Sunday, January 3, 2016

Because what is a perfect Christmas, anyway?

Okay, that last post was a bit of a decoy, I admit.

The pictures were indeed of our home this season, but we weren't there for the actual holiday -- we spent Christmas this year in Montreal.

I mean, once we realized that the airport code for Montreal is YUL, how could we not?

It was lovely to travel again as a family. Sure, there's still a bit of tension around the fact that my husband and I like to travel and my daughter wants to vacation, but each time we go somewhere we get better at it, and that's a great feeling.

The experience was also an interesting counterpoint to some of the thoughts I explored in my last post. We left a house that was cozily decorated for the holidays and arrived at an AirBnB that was perfectly serviceable, but not home, and not decked out in any way. A fake potted plant served as a Christmas tree.

And yet, look at my daughter's body language in that photo above. She is feeling some Christmas magic for sure.

Similarly, our Christmas Eve dinner: split pea soup, bread and cheese, salad. That's a thoroughly everyday meal in our house, as you've previously seen. (We even resorted to bottled salad dressing, in this case.)

I'm not saying we made no concession to the festive occasion. When in Rome (or Montreal, as the case may be), after all...

But the real gift was in that simple meal above. I get a lot of thrill, when I travel, from just doing everyday things -- odd as it may sound, I love to go grocery shopping in foreign cities. And it occurred to me: What immense good fortune, to be able to travel to a different country and have the means and the knowledge to make a familiar, nutritious meal within 24 hours of landing. That is real privilege, if you ask me. And even though our surroundings didn't really look like Christmas, it certainly felt like Christmas in the end.

Only a couple of presents came with us to be opened the next morning. But my daughter still got the essential experience of whiling away the hours playing with new toys.


And it seemed that overall, a little bit of abundance can go a long way.

Back home in Seattle, I decided that I couldn't let the holiday season end after all without baking Swedish Christmas bread. Good news: the candied citron lurking in the back of the refrigerator, that I'd made last year, was still just fine.

I added a couple of postcards from the Montreal Fine Arts Museum to our holiday mantel, and we put out milk and cookies for Santa on New Year's Eve. (So yes, that note from Santa above turned out to be slightly inaccurate, but once again my daughter rolled with it. At eight-and-a-half, I suspect she equal parts (1) believes, (2) is humoring her parents, and (3) doesn't want to say anything for fear of disrupting the present racket.)

And we rang in 2016 by finally celebrating Christmas, which wasn't a bad thing at all. Look what showed up in the package from my mom: a book I'd never heard of but can't wait to read, and a doll made by my grandmother that I'd been thinking of recently but didn't know the location of.  The doll, in particular, brought tears to my eyes.

Because it's a new year, but I'm still (despite all the hand-wringing about decluttering) the same old sentimental fool, and I like it that way in the end. Happy 2016, all!


  1. Oh, Montreal for Christmas!! And it looks like it was "properly" snowy and wintry ;) . I hope you had a wonderful time! What did you do and see there? The kids and I have never been, but my husband has gone there for work several times. He says it's quite beautiful and it's definitely on our list of places to visit as a family.

    Love the note Santa left for your daughter, and it's so nice to hear she went with the flow and enjoyed her Christmas adventure too.

    We too, are travellers, and not vacationers, although before reading that link I didn't know the difference! I smiled when I read that you enjoy grocery shopping in a foreign country, because that's something I also really enjoy.

    So glad you managed to squeeze in the Swedish Christmas bread once you got home :) . Is your loaf a braided one, or a ring? As per our conversation in your last post, baking is high on my "traditions" list, but sometimes it feels like the baking of these things have to be slotted in with military precision ("if the dough is rising for X hours, that means I can quickly run these errands..."). So lovely, the gifts that your mom sent you :) . I have been thinking of what you had said in your reply to Kerry in your last post (about not wanting to be a person who can't accept a gift) and I think that some gifts are easier to accept (and then hang on to!) than others --- when the gift-giver is thoughtful and has truly given something she/he *knows* the recipient will want/need/love versus when the gifting (of an *actual* present, or merely a passing-along of *stuff*) is thoughtless and done for the sake of expediency. Personally, I don't think one should be made to feel that they are becoming "a person who can't accept a gift" when they are placed in the latter situation.

    1. Hi Marian, yes it was properly wintry, though not on Christmas itself (that photo was several days later). Still, fun to see snow (and a city that knows how to deal with it). I have been noodling over a post on what we saw/did/ate on our trip, and knowing that you want to visit will help me follow through with that I hope, knowing that my report might actually be useful to someone.

      The Christmas bread is neither a braid nor a ring, just a simple boule. Easy peasy, that's probably why it's become a tradition!

      And yes, I think you're right that a lot of "heirlooms" and hand-me-downs especially are given for the sake of expediency, and those are the ones that cause angst. I think that releasing ourselves (and our recipients, if we happen to be the givers) as much as possible from guilt in those situations is the way to go!