O Holy Night

Outside the window, there is a mountain peak covered in snow, and a Christmas tree just over 10 feet tall twinkles with lights in our living room, scraping the ceiling because we didn’t bother to calculate exactly what 3.1 meters meant. There is no one coming to visit this year, and it all feels a little strange to be celebrating a holiday steeped in memory, in a place where no memories yet exist?

Figuring out where to put the Christmas decorations is a challenge I never remember until December. The Santas from Ukraine and the wooden trees from Zambia need to find new routines for the next three years. Do they miss their old home too? I hope Jake and Eli will feel like this is home, because these things are still with us after all these years.

After school the boys play Christmas carols on the violin, newly repaired by the Sofia Symphony’s “luthier.” Mike found the luthier one day deep in the cobbled streets of the old town, where he owns a small shop, thick with instruments and tobacco smoke.

On the weekends we mostly stay home, making pizza and roasting vegetables, and exploring rusty cars around the neighborhood. There is a quiet street in front of our house, where Mike and the boys toss the football with the neighbors and take Gussy out for a stroll.

Gussy is very mischievous these days but we love him like crazy. He sleeps curled up on beds all over the house, especially during the daytime while the boys are home for virtual school. Jake and Eli creep around cuddling him and have named all his sleeping positions. These include Donut, Buddha, Ham, Peanut, Extended Peanut, Liver, and Can Opener.

Before dinner, Jake and Eli play an hour of X-Box with their Vienna friends, and on Saturday mornings they sleep in until 9. If I’m organized on weekends there will be cinnamon rolls or coffee cake, but most of the time breakfast is croissants from Kaufland, or Mike making smoothies and pancakes. I’m not sure what Eli and Jake will do when they start college and realize most people just eat cereal. They will either love us or hate us for this.

But in these weeks before Christmas, there is still magic in the air, and they are still young enough (or willing enough) to enjoy being little boys, getting gifts in their shoes from the elves and making cookies with their Mom.

And instead of a whirlwind, this season is creeping slowly, with plenty of time to stay connected to each other and to the people we love. The anticipation of Christmas is like childhood again, the suspense drawn out by counting the days on the calendar. Are we there yet? With no travel and no parties, we make our own fun, and there is nothing to do but make gingerbread, wrap presents, and wait.

So we wait. Playing Christmas carols, building fires in the fireplace, waiting for O Holy Night. I ask them to play Once In Royal David’s City on the violin for me, and they do. We’re not missing Christmas this year after all. Just steeping our life in new memories, again.