Nine days until Christmas and the beautiful lights of the season are all aglow as people ready their homes for the big day. But far away at the bottom of the world, 7,000 miles away my grandchildren (who call me Gran) are only going to see us on Skype. What did we do before computers? It’s nice that we can ‘sorta’ feel close through the glass of our computer screens, and pretend we are really together, but it’s better than nothing.
Christmas in New Zealand is a little different from here…actually a lot different. It’s summer there, and a trip to the beach to put a ‘shrimp on the barbie’ and make sure there are balloons in the tree, is a bit alien to the snow and cold of North America this time of year. But the Christ child isn’t forgotten and the churches swell on Christmas Eve, just like they do here in the United States. The beauty isn’t in the lack of lights you don’t see on the houses, but is in the non commercialization of Christmas like it is here in our country.
Marlborough Sounds on the South Island are like the Fiords of Norway in many ways. Homes that are hidden by tall evergreen trees, most with expansive views of the peaceful beauty of this far away place, are usually ‘batches’ (or summer homes as we know them by) and the place to run away during the summer holidays of Christmas and New Year. But unlike the neighbors, my new in-laws lived in this little place of heaven year round, and behind their home were hillsides filled with beautiful trees, that to my son looked like the most beautiful Christmas trees he had ever seen. So, as a surprise for everyone, he slipped away one afternoon, axe in hand, and chopped down a lovely tree for the family. He was very proud of his accomplishment of the huge tree he cut then dragged down from the hillside until he saw the reaction of his new ‘Kiwi’ family. They all stood with open mouths shaking their heads when he brought the beauty into the large living room with its 15′ ceiling, just perfect for this huge tree. Little did my 16-year-old son know, but he had just committed a crime. The ‘forest’ was on ‘nationally protected land’. “Oh well, it’s done now” said my husbands mother, shaking her head. “Let’s get the lights and balloons and decorate”. The two ignorant American’s (that would be my son and I) were more surprised by the word ‘balloons’ than the crime he had committed. So up the tree went, and everyone had a hand at helping make the tree special. We blew up balloons and laughed at the fact this event would never be talked about. It was by far the most amazing tree I had ever seen.
On Christmas Eve neighbor friends stopped by for a bit of holiday cheer, and were amazed at the tall tree and how we had brought it all the way from town. No one said a word but just toasted to the evening. Christmas morning seemed very strange as we sat on the expansive deck having breakfast, in our shorts and tee shirts, in the warm morning sun of the southern hemisphere, overlooking the bay below talking of hopes of catching fish that day for a ‘fry up’ for the evening. Everything felt strange, except for the wonderful feelings of togetherness of family at this special time.
Those years feel like a millennium away, as now there are four grandchildren who call me Gran and are so far away. Thank you to whoever thought up Skype and the ability to feel close, even so far away.