Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

We've just returned from Myanmar -- we're back in Thailand on Xmas day... and while there is a lot to write about our travels in Myanmar, I must start, at this moment -- backwards -- with our departure from Myanmar, for no other reason than it's Christmas and if I wait too long, this correspondence will no longer be relevant. Like seeing Christmas decorations and ornaments for sale in stores after the fact, it will have lost something through the passing of time -- even if only days. So here it goes, an entry from my journal:

Yangon, December 25

Xmas day -- rain -- flight delays. Last night the rain started (unusual for this time of year, but weather is strange all over the globe this year: killer hurricanes in America and floods in Vietnam and rainstorms in the dry season of Thailand and Myanmar and India). At first there was a chilly wind, then the light fall of tiny raindrops -- the kind that look like the thinnest of needles. Looking down from our room on the 7th floor of the hotel, watching the raindrops from above as they sailed toward the ground past the illumination of a street light, I pretended it was a light snowfall -- perfect for Christmas eve when in the quiet hours of the night, show is magical and serene.

We awoke to heavier rain -- and in my imagination -- the kind of steady snowfall that causes delayed Xmas feasts as families struggle on slippery highways to get to grandma's house, where the heat of a blazing fire and the smell of fresh baked bread and roasted meat dance with evergreen scented air. But when they arrive, O what pleasures await: the wet boots and gloves and coats are put away -- stocking'd feet are warmed by the fire -- and eyes are cast (shyly - greedily) over the tinsels and lights of the tree and down below: the bows and patterns and gleam of hidden treasures wrapped up in mysterious boxes. Add a snifter of something warm and alcoholic -- & treats like nuts and candies -- and you've got a fantasy image of Christmas day.

Sometimes it's like that. Other times it's waiting, waiting, waiting, for the turkey to be done, for the gifts to be opened, for the effects of alcohol to wreak its havoc, for the buttons on straining pants to finally burst. But never mind all of that: my favorite memories of Xmas are from early childhood -- when Santa Claus was real.

"Goddammit, I tell you... he's real, Vince Blakely." This, a conversation I had in the first grade (I should say I'm sure I didn't curse... this is added for dramatic effect -- it's how I felt). Vince's denial of the great Mr. Claus caused him to lose the massive crush I had on him, even though he was in the second grade and therefore, worthy of affection that comes with higher status. The slicked black hair was no longer cool but greasy -- the wry smile no longer enchanting but mocking. Of course, Vince was correct -- it just too me a long time to accept the fact that my parents had lied to me all my life (remember this was first grade). So, I'm sorry Vince, for slapping you across the face: you were right. There is no Santa Claus.

As I was saying... Christmas was the best back when I believed in Santa and back when I was to young to understand words that started with 'dys' -- as in dysfunctional, as in divorce. But I won't go there... Oh no, I've learned in my 33 (soon to be 34) years, that it's best to avoid the "D" topic, especially during the holidays.

At that time in my life, Christmas was so great because it was so damn exciting (now that I'm getting older I can pepper my conversations with the word 'damn' and the compound word 'goddammit' with abandon). New toys, the possibility of sneaking a peak at Mr. S Claus, hearing the hooves of reindeer on the rooftop, time off school... snowmen, sledding, hot cocoa, bells and carrolls and cookies... tinsel and ornaments and angels. Anticipation. Aside from birthdays, Xmas was the ultimate time of year. But now that I'm older, it's not the same and as I gazed at the rain-cum-snow falling outside the hotel room window, I thought about the irony of how, when children, we wish to be grown up and when we are, we wish to be children -- or at least child-like. When I was a kid, I wanted to be grown up so I could, among other things, eat spaghetti sauce from the jar (with a straw if I chose to do so) without getting into trouble. Now, I would gladly give up that priveledge in order to gain the wonderment of a child's Christmas again.

So here I am in the waiting 'lounge' of the Yangon airport, counting the minutes of our second flight delay of the day -- the sound of running water behind me (a drain pipe?) and the dull ting-ting-ting of a leak somewhere ahead of me: a bucket fills with water and I am filled with the romantic, nostalgic images of December 25, circa 1972 -1987 (Xmas magic dies somewhere in adolescence). Just as when we arrived in Myanmar, the skies are a leaden gray... we are anxious to get back to Thailand, which has now become our home away from home, with our frequent 'stop overs' between here and there. Thailand has become more than the 'hub' of our wheel of travel... It's amazing what the lines on maps can do -- the power they possess -- dividing one country, one group of people, from another... dividing poverty from wealth, oppression from freedom, antiquity from modernity. Thailand: so familiar and modern it's almost Western. But I was talking about Christmas and even in Myanmar they play Christmas carrolls... perhaps the familiar tunes and lyrics have put me in my reverie. We will have spent Christmas 2005 in two countries: Myanmar and Thailand. Two countries that are neighbors but are worlds apart.

Our Christmas Eve in Myanmar will be memorable in that we dined at a Chinese restaurant with a menu of dishes prepared with canned vegetables (so strange in a country where cheap produce is so readily available). We are committed to a proper Christmas day feast, now that we're headed back to Thailand -- there's nothing like the right food to bring you closer to home than an airplane can take you. Well, that and correspondence with friends and family (I look forward to your emails).

What's this? Our plane is boarding! I must go, but before I do: Merry Christmas... and to all, a good night...


Anonymous mum said...

we loved reading your christmas tale!

i am here with G & G- we are fetting them literate on the MAC- the story mde us feel like we were right there sipping hot chocolate with you waiting for santa.. oh yeah and the brandy was great too!

G&G can now go on your site all by themselves!
glad you guys are safely back in thailand!
mum G&G

8:13 AM  

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