Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Different Christmas

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When for a number of reasons I decided it would be best to stay put this Christmas and not travel to Portugal, as we usually do at this time of the year, I had no idea the weather and travel conditions would be as chaotic as they've turned out to be during the past two weeks. I'm really glad we're warm and cozy in our haven. It's as if I guessed.

This is my first Christmas away from my parents. I'm 42, so that's saying something. It will be a very different Christmas for them and for me. We've sent each other so many parcels over the last month that I'm almost sure that between us we've spent more on mail services than the airfare we would have spent on a cheap airline had we booked our four tickets sufficiently early. Online photo albums, You Tube and email have made the separation much easier to bear than it would have been possible just some years ago, though. When my parents, my sisters and I moved to Beavercreek, Ohio some 30 years ago, we felt almost cut off from family and friends back in Portugal: overseas phone calls were expensive and annoyingly "echoish", intercontinental flights were prohibitively expensive, airmail was agonizingly slow and not really useful to keep in touch or be a source of news. During the four years we lived in the American Midwest we heard Portugal being mentioned in the news only once and that for less than a minute. 99% of my high school friends had no idea of what Portugal was and even less of where it might be. The smartest ones thought it was a region of Spain.

Technology has changed our perception of distance and people like me and my husband have taken advantage of that to pursue opportunities that would perhaps have seemed too daring just a couple of decades ago. The trouble is that when technology fails, like it has with Eurostar, airline companies and utility companies during the past weeks, distance regains its former isolating and intimidating dimension, humbling us into admitting that we're still really pretty powerless in the grand scheme of things. Reality checks are always useful.

Merry Christmas, whoever and wherever you are!