Saturday, December 29, 2007
Fire Works or it Doesn't
I love Christmas, and I'm unmoved by New Year's Eve. Inevitably, something nice happens on the 24th (or the 25th), but the expectation in the air on the 31st usually kills it for me. The best stuff always happens offstage.
Last Sunday, our party of four adults, three kids and one dog piled into a six-person train compartment and crossed the powdered expanse of Austria, to Vorarlberg, to our Oma and Opa, who have the coziest hearth in the world, to which we retreat every Christmas.
The holiday did not go as expected: Anette was just beginning to recover from a vicious stomach flu as we arrived at her folks' house; said bug hovered around our edges for a moment, then pounced on me on the morning of the 25th, as if on cue, and knocked me out for about thirty hours; then V. was struck listless and weepy by some other unnamed virus, and she's only just now on the mend. Adinah was the only one who didn't go down, and Anette was left holding the bag, caring for everyone. (Like that's unusual.)
Despite all, the party rolled on, with lots of singing, feasting, and several hundred Christmas cookies consumed. Out here in the tinsel-bedecked wilds of western Austria, we have a way with everyday gifts. We give each other the equivalent of comfort foods, the sort of unspectacular presents which can sometimes be deeply satisfying. Anette gave me a pair of warm, super-comfortable slippers. I gave Anette sauna sandals and a selection of Kiehls shower gel and bubble bath. Oma and Opa gave Adinah a big box of crayons and finger paints, and she was thrilled.
The best and most momentous gifts were of another sort. The night before the big day, while no one else was looking, I watched V. take her first three steps. Then our social worker called to say that V.'s biological mother wants to meet us finally. (Of course she might just stand us up again, and even if she shows, it will be, at best, a difficult afternoon, but without a doubt, it's the best thing for everyone involved.) Anette's parents stayed home with our girls so my wife and I could grab a little Mommy-Papa time at the local Chinese restaurant for not one but two nights in a row! Then Oma stayed home with V. while Opa, who's eighty years old now, took us all to the public baths for two days in a row. Once there, Adinah showed him how she can leap into the indoor pool, over and over again, for an hour straight, while Anette and I grabbed even more Mommy-Papa time in the sauna and steam bath. Ganz luxus!
And the first night we were here, as I tucked V. into the little Ikea crib Oma and Opa bought just for her, I told our new daughter, 'I love you,' for the first time.
She was very Philip Marlowe about it--just took another slug from her bottle, waved me off and rolled over, as if to say, 'Don't get sentimental on me, dollface.' But me, well...even though she's been with us for just over two months, I didn't realize I hadn't said those three words to her, until I said them to her. Then I wondered why it took me so long.