Usually, my Decembers are swimming pools and sticky icy poles and scorching in the summer sun. Christmas is an inverted, surreal dream; gone are Santa's reindeer, here he drives six white kangaroos across the desert. The Decembers of my life have always been plastic trees and bikinis, barbecues and drive in movies. The buzz of cicadas and the sounds of galahs in the morning. The Hallmark Christmas, of powder white snow and chalets in the Alps, always a world away. An entire hemisphere apart. The closest to snow we get is when we close our eyes after looking at the sky, the burning light casting dancing white floaters under our eyelids. Where other parts of the world are silent under the hush of snow, ours is buzzing with the hum of the air conditioning, everything alive and breathing and simmering in the heat. Brown hills idle and tired compared to the imposing white mountains far, far away. We play cricket on the beach instead of ice skating, surf instead of sleigh. Make sand angels, gritty and warm, instead of snow ones. Instead of blizzards, we fear bushfires. We've come to love the different, the unusual. The sun-baked Christmas instead of a cold one.
It's hot and it's distinct and it's ours.
But I promised you a different Christmas.
This year, December and yuletide will indeed come dressed in snowflakes and frostbitten noses. It'll arrive with mugs of glühwein, hot and spicy and sending shivers down your spine. It'll be castles and pine trees and frozen lakes. Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and Füssen. A fairytale spun from every Christmas song and holiday movie. All the children's storybooks I used to read of elves, of foxes in the snow, of young girls and boys looking at a winter moon for Santa and his sleigh, will spring before my eyes. All the scenes in the baubles on our faux-tree, of evergreens and candles, will come to life. There'll be no presents, but being there will be enough. More than enough. Moving from Australia to the Middle East means that Europe is now mere hours away. All that, all the fantasies of blackberry bushes dusted with icing sugar snow, the Christmas cookies and roaring fireplaces, is barely a leap away.
But, these dreams of white Decembers are thousands of miles away from home, and from family. Distant from grandparents and paper crowns and your belly becoming tanned. Distant from platters of cold meat, sparkling wine and summer stone fruits, so lush that the juice drips down from the crook of your wrist to your elbow. Distant from conversations, fat and lazy on food, and choking with laughter at the bad jokes inside the cheap Christmas crackers. There'll be no swimming when it's cold, no diving into the sun, there'll be no hair - damp with chlorine - sticking to the back of our necks. No sitting on the driveway, watching a dark and glorious storm roll in from over the hills. No watching our bare ankles for snakes. Those summer months, full of skin and grapes and salt, campfires and flat tires, will be the past for a little while.
In those inverted Decembers, I wished for the one that's approaching me now. The one everyone dreams of.
They say: Live in the present! Appreciate the now!
But I can't. It's either looking to the past, which I've nestled someplace between my ribs and heart, or wishing for the future so hard that my blood fizzes. Trapped between nostalgia and hope. In limbo, liminal, lost.
When I dug my toes in the dry, crackly grass, I longed for fur boots tramping in the snow. When the tip of my nose was sunburnt, I imagined it was simply kissed by the cold instead. All these little wishes I've collected will become weaved into a tapestry of my future memories. Just as I had hoped for.
But now I wish, just a little, for one more heat-struck December. I wonder where my grandparents will go for Christmas lunch now.