip into the transformer with all those American appliances? I held my breath, plugged it in and turned on the power switch. The Christmas tree lights came right on and the tree looked magical! I was so happy I had not blown anything up. (Did I tell you I fried my DVD/VHS player when I got here because I stupidly plugged a 110 into a 220? Idiot!!)
Anyway, I have 4 more boxes to unpack, so I better get back to it. I already got a sneak peak at some of the decorations that made it and I'm happy. There are a lot of memories attached to the green quilted tree skirt I made, the cross-stitched framed Santa for the wall, and of course the little felt and sequined ornaments hand made by my mother-in-law for our first Christmas as a married couple when we had nothing and could not afford to buy anything. I think both Angela and Laura are hoping I leave them to them in my will! I hope I find the green clay trees that we made with the kids at St. Kevins...I hope I find the white crocheted Angel that I bought from a mail order catalog when the kids were young...I hope I find the manger...I hope I find the smokers from Germany....and I hope I find enough memories from the past to sustain me during this, my first Christmas alone.
Hope all is well in your corner of the world.
Oh, I send special Birthday greetings to my Mom and a VERY dear friend of mine, both of whom celebrate birthdays on December 7th. Wish I could be there to give you a hug.
Love from Africa,