Last week, one of those Facebook reminders alerted me to the fact that it was precisely a year ago that we found our house here in Austin. Wow. I remember coming here with E and F, trying to get our heads around the fact that we’d be moving, looking at houses, and getting excited for our new adventure. A whole year has passed since then, a whole year!

As it’s the week before Christmas, and this time of year always gets me, I won’t talk too much about feeling crap. I haven’t felt very Christmassy yet, despite the fact that a) my lovely mum surprised us with a visit and brought all sorts of Christmas goodies from Germany, b) Frankie had three Christmas dance recitals including the Nutcracker, and our weekends have been filled with driving to and from shows, buying yet more pairs of pink and tan tights and organizing lunches to be eaten in the car, and c) Christmas is a much bigger deal here than it was in California. I have never seen so many decorations in my life, and driving through the streets at night is a feast/assault for the eyes. Daytime pleasures are more on the garish side:

Of course, this year has been so hellish, on so many levels, that I’m not the only one who can’t wait to see the back of it. I already dread the “year-in-review” TV shows that will assault us in the next few weeks. Trump is only one of many events we could have done without this year. On a personal level, it has been the most challenging year for me yet, and while I’ve come out in one piece, and still smiling most of the time, it’s definitely taken its toll. And on the girls too, who have lived in 5 different homes in the last 7 years.

This really struck me when, on the night of the 5th December, it was time for them to put out their shoes to see if St. Nikolaus would fill them with goodies over night (yes, we still do it all, German Christmas traditions will not be forgotten). As I looked at their boots (I mean, it’s never just shoes, is it?), realising they’re both a size bigger than my own shoes, I had flashbacks of previous St. Nikolaus days, remembering the assortment of shoes and boots over the years, all different styles and all in different houses. It made me feel rather nostalgic, and I had to swallow hard. Our girls have had to handle a lot of changes over the years, and they’ve done it each in their own way.
F, who has been very “let’s do this” from the start, seems to be able to fully live in the moment, wherever we are, while never losing sight of her end goal, knowing exactly what she wants and where she wants to be eventually. She simply compartmentalises, enjoys wherever she is and whoever she is with, then puts all that in a box and deals with the new situation in the same way.
E, on the other hand, is much more volatile, and always seems to miss what’s passed and is impatient for what’s to come. As a consequence, she finds it much harder to feel settled and happy. I guess she’s inherited my genes, the poor girl….

Anyway, this time of year always gets to me. The first real sense of Christmas came the other morning, when I woke up to a Whatsapp from my sister, who’d sent me this  Emoji riddle (guess which Christmas song):

And then, as I continued listening to Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself, his book about returning to the US after 20 years of living in Britain, he talked about Christmas in this country, and how much better it is in Britain. Yes! I’m sure I’ve blogged about this before, because I feel exactly like this every single year. Because of the “Holidays” being spread out over a few weeks (I’m even including Halloween), the build-up to Christmas is just not the same, and by the time the big day comes, everybody is sick of it already (tinny, nasal American Christmas songs blaring out of every speaker in the country don’t help either). And there are no mince pies. I don’t even really like mince pies, but the smell of them baking away in the oven is just so special. Just like German Christmas cookies (Plätzchen). The girls are so much older now and not really into all the singing, baking, and general festiveness anymore. We tried the Trail of Lights, Austin’s annual Christmas event, and while it was certainly spectacular as far as the light installations and decorations were concerned, it was a rather garish, Disneyfied affair that didn’t really manage to push my buttons (no mulled wine, for a start). Plus, it was freezing cold, as an arctic front descended from Canada just as we parked the car, and we were shivering in our inadequate coats, relying, as we know we never should, on the weather apps on our phones. At least it’s suitably cold now, and we’ve dug out our winter coats that lay pretty much unused for the last 7 years.

And who knows? We might even end up with a white Christmas this year. We’re off to Washington D.C., staying with friends, as we decided to visit the place before Obama departs and the White House is being painted gold.

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