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A White Christmas in Fuyang
Article ID: 13672
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: December 13th. 2009
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We woke up to a white Christmas in Fuyang--just not the kind you might expect. Fog. Everywhere. Deep, dense fog. It was beautiful and otherworldly. Like we were between worlds. No lights, no music, no advertisements, nothing that shouts out Christmas like in the Western world. Just quiet and peace.
Despite the beauty, we went through some emotional stuff this first Christmas away from our friends and families in America. As I am a witch, I didn't expect to feel nostalgic. I was raised in a household that celebrated Christmas and still does--with a passion rivaling Obama supporters before the election. But I didn't think it would touch me, or for that matter my sweetheart. Still, I felt the loss of the familiar, the comfort of smells, tastes, music and sights of the season.
I didn't miss the craziness of Christmas in America, but I did miss the smell of apple cider brewing on the stove with cloves and cinnamon, and gingerbread and sugar cookies baking in my Mother's oven and her home--covered in red and white and gold and evergreen and shelves filled with caroling dolls from another century that she loves so well.
I missed her warmth and her non-stop movement and chatter of the season. Her house is so clean everything squeaks when you touch it. She gleams and so does her jewel-box of a home. Her Christmas tree is lovely--filled with sea ornaments of all kinds. She lives at the shore in Rhode Island with her beloved Tom and keeps a beach theme throughout her house even for the holidays.
More than anything, I dearly missed her hugs.
My sweetheart was quiet too. Like the mood outside our small dorm room at the school where we teach. It occurred to me that it might help if we talked about food. It was a simple enough topic I thought to get us talking, yet harmless enough to talk without being guarded. At that moment, in the quiet of the morning, in the darkness of the long winter, it isn't always easy to open up.
We are so vulnerable and so fragile when cut off from our roots--our families, our country. So I asked my beloved to tell me about the foods he grew up with and made for his family. He talked for a long while--about the foods of the island nation where he is from and the foods he learned how to make for his family as part of the diaspora in America. Paella that he makes and how he made it; the difference between using only long grain rice instead of mixing in some sweet rice with it and how many different kinds of meats go into the dish; making it in a wok instead of in pans and how to feed a clan for Christmas; who would bring what dish each year. What children liked which foods and what foods were likely to be on the table again this year.
I talked too about my traditions and favorite foods and Christmas meals I loved. Icing Christmas cookies with my Mom and my brother – Christmas trees and stars and angels, thick with confectionary sugar frosting and food coloring. Sugar cookies so soft they bent under the weight of the icing and little silver candy balls we’d scatter on them. Mom would make chocolate brownies with nuts in them and then, as if that wasn’t sweet enough – lay on a thick coating of chocolate frosting. We’d warm them in the microwave and put a spoonful of real vanilla ice cream on top.
Of course there was the dinner as well. My Mom and her Tom have made a new tradition of having Tom’s sister and her husband for dinner on Christmas Eve. Tom is a fine cook and usually chooses the entre – rack of lamb, or a roast or a turkey, Mom makes all the sides – mashed potatoes, acorn squash baked with apple and cinnamon and brown sugar for me and all the extras, like salad and vegetables. As I am the priestess of the family, I say grace at the dinner. It is a great joy and pleasure of mine to reach out and take hands and give thanks to God/dess for all we have…
This talking about food took us back—my partner and me. There is nothing like food to touch the part of us that seems invulnerable or jaded by the commercialism of the season or shut-down by bad memories of Christmas' past.
Then I recall that shut-down is a feeling too, the lack of feeling--a defense from sometimes overwhelming emotions. We love China. We love being here. And we miss our homes and families. The sea-saw between these emotions had frozen us in the mist and fog like Fuyang. Talking about food and our memories released us from the silence and denial. We could hold each other and our ambivalent feeling in a sacred embrace letting them all be just okay.
Later, we went to have our hair done at a salon -- where they wash your hair and give you a massage and then blow dry or trim as needed all for about the equivalent of $3 US dollars each.
Then -- beautified -- we went to our favorite buffet restaurant for a Christmas dinner special they were having.
We had a lovely time with new foods to add to our memories of Christmas -- noodles with veggies, warm steamed pumpkin, boiled peanuts, eggplant and garlic, mung bean noodles and red chili oil and lots of fruits and sweets including ice cream -- which the Chinese actually invented. It was a delicious feast and my love and I enjoyed ourselves and went home and to bed early to sleep off our indulgence.
The next day I would be able to Skype with my Mom and my brother and his family and catch up with their Christmas in America. For now, wrapped in the arms of my sweetheart and full to the brim with good food and sweet memories, we rest and let the warmth and love drive back the mists and fog and cold of Fuyang.
Happy Holidays to all and may all your memories be golden.
Location: Pawcatuck, Rhode Island
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