Thursday 22 December 2011

A Christmas Story

I just couldn't sleep that night. I had arrived some hours earlier to spend a few days with close family. As usual, I would stay in my old room, which was filled with boxed-up memories. This alone was more than enough to keep me awake. The by now slightly too short bed, and some genuine concerns about the future didn’t help. I had managed to free the window, stuck shut by several layers of carelessly applied paint, in hope that a burst of fresh air would improve things. It was cold outside, much colder than I was prepared for. Certainly way too cold for snow, not a single flake showed. In the near distance I could hear a dog or two barking, and some equally sleepless animal, probably the locked-out neighbours cat or a hungry fox, rummaging around behind the garden shed. Precise dots of far travelled, ancient light, aligned in mythical constellations, kept me wondering once more about the purpose of it all. After an extended search I eventually dug out the old dusty binoculars hiding under a pile of long forgotten wodden toys. The precious optical instrument we had always been warned to use back then, but had often secretly “borrowed” from dad’s drawer to marvel at the cracked surface of the moon. Back then, when I was still an enquiring young child, with the annoying habit of trying to disassemble the modern mechanical and electronic world. Looking at the magnified moon, it felt somewhat soothing to realize that at least a couple of things had remained constant in this accelerated life of unpredictable twists and turns. Hard to believe that humans had stepped onto this middle gray, yet so beautiful and mesmerizing surface not long ago; had left random footprints and tyre marks to stake their claim. Crazy, to picture oneself roaming the fragile little earth, isolated and somewhat lost in the cold, silent infinite darkness. Closer to home, I recalled the one late afternoon in December 1985, when we struggled for what felt like hours through knee-deep, untouched snow searching the local woods for a suitable christmas tree. After a victorious return, it took a good painful ten-minutes to unthaw and revive my frozen tingling hands by the fireplace. On second glance, the “perfect” tree, now stabilized on its designated spot in the living room, turned out to be quite crooked and the source of frequent ridicule over the years. In hindsight, a price well worth paying for a lasting memory. A far cry from the present-day logistics and complex economics behind a successful first-world christmas do. A season of joy filled with numerous mundane tasks. Stopping off in a hurry at the gas station to refuel, avoiding the bright displays of last-minute gifts and troops of reincarnated chocolate Santas, to spontaneously opt for a soft-needled $40 imported fir. Then again the Three Kings had travelled from faraway lands. This year, the birth of Jesus, our Saviour, was highlighted in my diary with a bright neon-yellow marker pen and a cute little star doodle. It repeatedly fell inconveniently short between various to-do lists and the unavoidable visits to less-loved relatives. I was determined to change things ...

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