Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This Year's Wish List

My Christmas list this year is pretty pathetic. The real gift is that family is coming to visit me in Morocco next week (!), and so when people ask what I want for Christmas I’m kind of at a loss. When my mom asked what she could bring me, all that came to mind was more pairs of quick dry travel underwear and Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. (I will be the first to admit this is more pathetic than selfless). Truth be told, I’m much more excited to pass on some things I’ve collected to go back to the U.S. than to receive anything. Living out of a suitcase for a year in seven different climates means that stuff becomes a burden as much as a gift.

That said, a lot of stuff that I’ve collected this year has become really important to me and also acts as a way of showing the time that has passed. The admission that there aren’t a lot of things I want this Christmas isn’t really a lack of materialism, just a matter of practicality. Truth be told, I can be somewhat materialistic. One of the many things the psychic I met in Ubud told me was, “Hmm, you really like pretty things.” Yep. Can’t deny that one. The truth hurts.

In my defense, most of the pretty things I really like are not because they are merely pretty. Things, like names, carry stories. Lugging around such a small amount of things with me this year, having the same x number of outfits to get dressed from, having to be able to carry (or drag) all that I have has only made this more so. I think of the many different streets, mountains and houses my shoes have walked in during the last (almost) five months and I know that no matter how worn out they get I'll never be able to get rid of them. As most of my communication with people who are dear to me happens solely through a cyber connection these days, the tangible things in my life have taken on greater importance. A card that my parents gave me before I left (with the picture at the bottom of this post), or a photo album I put together in Bali (because looking at photos on the computer just isn’t the same).

I was skyping with a friend last week and I noticed she was drinking tea from a mug I gave her for Christmas three years ago and almost burst into tears. There is something about interacting with these things, and about using whatever we (literally) carry with us that has somehow reached this new depth while I’m away.

It’s probably the same reason why I cried when opening up this box with a handwritten Burlington address. I’ve been on the move so much that it’s the first piece of mail I’ve gotten all year, and there was something about emptying its contents and holding them that made me feel way closer to home than any kind of skype date would.

(Thanks Gail & Hanna)

Included in the package's contents. For anyone who hasn't yet tried "Grace Under Fire" do so immediately, because Grace Potter teaming up with Lake Champlain Chocolates is pretty much the best thing to happen to Vermont since Ben & Jerry became friends.

In a weird way, some of these things are all that I will have that has shared this journey with me. They also might help me make the transition back to home, many months from now. I can imagine that because this experience is, in some ways, such an isolating one, there are going to be days when life goes on and I almost feel like I dreamed it all. I’m counting on these things to bring me back.

I sent a box home from India a while ago that arrived at my parents’ house in Burlington recently. I told my mom she should feel free to open it and see what I was sending back but she said no. She looked at the package, which was covered in fabric, and had been stitched up with thread and sealing wax at a post office in Jaipur and said, “I think that it’s actually going to be really important for YOU to open that when you’re back.”

I think she’s right.

I agree with many other people in the world who feel that this season often shows consumerism and materialism at their worst, but I also wanted to offer this defense of things, at least in moderation. There is a lot of comfort in the fact that I know when I finally do go home, no matter what else is going on or where I’m headed from there, there will be a box waiting for me in my bedroom. I’ll be able to unwrap its contents, see my (then) nine-month old handwriting, breathe deep and smell a little bit of India, remember where each little thing was acquired, and then remember that at one time, I was right there too.

The image from a card my parents gave me that I have been carrying around with me. "Ausflug" by Quint Buchholz.

1 comment:

  1. The light is always on at home for you, Nella.
    See you Sunday!