Thursday, December 6, 2012

So, I hear tell it is that December month.

It is funny, really. I have no idea where November went—sandwiched between the typhoons of Chuseok and the flurries of Thanksgiving. But, now it is the 6th day of December, and my hands nearly froze to the steering column of my sassy new scooter, Kyler. 

I have sat and tried to dissect my thoughts and feelings of this holiday season. It is not the graceful, clean process I feel I have to exude. It is rather messy, tearful, and all around unbecoming.

On Monday, I went to Nampo-dong (a large shopping district in Busan) for Thai food and Christmas presents. I went with my dear friend M, and met up with K and T. After dinner and shopping, the four of us, turned the corner to walk back to the subway station. And, after I allowed myself to relax, I took in the sights around me. The Christmas lights sparkled truth, innocence, and the beauty of humanity. 

The Christmas tree banners led one after another to the center round about. Lovers, children, and friends posed in front of a white spiral tree. Red and blue lights emerged from the tip, which created a mystical ceiling. It gave me the comfort of being home.

It reminded me of my early childhood, when my parents would bundle Sarah and I up in our winter boots, jackets, and night gowns, and they buckled us in the car. Dad would drive us down I-94, take the 894 bypass and exit on Oklahoma Avenue. And there, between blocks 92 and 96, is where, I assumed, Santa lived. Candy Cane Lane interwove with my hopes and dreams for years. The deep snow reflected the magic of this four-block radius.  Each house, magnificently decorated, looked like a Thomas Kincaid painting. My eager face, plastered against the window, took in all of the wonder and awe.

I saw that same look on so many beautiful children in South Korea. Their eyes glazed over with lights and joy in the very purest sense. The Christmas trees twinkled and their boughs, weighed down by ornaments and garland, reached through my memories and teased them out of me.

Last night, as I walked out of K’s apartment building, I commented, “Oh, wow. It smells like snow and Wisconsin.” My friends C and H agreed, and we look up to the sky to see little flakes blustering about in the wind. Busan had its first snowfall. Many of my friends changed their facebook status to SNOW or IT’S SNOWING or Take that, Busan never snowing. Boo-yah. There is something about the season's first snow that makes adults stop and appreciate what is around them with the same wide-eyed innocence as children.

All of my time here, I waited for the snow. Maybe if it is snowing here and snowing at home, then somehow we’ll be connected. Imagine if a flake formed over the Midwest and lazily drifted on the winds and seas all the way to Busan. I know that is childish to think that way. The degrees of separation between home and me feel insurmountable at the moment. But, what is December without childlike faith? What is December without the knowledge that Santa will always come on Christmas Eve? We believe what we have to for our brains to make sense of things. I need to know that, somehow, I am connected to my family right now. 

And, that, dear friends, is the beauty of Christmas. In this month, I am allowed to regress in age. I am allowed to be four and wanting to curl into my mother’s lap with shortbread cookies and know that all will be right in the morning. I am allowed to be 12 and play in the snow. I am allowed to be 15 and drink my first cup of coffee with my mother on a cold winter’s day, thinking that this must be what being an adult is like. I am allowed to be 18 and 21, and strong when my family cannot be. I am also allowed to be 25 and scared so far away from home.

But, with all of that said, I know that all of those memories are real. My family is real. The moon and stars that shine over Busan are the very same that twinkle over Wisconsin. And, Christmas will come, and it will be amazing, full of new traditions and faces. And, they too will be beautiful.

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