Dixie Peach: Home for Christmas

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Home for Christmas

I've lived in Germany for just over eight years and there are times when the pangs of homesickness get to me. When Christmastime rolls around it's guaranteed. It never fails that when the packages from my family and friends arrive I'll have that stab of homesickness that makes me wish I were spending at least some of the holidays with them.

My first Christmas in Germany was a blur. I'd only just arrived on November 30 and everything was new and confusing and stressful. I was already so homesick that special Christmas homesickness seemed to blend in and I couldn't tell whether I was crying because I was spending Christmas away from home or simply because I was away from home.

The next year I was in Mississippi for Christmas. I didn't feel as though I could spend two holiday seasons in a row away from my family so I insisted that I fly back home and I insisted that B go with me. I don't know whether it was ignorance of the difficulties of traveling with a quadriplegic or sheer determination or both that got us through it but I managed without any outside help to get B to Mississippi. He caught a bad cold that turned into brochitis and came home with a raging kidney infection but we had Christmas with my family.

Traveling so far with B proved to be too difficult and too dangerous to his health for us to ever repeat so I was destined to spend the next Christmas in Germany. By now I had been in Germany for two years, B and I had been married for five months and I was feeling at home. I was certainly more independent than I'd been two years prior and I was fully into the preparations for Christmas. Gifts for my family and friends had been bought and shipped, I had my home decorated, menus planned, parties lined up, guests invited - it all felt familiar to me. I missed my family of course but I was content in my life and they were pleased and happy for me.

The evening before Christmas Eve found me, like many others, at the grocery store getting a few last items before the festivities began. As I walked the aisles I listened to Christmas songs over the store's sound system and hummed along with the music.

I was in the canned vegetable aisle deciding on whether to buy peas and carrots or just peas when it happened. The song playing in the store changed and Christmas in Dixie by Alabama came on.

My mind was suddenly filled with memories of Christmas in my hometown. The downtown area decorated with garland and lights, my hometown's Christmas parade, doors decorated with wreaths of magnolia leaves, Christmas church service, the open house hosted by my cousin Wanda every Christmas Eve, opening gifts with my family and then Christmas dinner with my kin. I could see it all so clearly as I heard the words of the song and I simply fell apart. I choked back sobs and tears streamed down my face as I gripped the handle of the shopping cart and tried to keep myself from being noticed by other shoppers that may pass by. The wave of homesickness I felt at that moment simply overwhelmed me and I would have given all that I had to be in my hometown at that moment to celebrate Christmas.

But I wasn't in Mississippi. I was in Germany and I had a choice to make. I could either be miserable and homesick or I could start making new, happy Christmas memories. I've always loved Christmas and if I didn't start seeing things in a new light I was headed towards finding Christmas to be a sad, painful time every year. It was okay to miss my family at the holidays but if I was going to obsess over not being with them then I was destined to be miserable.

So I found a tattered tissue at the bottom of my purse (I never seem to have whole, clean tissues when I need them), wiped my eyes and threw a can of peas in my cart. Meltdown over, clean-up on asile four.

I can't say that the homesickness doesn't get to me during the holidays - I'll never get over not being with my family at Christmas - but at least now I can hear Christmas in Dixie without becoming a sobbing mess.

Christmas in Dixie, its snowing in the pines.
Merry Christmas from Dixie to everyone tonight.


Blogger Mom Nancy said...

My husband and daughter and I lived in Potsdam Germany for two years, so I understand all about being homesick at Christmas time.

Now, though, I live in Dixie! We moved to Baton Rouge this spring so I will spend my first Christmas ever without even daring to believe there might be snow. It's been between 50-70 degrees the last few days. A whole different kind of homesickness!

11:18 PM  
Blogger marshamlow said...

Family and traditions are the cornerstones of Christmas to me. I try to find ways to get into the spirit but I tend to be faking it more than not.

Today I am baking cookies for 75 people and then spending the evening at a potluck Christmas party. On the one hand, everyone here is in the same boat as me, which seems like it would mean that we could be good for each other. But, as it turns out sad folk don't make good company, especially not for other sad folk.

1:03 AM  
Blogger sari said...

You made me homesick for Mississippi!

1:29 AM  
Blogger christina said...

Oh I SO know how you feel! Christmas is always really hard for me, too, away from my Vancouver family and missing out on all the festivities. But you're right, you gotta make your own festivities wherever you are. Doesn't make the homesickness go away, but it sure takes the edge off.

8:51 AM  
Blogger still life said...

View our the best storyteller (me and "everybody" especially liked this one). And you made a wonderful point in regards to making new memories. I think that's true about a lot of things, that or just being miserable.
I will forever think of you and Christmas together.

5:35 AM  

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