Yes, Christmas is long gone, but I still want to share what I wrote weeks ago.
It is Christmas Eve. The living room is strewn with crumbled gift paper and candy wrappers. We have opened our Christmas presents, and Tim and Sumner just returned from haircuts across the street. Sumner had tears in his eyes. “Dad and Zoe need to leave the room,” he says. He shuts the door and pulls off his knitted cap. “It’s not what I wanted.”
I am confused; it looks like a flattened (due to hat) version of the model’s hair in the picture he took with him.
“It is puffy.” He pulls the cap back on his head and flops onto the day bed.
“Wear the hat some more and it won’t be,” I offer. He closes his eyes.
This year’s Christmas tree was fashioned by Zoe from chopsticks.
Last night I found a note face down on the coffee table. It was supposed to be to Santa. [The author did not give permission for their name to be disclosed.] There is no salutation. It reads, “This year we live in China and have been missing family. As time goes by I hate China more and more. This is the second year in a row that Christmas won’t be red. I feel disappointed about Christmas and China. For Christmas I want to go home.” The note reminds me of despondent journal entries I’ve penned through the years.
The other child’s note is simpler: “Dear Santa, I hope you get to come because we are in China. I hope you like the snack we prepared. It’s Chinese.” The kids left oranges and Chinese digestive biscuits.
It is 2.30pm and I am still in my jammies. Come 6pm the leaky toilets have to be cleaned, the white kitchen floor should be closer to white than it is now, and we need to be showered. Lots of college and 20+ year olds (some from my work at the kids’ school) will join us for their first American Christmas celebration. What a relief — I am not cooking; we will buy Chinese food from neighborhood places.
Believing in education, we will give the students a quiz, with prize, to the one who knows the most about Santa. Then we will do a White Elephant Gift Exchange. We did these in Turkey, and the first year friends had to be convinced it was okay to complain loudly or laugh over weird gifts – and even more okay to bring such a gift.
Also, we will light candles and sing Silent Night. And I want to tell them some of what Christmas means to me – not just the family time, gift giving, and Christmas trees. Sometimes I do not speak easily about my faith because I don’t want to offend, yet I want to give them a bit of my heart for my faith. I made a small paper snowflake for each person, and I will admit that when I first came to China I thought the Chinese all looked alike. But as each snowflake (yes, I researched it and it’s pretty true) is unique, so each of them is unique. A note for them in Chinese has words from Psalms 139 including words I turn to when I need a reminder that my puny existence matters: I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are thy works and that my soul knows full well. And, for each of them is a Christmas ornament resembling a snowflake made from a wheat stalk (no, I didn’t and couldn’t make this one).
Early tomorrow we will fly to Hong Kong for 5 days. Meanwhile, Sumner wants me to help him build his new Leggos rescue airplane, so I will close. Until next time, Merry Christmas to all of you, dear ones.