As the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. When I was still in the U.S. I used to dread the end of summer. Fall is hardly a fair substitution for long days of no school and all the swimming and ice cream you can handle. Yeah, the leaves are kinda pretty but they get old after the first two weeks, and they just give your Mom another chore to add to the list. (“Go rake the back yard!”) Since I was about 14, summer has been my favorite season. In fact, when I decided to move to Tanzania, I was psyched about what would essentially be a year of continuous summer. No school (although, there is a full time job involved), no cold weather, and lots and lots of trips to the beach.
Now I’m four months in, (only one month more than the length of the average American summer) and I’m already sick for fall. I never thought I would say this but I miss weather cool enough for boots and scarves. I miss the fiery colors of autumn leaves, the first day of school butterflies, back to school shopping, and even the knowledge that snow is around the corner.
But what I miss the most about the year-end season is the holidays. I have always loved Thanksgiving and New Years but somewhere around 13ish I stopped being wild about Christmas. The shrill cheerfulness of Christmas songs has long rang false in my ears, the endless mounds of pine needles always stick to the feet of my tights, and the sickeningly thick sweetness of eggnog always did give me a tummy ache. But these are exactly the things I find myself missing the most. Here we are in mid-November and its so weird to not be complaining about the draft in the living room or listening to my Mom scream defensive plays at the miniature Dallas cowboys running around inside the TV. It’s strange to not be visiting the mall over and over again to find that perfect present for Dad or trying to stretch my modest Christmas savings enough to buy a little thinking-of-you something for all 25 of my cousins. No fires in auntie’s fireplace, no shiny-eyed little brother cuddling me awake at 6 a.m., no Mommy laughing at A Christmas Story, yet again (Did you hear, Kris?! ‘A pink nightmare!’) Nope, those things won’t be happening this year.
And you would think the Grinch in me would finally be satisfied. No Christmas means nothing to complain about. But instead I find myself missing all those little things that are essential to the Ford family Christmas I’m used to. The flurry of wrapping paper and excited voices as everyone tries to exchange presents at once, the home cooked food with lots of Auntie Love and Mama Love stirred in, that lingering holiday smell—some mixture of pine needles, cinnamon and pumpkins--, the heat blasting in the car and Zachary asleep in the back seat on the way home from Mama D’s at 2 a.m. And yes, even the cold weather. But this year, instead of being there to experiencing these things, I’ll be thinking of my family and hoping they know I’m wishing I could be there with them. Maybe next year those Christmas songs won’t be so annoying and while I’m trying not to sweat to death in my wool sweater while navigating the Christmas-shopping mall traffic I won’t be concentrating on how frustrating it is. I’ll be cherishing it that much more because I’ll know what it’s like to spend a holiday away from home.
Thinking of you all,