There is something acutely incongruous about hearing feliz navidad on loop while swerving and dipping down a pot holed road- lush greenery rising up on both sides. This Christmas is definitely green.

it doesn’t feel like Christmas, music to the contrary. Although as I write it I’m unsure of what it feels like in adulthood. I’m unable to wrap my head around a specific set of emotions or expectations. It hasn’t been about presents in more years that I can remember. Mostly it is about family; an excuse to gather together and eat good food without the rush of daily obligations. my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve- the smell of gumbo filling the air and people bustling around talking and laughing, comes to mind.
But I haven’t been a regular at Christmas eve gumbo since college.

My first Christmas “alone” was 10 years ago – in South Africa. I remember taking it much harder than I’d anticipated. Everything was wrong. It was the middle of summer and the heat was intense. My host family decided I should cook (with no notice or preparation). I decided on chicken curry and lemon meringue pie (hand whipped meringue!) plus cake from scratch.

I think it was my first chicken curry – I’d only been with my family since October. The oven was too hot so the cake was Cajun style on the outside and raw in the middle. I kept shaving the edges off, whittling it smaller and smaller until a miniature version of the original was finally deliciously solid. And the pie…the final insult to lonely injury. After browning the meringue – miraculously perfect – in the same hell-like oven that had scorched the cake, my host mother stuck a finger into its center.

“it is still raw,” she informed me solemnly, unaware that the creamy consistency was as it should be.

She was helping. Had no way of knowing…but it sent me to my room, eyes brimming with tears that I was desperately trying to conceal. It passed. And the next year? I don’t even recall where I was…I think bopping around the coast with a fellow volunteer; the previous year’s trauma all but forgotten.

I don’t foresee tears this holiday season. I’m not sure what my exact plans will be…Emme is hosting a dinner at her house and I think my friend Nikki will be here visiting from the states…either of those would be a wonderful.

Whatever I do, I don’t anticipate tears being a part of the program – ruined pies or not. Still, my green Christmas feels odd. Southern sensibilities prevailing, I don’t expect snow no matter where I am but it feels like something is missing . Or maybe the time just isn’t quite right yet. Maybe as the days inch forward and the 25th reaches out to pinch my cheeks, maybe this green Christmas will sneak up on me and make more sense.

“oh Christmas tree” rounding out the play list of carols as I bumped and swayed in the backseat, I could only smile. The only Christmas trees I’d seen had bee on the sidewalk outside one of the big grocery stores in Monrovia – young men hawking the diminutive (often fully decorated including fake snow) plastic trees – along with stacks of pirated DVDs of every show or movie imaginable, bags full of bed pillows, and maps of Liberia. Green Christmas indeed!

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2 Comments on green christmas

  1. Ladawn says:

    You will be missed here but not because it’s Christmas.

  2. Tom says:

    Thanks for capturing what it feels like to be in Africa for Xmas while your friends and family are doing their thing. Your piece helped me reflect 🙂

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