I am grouchy. I'm just going to say it. Three days before Christmas and I am GROUCHY. Believe it or not, I was grouchy BEFORE I stepped on the scale this morning and subsequently threw out all the Christmas candy. Oh yes I did. And if that doesn't work I may have to man up and join Jennie's competition. GAH.
Anyway, I am feeling completely defective in the Christmas Cheer department and I keep trying to put my finger on the cause. Did I throw our Christmas party too early? Did I finish my shopping too early? Is it because it seems like everyone else is on vacation already and Phillip isn't off this week? Is it because today is the shortest day of the year, aka Worst Day Ever?
The kids are being awesome, so I can't blame them. And Molly just came in here playing Jack's toy guitar and singing some gibberish song. My heart grew the tiniest of sizes.
A few nights ago I was sitting on the couch staring at the ornaments while Phillip put the kids to bed. I was actually doing that barfy sentimental thing where you remember where each ornament came from and it turns out that all of my favorite ornaments are from Italy or Germany, aka the two places I spent my Christmases before Having Children. And then I started to cry.
And seriously. FTLOG! First world problems much? Perspective anyone? Oh no, I am tearing up AGAIN. GET IT TOGETHER, SELF!
When I lived overseas, home was Washington State, where we were from. But I was 10 when we moved overseas and 18 when I moved back and by that time I didn't really feel like anywhere was home. My parents stayed in Italy ten more years after I went back to the states for college. Because I left earlier than anyone else in my family, for a while it seemed like THEY all thought of it as home, while I was floundering around in Seattle trying to find my place.
But I went "home" for Christmas every year until the first year I got married (and for a handful of years afterwards). Sometimes it was two weeks, sometimes it was five. A few years after I moved to Seattle, the base built a new school, relocated all the stores and restaurants, my parents even moved into a new house. That house, especially, was so unfamiliar to me. My parents lived there so long that all their favorite restaurants changed, the people who visited changed, I couldn't even remember how to get anywhere.
But it was home, it was where I spent the holidays, and that time of year, at least, is so achingly familiar that I DO get weepy, all right? The cold, the naked trees, the snow on the mountains, the garish Italian Christmas decorations, walking in the dark to a pizzeria, the smell of bonfires and gluhwein. A few times we went to Germany where my aunt used to live, or meet her in Austria, and my mom and I would make a beeline for the Christmas markets. Oh I miss Christmas markets. The Italians tried to pull them off, but they were so much cuter and Christmassy in Germany, all the little wooden stands filled with carved wooden ornaments and toys and treats.
My clearest memories of Italy take place in the winter, the season I always returned. I close my eyes and see how everything looked in the dark: restaurants, churches, my old town, the lights of the tiny town halfway up the mountain. The ride to and from the airport, the Prosecco on Christmas Eve, my parents' front yard that I never saw in bloom.
It feels worse when I think about my kids. How in the world am I going to show them all of these things? My parents met in Europe and decided they wanted us to experience it too. That is, uh, not an option for us. One day, when we've decided the kids are Old Enough To Remember And/Or Appreciate, we will probably blow our savings on some two week whirlwind tour of Europe, which will be grand, but obviously not the same, not enough, not as real. And I know I can't MAKE it real. I know it's not even a big DEAL for them to know these things, but it still makes me incredibly sad.
I'm sure everyone has their own "Italy at Christmastime" that their kids aren't going to experience. Most of the time I think my kids are going to be so lucky because we have no intention of moving anywhere and their grandparents are so close and they live in this great city and they are totally going to be from somewhere. But this time of year I think about how much I want to take them for cappuccino and cookies at Stradella's, to ride the train to Venice, to buy lunch at the market, to pick out an ornament at a Christmas market, and then it feels like their stable little stateside life is a great tragedy.