Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Different Christmas


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!


Trulyfool said...

One woman who was very close to me, in California, had family roots in the Azores. Her father was a respected man of a high social position.

Her mother recently died at an advanced age, respected in her California community which has retained, as some do in America, connection to 'the Old World'.

By current theories, deeply founding themselves in the authenticity of the dispossessed and by extension any smaller communities within the large -- by those, I am likely a kind of 'modernist' dinosaur, lumbering hopefully for 'internationalism' where in some kind of parliamentary brother/sisterhood we reasonable accommodate each other. Yet somehow recognize core -- 'enlightened' -- values.

Our daughter is flying in on Christmas Day. Can't wait.

I sympathize with the alienation you must have felt in Ohio. In San Francisco, in Los Angeles -- places I know and have lived -- you would have been welcomed.

But why am I waving the flag? I'd rather be in Britain or in Lisbon right now. Maybe the next wet flight out.

Ruth said...

Claudia, I wonder if it will be said of us that we saw more changes in our lifetime than any other time, the way they did of the 19th c., then the 20th. I guess tech changes now seem vast, but can't compare to the industrial makeover of the last two centuries.

When we lived in Istanbul in the late eighties, with small children, our hearts ached to be home. We had expat friends, and that helped tremendously. Christmas is a holiday for conjuring memory ghosts, and it feels necessary to close the circle and be with those who helped form those memories. I feel for you and am glad you can use technology to connect.

Both our kids will be away, and Don's parents are away, so this will be our first Christmas in 32 years alone. It's peaceful and calm, and a little lonely.

Lots of love to you, Michel, Ana and Clara this Christmastide.

rauf said...

i don't like these dingdidong animated electronic greetings Claudia. Yes we have to be thankful to the technology.

Merry Christmas !

Peter said...

Too late for Christmas greetings, but let me instead wish you and your family a Happy New Year... including a trip to Portugal (and maybe Paris?), in good weather conditions!

Thanks for all your nice posts - and comments in 2009!

Anonymous said...

I miss your posts...