Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

(Jumbled, incoherent post coming. After all these years of blogging and I still have no idea how to organize a blog post. I just...wing it).

I'm drowning in books right now. I think I was the only person in the family not to get some sort of electronic or technology-ish thing. Even my mother got a JRPG from my father, for...some...reason. (Or wait. I got a watch. But still! I got more books, so...I win?).

It's been a quiet Christmas, which I am surprisingly thankful for. There was something terribly off about last year's Christmas. I don't think we had a dinner, everyone was tired Christmas day and still I forced them out of the house for no reason, and it was overall...dead. I got a lot of great books then too--in fact more than I got this year--but it still didn't feel quite right.

I thought the same might repeat this year. For the last few Christmases, it's been starting to feel less and less...erm...festive? I mean, when I was younger it was much more fun. The house was big and warm and fifty family members and friends came to eat and celebrate together. Plus, as shallow as this sounds, there were mountains of presents.

My parents made it a point to never, ever, ever get my brother and I gifts at random points in the year. I have fond memories of going to Toys R Us and admiring the toys--maybe even playing with them through the packaging--but I can't recall a single time I walked out of that store with a toy in hand. That's what made Christmas and my birthday so much better.

On my birthday I usually got a Barbie (always brunette and white). Sometimes I got baby dolls or clothes. When I turned eight, on my first and last birthday party, I got a diary from my dad's best friend, (probably because my parents knew and had told him about my wishes). I can't recall any other gift being more meaningful and influential than that one. I know I'd been dying for something like it, and finally I had it.

When we moved to the United States, it was obviously different. This Monday, with Mom and Dad off to their last day of work before their breaks, I was sitting at the main desktop while my brother played on the PS3. I think I was debating whether or not I wanted to launch Skyrim, but I got distracted. Instead, I sat there for a long while and started browsing through the pictures. I found the ones of our first Christmas here. We must have gotten up at six in the morning because it's pitch black with nothing but the glow of our tiny Christmas tree. My dad kept the camera on the whole time so you see my brother and I diving through gift wrapping papers and emerging with toys in hand. I squeal when I find both an Asian and black barbie dolls, and my brother starts jumping sometime after finding a huge Hot Wheels racetrack. Since we believed in Santa Claus, it made sense that we'd found so many presents. We were young, but we knew coming to America meant a lot of money. We had to be broke. Now I realized my parents had probably saved up for more than a year to get us so many things. It was fitting, really, since we didn't really have many toys in America. I think I arrived with a teddy bear and my diary, and my brother had maybe two plushies and one action figure. Most of our toys stayed behind, never to be seen again.

It's no surprise that my best Christmases happened during my childhood, as is often the case. It's not just because of Santa, but because we had friends and family, big houses, dozens of kid-cousins. That first Christmas here probably takes top spot because it was the first time in a long time my brother and I had seen our father during the holidays. The magic started to fade quickly after that. I don't particularly miss my extended family--I don't think I ever really got to know them enough to miss them--but I do think the holidays might have still felt more alive if we'd been near them.

Most of yesterday was uneventful. With my brother and dad taking up all gaming systems, I settled for taking over my brother's laptop to find something to do. I realized he still had Sony Vegas installed, so I managed to edit together the blooper reel of the AP Environmental video I did earlier this year with some classmates and friends. I'd been promising Giselle and Anthony forever, so I got that out of the way. It was strangely uplifting.

I really realized this was going to be a much better Christmas when my mom started preparing the ham with pineapples. The timer died halfway without us noticing and she forgot to turn it off after the specified two hours, but it still ended up really good. My father's been feeling a little down lately--because of work, and distant family, and like ten thousand other things I can't mention or he'd stab me for disregarding his privacy. Yet he seemed to feel a little better once Christmas dinner happened.

After eating, my brother and I spent a lot of time cleaning--sweeping the floor, washing the dishes, taking out the trash, tiding up the living room and kitchen. I did it mostly because I didn't want to have to worry about dishes early Christmas morning, and because I wanted the apartment to look pretty today. I realized cleaning right during Christmas Eve sounds annoying. Since I pretty much forced my brother to help me even though he was dying to go to sleep, it could have been torturous for him. But it was actually kind of fun. He texts me the least while I'm off at college, but it hasn't really distanced us. We managed to spend a lot of time laughing and acting like idiots.

We went to bed at around 11 p.m, though I was still wide awake at midnight. I texted Giselle and fell asleep soon afterwards. I woke up periodically, having maybe three to four dreams specifically about waking up Christmas day. Even at the age of eighteen, I still have trouble sleeping the day before Christmas.

I got up first, like always. I sneaked in more presents under the tree and then settled down in the living room texting everyone I could think of. Silvia was the only one awake, so we spoke for a little while before my brother woke up. We made a deal not to wake up our parents at an ungodly hour, so I was going to wait till 9 or so to go get them. They woke up at 8 in a panic because it was eerily silent. I ended up cooking breakfasts after we exchanged presents.

It's still calm and quiet. When I think about it, it's not really that different from last years. Admittedly, the days leading up to it have been different--I got to spend more times with friends these last few weeks--but on Christmas day? Not a lot has changed. Yet still I'm happier now than I was last year. Maybe it's because I finally learned to appreciate that Christmas has changed, but maybe for the better.

I think it's natural that I've been spending a lot of time thinking about (and dreading) the future, seeing how college is suppose to be that transitioning stage. I hate worrying about my career and life, mostly because I've been worrying about all this crap since I turned thirteen.

Christmas doesn't exactly make me feel hopeful, but it does erase that worry. It freezes time for a little while and makes me think only of the past. On December 25th, I never think of the future, just of today and a hundred yesterdays.

So maybe a bit of the magic is gone, but at least memories and serenity have replaced it. I'm glad Christmas is always going to be a special day, one way or another.

I don't have too many pictures to share D:
I know. I take too many selfies now.
I'd blame Giselle, but I'm the one who won't get SnapChat.
We communicate like this; the evidence remains.
I kept adding empty boxes as decorations.
Except for the pretty one with the ribbon. That was Emzy's gift to me.
(Undying animal: fake, beautiful jellyfish)
Gaby and I, walking around Coconut Grove last Wednesday
The view outside my mom's office. Brickell district.
Silvia's house. We all brought chocolate. Nobody passed out, somehow.
My terrible picture of Berny and her Badass Santa
(we were listening to the Metal Christmas station on Pandora. It was inspirational)
This morning

Unexpected gifts. From Ren, Silvia, and my aunt Priscilla.
Have a happy holiday :)

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.