Friday, December 21, 2012

Not Quite Home for the Holidays

(I'm on blog carnival mode so I'm sharing this on Rann This That's Sunday Snippets,  a wonderful carnival introduced by one of my favorite bloggers   

Christmas is not always the most wonderful time of the year for me.  As soon as Bing Crosby’s classic tear-jerker “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” wafts up the airwaves, my heart sighs its dreamy longing for the white sandy beaches of the Philippines… just like the ones I used to know.  

Like other migrants, nomads, missionaries, nursing home residents, prisoners, deployed military, and all others separated from a network of families in our hometowns, loneliness is a pervasive holiday experience.

  Most first generation immigrants can remember our first Christmas away from home.  Mine was spent sipping eggnog with strangers.  My aunt and uncle recall sniffling over a crackling fireplace.  A friend attended Mass, slipped on fleece pajamas and slept in a bed of homesickness.

My husband often reminds me that home is now Alabama where we’ve started to raise our family, where friends who share our values have become almost family.  But it is hard to remove memories of childhood Christmases and not think about my parents, sisters, grandmother, cousins and friends eating the edam cheese, ripping up unrecycled wrapping papers, as jingling carolers and popping firecrackers set the mood of a fiesta. 

Each year I’ve been away, I light up the traditional Filipino parol, a star of vibrant lights that hangs on every home in the Philippines, which reminds us of the rich universal Catholic faith we share… of the dazzling star of Bethlehem that guided the shepherds and wise men to find the baby Jesus.

 Yet, when I was home for the holidays three years ago, and the humidity crawled on my back, I unexpectedly found myself thinking of knitted sweaters & scarves, felt stockings, peppermint candy canes and snowmen.  The thoughts lasted a split-second and couldn’t take away the warmth of family and the old familiar but the past eleven years of creating new traditions served to remind me that I was in between two worlds.  In exile.

Being in exile has me contemplating the Holy Family’s journey before the First Christmas and wondering if Joseph recalls the good 'ole days in the cave fondly.  I reflect on the experience of Mary, who said that she, too, felt the wretched isolation from her family and friends in Nazareth all those years of being in exile in Egypt until Herod’s death. I think of Jesus, who having tasted heaven, must have longed for his true home the entire time he was in this valley of tears.  (I’m not so alone, after all.)

I’ve moved to more cities than the FBI’s most wanted and hauled more boxes than our UPS guy (okay maybe not quite, but it’s close).  While each of those places have been blessed with the Almighty’s artistic touch and are populated with their own fair share of good people, not one of them has all the elements of the perfection of the city of God.

Now my sighs grow deeper for such a place, a new heavens and a new earth, where “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.” (Revelations 21:4)

My constant prayer in offering up pangs of homesickness is that all those who do not know their precious inheritance as sons and daughters of God will find the Christ, the gate of heaven, who will lead them home. 


8 kids and a business said...

This is lovely, Annabelle. I didn't grow up in the Philippines but I remember my parents reminiscing about Christmas "at home." Have a blessed and joyous Christmas and a very happy, holy New Year.

Nancy Shuman said...

I offer prayer tonight for you, and all (of us) who miss loved ones most particularly at this time of year.

Anabelle Hazard said...

Thank you Terry. Nancy, I appreciate the prayers very much and believe it or not, last night I experienced a spurt of joy.

ellengable said...

Beautiful, post, Anabelle! The first Christmas I spent away from my home country (USA) was here in Canada in 1982 with my new Canadian husband. I soon found that it is almost always a white Christmas here; it is usually frigid cold...and skiing, skating and sledding are the usual activities six months per year. I have occasionally returned home to New Jersey at Christmas time, but, like you, I found myself yearning for the snow and missing it!

Anabelle Hazard said...

Thank you Ellen for sharing this post. Its nice to know I'm really not alone.

Richard Maffeo said...

Nicely done, Annabelle. My wife and I spent many years away from home, and at times from each other, while I was on active duty with the US Navy. God bless you and keep you and yours close to His arms.