I really used to love Christmas. It used to be my favourite holiday by a loooong way. Not sure what it was: the excitement of Santa, the fact that everyone got gifts and not ‘just’ the person whose birthday it was, that it was about not just food but also gifting, the decorations, the carols, the fun of secret Santa even into my teens … no idea. Nowadays I’m not sure I have a favourite holiday. In America it would probably be Memorial Day, Labour Day, or 4thof July … a good long weekend with food, friends and drink.
But then somewhere along the line my love for Christmas kind of died. In California I just never got into the spirit … a non-white Christmas just seemed kind of wrong. Then, when I moved back to the east coast I kind of got back into it again but there also seemed to be so many people who were SO down on Christmas. It always bothered me a bit. If you don’t want to get into the holiday cheer, fine, but for the love of God don’t make everyone else around you miserable. I think maybe it was the weather and seasonal affective disorder affecting people in the greater Boston area, I don’t know. But there is something magical about the autumn turning into the harvest festival of Thanksgiving, then the days get dark and cold, it snows, you huddle by the fire and drink hot chocolate and put up your Christmas tree, and maybe go carolling with candles.
For some reason I’ve been thinking a lot about my teenage years recently. Maybe it’s that was the last time I really thought of myself as an athlete. Who the heck knows? But I have this one memory of leaving the gym in the evening, it was probably around 6pm but it was already dark and I was rushing out behind Ford O’Connell (the details you remember, geez), we were late for seated meal and I still had to shower and the moon was glistening on the newly-fallen snow, which was a thin layer of big snowflakes on top of a frozen crust. THAT is Christmas to me.
But now I’m all grown up so I don’t need to be romantic, right? On Christmas Eve I woke up, guilted the washing machine delivery guy into actually doing what he was supposed to do (hook up my machine and not just deliver it), did my mobility drills, and went to pick up my friend Keith to go to the beach.
It was hot: 32.5 C when we got back to the car around 4pm. That’s about 90 F, so it was probably a few degrees warmer during the heat of the day. Maybe that was why the water didn’t feel so cold. But as usual it was a nice mix of getting all hot on the sand, jumping in the water to cool off, napping, chatting, people-watching, etc. Then we went to get frozen yogurt. There’s this cool place in Kloof Street where the yogurt tastes like yogurt and not sugar. And the décor screams Pinkberry ripoff.
Later on that evening I went to a Christmas Eve dinner over in Sea Point with a bunch of other randoms: expats, people whose families didn’t live in Cape Town, etc. Sam made me homemade eggnog which was amazing, as was the food, desserts (eggnog cupcakes! Malva pudding!), and of course Studio 7 wouldn’t be Studio 7 without a performance, in this case a couple quick songs by Diesel Vanilla. It was lovely, actually, just very chill with some people I knew well, some people I knew only a little, and some people I met for the first time. Oh yeah, and the table caught on fire. Briefly. That’s what made it funny and not tragic.
Of course the wheat went right to my gut and I got a stomachache, I had managed to get a sunburn on a few places where we missed spots with the sunscreen and I wanted to get some sleep so I begged out around midnight. The next morning I woke up and headed over to Pete & Mandy’s where we first went out to the shops for some last-minute grocery shopping then took the dogs for a walk. It was even hotter I think than the day before but it was nice to get the body moving (active rest).
Christmas lunch was actually quite perfect, and then we had some desserts (more malva pudding with rum & raison ice cream), and chocolate, and some Irish coffees. I think it was the heat but I was literally unable to drink alcohol all day; all I was wanting was water. The body is smart.
I think overall it was an incredibly relaxing holiday. Aside from on the hike we kept the work chat to a minimum, and talked rather about dogs, and CrossFit, and the naivete of children. Think of it: of course no child ever considers the logistics of Santa going to every child’s house all on one night. Think of the quantum physics. But this also got me thinking, as I had been mulling over things we take for granted, about the assumptions that we make as adults. Like: that our politicians represent our interests. Even basic things we are taught (whole grains are healthy) that turn out actually not to be true. And don’t even get me started about blatant lying.
Just makes me glad, again, for the people I have in my life. Although I’m beginning to realise just how much I suck at things I don’t fully commit to. Workouts slide by at 95% effort, emails go unanswered for days or weeks, things I meant to accomplish weeks ago remain unstarted, I go out of my way to make time to see some friends and others not, not so much out of anything other than inertia or inattention.
Oh well, I’m not perfect. One of these days I’ll quit trying. Ha, and maybe pigs will fly.
But one thing I can say about Cape Town is that there are more people happy and smiling at this time of year than I ever saw in Boston. From the security guards to the SAN Parks staff braaing on Christmas to the neighbours, everyone is just a little happier than normal. I think it’s the weather.
- “Uggg! It looks like Coca-Cola threw up all over the beach!” – Keith
- “Don’t you want to do a sport where you’re not, you know, getting injured all the time?” – Keith
- “Does everyone know everyone? Wait, what’s your name?” – Paddy
- “Nothing is permanent in my life. Except for my morals.” – Tintin
- “Um, guys, the table’s on fire.” – Tintin