The textbook scenes of Christmas are all over our house, even though there will be no snow here in Peruvian summer. The boys look forward to a new piece of lego every morning as they build these little scenes. The stories they tell are pretty entertaining for Mom and Dad too.
The Christmas tree is filled with the ornaments we picked up on our travels – India, Bali, Peru, Egypt, Germany, various places in the United States. My favorite this year are the glass ornaments I picked out at Khan el Khalili – a favorite Cairo spot. Decorating our home is an adventure into the nostalgic yesterday and the geographic schizophrenia that is part of our family identity.
Around this time of year I watch one of my favorite movies – Love Actually. The opening scene is especially poignant for expat families. We know airports, and that precious airport scene, well. In the movie, it is Heathrow airport, where families and friends are meeting. Here’s a quote from the scene:
It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.
In the next week, all over the world, parents and children will walk into departure gates. Children depart with visions of sugarplums and outrageous santa lists. Parents depart with too much luggage, the expectation of the perfect Christmas heavier than the luggage, and the worries heaviest of all. Will the children behave? Will the family get along? Families are the best and the worst of places – the one place where we are loved despite ourselves, and the one place where we can’t fake it because they have known us too long.
Then that family will meet at the arrival gate. It will (mostly) be like that movie scene. Yes, we’ll still try to make the kids behave, we’ll hope none of the gifts were stolen out of our luggage, we’ll wonder what the bills will look like in January, and by this time, the indent in our shoulders from the heavy backpacks will seem to leave permanent scars.
Arrival is what Christmas is all about. If you believe in the arrival of that most perfect Baby, Christmas is about grace. And even if you don’t believe, who can argue with “on earth, peace and good will to men.”
Wishing you joy in your world, wherever your travels take you this Christmas.