I could see the chestnuts roasting, not on an open fire but on an antique stove blackened with charcoal, the taste of soot part of the charm. I could see the folks all dressed up like Eskimos, plodding though, not dashing, through the snow. And if I listened closely, I could hear those bells – choir, church, sleigh, or reindeer – jingling.
Photo by Denise Johnson on Unsplash
I could see us eating hot chestnuts out of newspaper cones. Six pairs of hands. Huddling together and over the street vendor’s roasting cart for a little warmth. I could see us splitting the last one because no one wanted to be the selfish last-chestnut-in-the-cone eater on, of all nights, Christmas Eve.
I could see the snowmen appearing in the park, and in people’s windows, lit trees. I could see the pine, the holly, and the red bows. I could hear the children caroling.
I could see us gathered, all of us home for Christmas. Wishing for snow and mistletoe. I could see the presents, wrapped, set, and as anxious as we for morning to come.
I could see us meanwhile having ourselves a merry little evening, hearts light. Our troubles out of sight, no turkey either. Just cheese and wine, cookies, and hot chocolate. One I could smell all the way from the kitchen, and remember into my childhood; the best in the world. I could see the cookies crumbling in creamy swirls, the steam flushing my cheeks, making my eyeglasses turn foggy, making things look like a dream.
I could see myself recognizing old quirks, laughing at dusty memories and embarrassing photographs, catching up on the time gaps in between. I could see the sofa, the same one we dismantled to build forts, palaces, and ships, back when we still struggled to stay awake for the sound of a reindeer.
I could see it all. My suitcase was ready. My ticket and a book to read in between long stretches spent counting down minutes, staring out the window from my seat. I would be home for Christmas, I promised. Life had different plans, it seemed. I woke to find that the chestnuts and jingle bells had only been in my dreams.
But something happened, the night before Christmas. The house was candle lit, quiet. A knock on the door. Then another, three and four. I opened: Home had come here!
Better than presents and mulled wine and mistletoe, four faces I loved were staring, jetlagged, at me. Love is flying across continents to be together on Christmas Eve.
Home is the scents I recognized as I cried and hugged everyone. Home is an evening in pajamas, glamorous, toasting with red paper cups.
We had chestnuts. We roasted them indoors, on a gas stove. Less romantic but just as good. We had laughs and hot drinks with dessert, and did not open presents till morning. The weather outside was frightful, as it should be, but the apartment was toasty. There were bells and lights and we could hear carols. Best of all, I was not dreaming.
Now the New Year has come and home has left. Back across oceans and time zones. ‘Winds sometimes blow counter to ship’s desires,’ a poet said, centuries ago. Well, let them blow this year; it will be all right. I do not know how I know. But I do, and that we will all be home, wherever that is, for Christmas next year.