When it became apparent I wouldn’t be making it home for Christmas, I was quietly devastated. I cried like a baby for at least a week straight and then every time I saw a woman who remotely resembled my mother (ie was female) for a good month after that. I assure you, my behaviour surprised myself. I am usually a relatively positive person, it was my choice entirely to move to Europe, no one forced me, and I love it here. And it wasn’t as if I was going to be spending Christmas with a woven basket at my feet and rubbing my hands above a lit trash can. I was going to be surrounded by loved ones, fed excellent food and had the warm busom of not one but three families to nuzzle into. Plus, there was the man himself, the one and only SG. What was my problem? Get a grip, Olivia, I hear you all saying. I suppose, really, I just wanted to go home for a bit, see my Mum and Dad, stick my feet in the water and snuggle with my dog. It was as simple as that.
I felt sorry for myself for quite some time. Spent a little while martyring. And slung some vitriol at the weather, to lift my spirits. But then, inevitably, the sleigh bells started ringing. The Christmas markets popped up in the city and the much dreaded snow never came. The world’s best Advent calendar was strung up on my wall and St Nicholas struck on December 6th, with boatloads of chocolate. The gluhwein began to flow. Judy Garland’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was popped on repeat and I started Christmas shopping. Faced with a list of presents to buy was like being told in a gentle yet deservedly firm manner, ‘look at the people you have here who love you and who you love.’ It was breakthrough number one; the warming realisation that, as much as I will always call Australia home, I also have a home here, one I have built, one where I belong. And one I must remember to treasure.
If Christmas is good for anything, it is heightening sentimentalism and yesterday afternoon, I had the second breakthrough. I was around at Silke’s, wrapping presents and assaulting her ears with my lusty carol singing, when I spied two little red squirrels chasing each other around a tree, scampering about without a care in the world. Bear with me, I am not making this up. As I stood with a truly wonderful friend, drinking coffee and watching squirrels frolic, the Christmas medley from Hanson’s under-appreciated album, Snowed In, came on the radio. My little heart exploded with festive spirit. Nothing spells Christmas for me, like a three-part male, adolescent harmony.
On the walk home, my fluctuating, Christmas-spiked emotions struck again and I made the mistake of thinking about Mum, which is like my method acting trick if I ever need tears on cue. I just have to think of the words – not even verbalise them – ‘I miss my Mum’ and the tears flow like I’ve rubbed my sockets with raw onion. Quite amazing. But just as I was glancing skyward – a trick I perfected during blood tests to stave off the tears, because needles also make me cry – my phone rang. It was my German Mum, calling to say that she and my German Dad were coming around to see me. What timing. What delightful timing.
Sitting in our tiny kitchen with tea and biscuits and my German parents, people who have loved and cared for me as if I am one of their own, was the final breakthrough. I am now through to the other side. I am knee deep in Christmas spirit. I am thrilled to be here. I am hand-rubbingly excited about spending Christmas with SG and his family. I may not be in Australia, I may be away from my beloved friends and family – people I will always miss – my Christmas may be devoid of Pa’s pavlova, Nana’s Christmas cake and the sheer noise of my extended family but that’s okay. Because my breakthroughs, however small and however saccharine, have delivered to me one simple conclusion; that I shouldn’t think of what I don’t have, but what I do. That it is better not just to miss those on the other side of the world, but to make room to appreciate the people I have here. Because, and this is the final and most lovely fact – I am lucky enough, so very lucky, to have two homes and all of the comfort, warmth and love they bring. And that will always make for a very Merry Christmas, wherever I happen to be.