Friday, December 12, 2014

'tis the season

I'm getting really into Christmas preparations this year. Which is ironic because this is the year I'll be spending the least amount of time in my apartment during the Christmas season – just two short weeks between the Saturday after Thanksgiving and this Saturday, when I'll be flying back to Tunis for the presidential run-off election. I'll be back just in time for Christmas in southern California with my family. Which all adds up to exciting times! Though I'll miss my friends' holiday parties and some of Christmas-music-everywhere season, I am excited – these are once-in-a-lifetime elections and it's a small miracle that we'll all be back for Christmas day. And I figure your mid-20s are for shaking things up at the holidays anyways, a blank slate between childhood traditions and creating rituals with your own family. 

With a shortened timeline, I knew I had to act fast. I came back from Tunis with a resolution to burn lots of candles this winter. I now have both kitschy DIY Christmas candles (made from red and green Mason jars I filled with votives) and classy all-the-time candles thanks to Anthropologie's Black Friday sale. I love lighting them for dinner or computer work at the kitchen table – it makes everything feel just a bit more special.

I had also been itching for a real Christmas tree. 25 seems like a good age for a real Christmas tree. I had mostly talked myself out of it because, again, I am leaving the country. But we picked up a wreath at the farmer's market on Saturday for that nice evergreen smell. And then I convinced Austin to walk by our local elementary school's Christmas tree sale "just to look," like you do with puppies or craft supplies. They had a $15, three-foot-tall tree that was just perfect. And like with puppies and craft supplies, I couldn't resist once it was in my sights. It has been a great addition to the family. We now spend our leisure hours wondering whether it is drinking enough water, and removing and rearranging our four ornaments. I'm crossing my fingers it will survive through the twelve days of Christmas. 

I also had the brilliant idea to send Christmas cards. This is both because I have fallen in love with paper and found some great local letterpress cards - and because it is dawning on me that we are not, in fact, going back to college after a long break, and I want to make sure to keep in touch with all those friends. I'm not sending a cheesy photo of me and Austin – instead just a funny card with a handwritten note. I wrote most of them with a candle lit and a Mexican martini in hand, as you do.
I haven’t done much for Christmas decor in the two years that I’ve lived on my own in DC – mostly just borrowed a little decorative tree from my parents. But we get to choose what our holidays look like – which also means making them happen for ourselves. In the course of these festivities, I realized that I had been waiting to be more settled before getting really into the holidays. To get engaged or married before sending Christmas cards. To live in a place for more than a year before getting a custom address stamp made. To celebrate Christmas at my own apartment before getting a real tree.

But I realized this year that I don't want to wait for all that good stuff until some more certain future. I want to commit fully to the life I'm living now. It made me think of Elise's commitment to fully decorating a space even amid frequent military moves, and the idea that you shouldn't wait on stuff you're excited about until you are not "moving soon." And nothing says "enjoy the moment" like a Christmas tree you will not spend Christmas with. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

cheers, weekend.

This weekend was for buying a wreath from the farmers' market and a Christmas tree from the elementary school. For fighting everyone else in DC at Target for a tiny string of colored lights for the tiny tree. For collecting the last farm share, full of apples, carrots, and radishes, from a long CSA season. For collecting addresses from friends and catching up over Facebook message. For "so far, so good" on the mile-a-day between Thanksgiving and New Years plan. For enjoying mussels and a French 75 after Austin came around on Le Diplomate. For warming up after walks and runs through the rain. For taking a breath and enjoying this time in between leaving Tunisia and flying back again.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sunday at Parc Belvedere

I love visiting parks when I travel. It's an easy way to step outside the tourist circuit and enjoy what the locals enjoy about their city. Plus parks outside the US are often way more tricked-out than what our staid park and recreation departments offer, with noisy rides for kids and cotton candy and SpongeBob balloons for sale.

While in Tunis (a few weeks ago now), I decided to take a break from report-writing one Sunday and take a walk through Parc Belvedere, just across Place Pasteur from where I was living in Tunis. It's a sprawling park with lawns, a parcours, some historic buildings - and a zoo. I had a one-person picnic of a weird tuna sandwich with way too many pickled vegetables and then wandered around, past kids shrieking and demanding candy, young lovers tucked away along the twisting paths, parents kicking the soccer ball with their kids. I paid the 800-millime admission fee for the zoo (feeling just a little out-of-place as a single foreign woman surrounded by families). I saw lions and giraffes and hippos and smiled at the thought that I was “on safari” – in Africa, looking at African animals… behind bars in a city zoo near the Mediterranean. I took pictures of palm trees and succulents of all varieties.

And, of course, half the fun in a zoo far from home is the people-watching. Like any park, the Parc Belvedere attracts people from all walks of life. And of course I tried to guess who random passersby would vote for in the presidential election. I’m sentimental, but seeing parents with their kids, how tenderly they showed them the animals and posed them for pictures, and knowing that they want the best for them – it makes me believe all the more strongly in Tunisia's democratic transition, and want it to succeed all the more.