Tonight, while preparing my iPod for the long haul over the Pacific (Saturday–already!), I came across some music that has made me very, very happy. I was trying, initially, to find Brazilian music for Dennis to listen to as we drive around the North Island of New Zealand together in the coming weeks, and in doing so, I found Brazilian jazz musician, Bola Sete. He was recommended to me by my friend, Cat Head Josh, who is a Brazilian music fanatic. He’s pointed me in the direction of a couple of great musicians–Bola Sete and Baden Powell.
Anyway, while searching through iTunes for Bola Sete, I saw that he had once teamed up with Vince Guaraldi, the composer of maybe the greatest Christmas album on the entire planet: “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” A few clicks later, and not only had I downloaded a bunch of Bola Sete, I had myself the entire CBC album, remastered.
Because Brazilian internet (or atleast Brazilian internet on my street) is very slow, it was going to take a long time to finally be able to listen to my beautiful new tunes, so I went to Mandy’s for some more episodes of Sex and the City. (She’s watching it from Season 1 to Season 6. I’m doing the reverse. I don’t know why. So we met tonight in the middle, for the one time we’d be able to watch together.) While I was there, I noticed Mandy had decorated her standing plant with colored blinking lights and three Christmas tree ornaments. I stood there, looking at the lights, and thinking about how those tiny little lights made me miss the larger ones that annually adorn our huge tree at home in Jericho. The three homemade ornaments that hung from Mandy’s tree reminded me of the six hundred that tell the story of our family over thirty years as they hang from and gently twirl on the tree’s branches in the middle of our New Room, which actually isn’t new at all. I was reminded of my mom’s Chex mix, the smell of the tree–how it sank deep into the pores of everything in our house; I was reminded of Mom’s Bing Crosby records, of the felt stocking she made for me and would stuff so full with wrapped up goodies that it overflowed every year, of waking up on Christmas morning a little earlier than everyone and having the same giddy flutter in my heart that I had when I was six at the thought of sitting around with my family–just three or four of us–sipping coffee and handing out gifts, guessing what they were before opening them and hearing the story of how they were acquired or why after tearing the paper off. Collecting the paper in bags, collecting the bows into a pile to be reused the next year.
And staring at Mandy’s little tree, I thought and literally felt: I won’t be home for Christmas this year. Ow.
So now I sit here on the slate step to my sunken living room, listening to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and thinking of home and family and Christmas and Chex mix and chocolate and mulled cider and snow. I am facing a pile of books in the corner and I am unwilling to turn my head around to look out of the window down onto the palm trees and rainy streets. This soundtrack, this music, needs to be listened to in the snow. Christmas needs to be in the snow and the cold. It needs to involve a drive home in bad weather, a grand opening of the front door, being greeted by the smell of pine and rosemary chicken. It needs to be filled with assorted bags full of presents, wrapped and unwrapped. It needs to be chilly. It needs mittens. It needs cold noses. It needs flannel pj’s. It needs funny stories about ornaments. It needs last minute trips to the store for milk or egg nog. It needs curling up on the couch with a book and a blanket. It needs all those things. It needs my family. I need all of those things. I need my family.
To be fair, Campinas has done a beautiful job of decorating itself with lights. When I look down onto the street below, I see that they’ve hung lights in the shapes of stars and candles from the street lamps. They’ve decorated the palm trees at the Prefeitura, wrapping the tiny white lights around the tall trunks. There are electric candles in the windows of Metrocamp and the city is generally very beautiful at night. On Friday there is going to be caroling around Cambui. And that’s exciting, even though the carols will likely be in Portuguese. I was never into caroling, but the idea is nice and New England-y.
I won’t be in Brazil for Christmas itself. I’m a little sad about that only because, how do they do Christmas in Brazil? I’ve never been anywhere else for Christmas other than my own home–or one year, a boyfriend’s parents’ home. And Dennis is Jewish, so, clearly no Christmas there. On Christmas Day, eighteen hours ahead of our families, we will be together on the North Island of New Zealand, exploring the beaches or the vineyards or the lakes. There won’t be snow or stockings or Chex mix or ornaments. My family won’t be there to open presents with and, probably, there will be no presents there to open to begin with. We won’t light a fire in the fireplace, we won’t collect ribbons and paper, and we won’t drive anywhere that requires winter tires.
But we will be with each other. And that’s kind of like a family. And maybe, while we’re driving around the beaches or vineyards or lakes on that day, I’ll turn on my iPod and skip to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and think of snow and trees and Jericho and home and family. And while there won’t be any gifts to unwrap, I’m sure, that on Christmas Day, I’ll glance over at my Russian-speaking Jewish boyfriend in his Japanese car as he takes a turn down some New Zealand street–while in the background listening to American Guaraldi and Brazilian Bola Sete–and I’ll be very, very happy for the present.