Do you remember me
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies
Well I'm all grown-up now
And still need help somehow
I'm not a child
But my heart still can dream
As a Muslim girl, I never sat upon Santa's knee, but I did childhood fantasies with the best of them. I wrote my angels for the things I thought I wanted: straight As, something nice to wear, the latest must-have. I poured my heart out in the letters that ended up in my father's chest of drawers - with lists that probably equalled many a Christmas list sent to the North Pole. I was desperate as any child on Christmas day for those things to arrive.
Growing up, my world was one where my parents judged people by their position and what they owned; whilst that tendency didn't manifest in me in exactly the same way, it was there: friendships were measured by whether someone remembered to give me a present; if they knew what to give me; how much thought they had given it.
So, as ashamed as I am to admit it, those shiny packages mattered.
As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely
Wrapped beneath our tree
It took years for me to realise that what I really wanted was the freedom to wear that skirt, the freedom to read something other than school books (one of the best pressies I ever got was a LotR set from Larisa and Nicole), the freedom to really be a member of my generation.
Well heaven surely knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul
And that what I wanted that present to do was reassure me that I was cared for; that I was loved.
Over time, dinners, laughter, glasses of wine at midnight, discussions about the afterlife being a pool room in which you gather with your soul family, became far more precious than a physical gift. Memories, history woven together, time together on the pilgrimage of our lives became a far more potent measure of love and friendship than packages.
I'll always remember a piece by Stephanie Gilliam in the Washington Post on ordinary days: about her walking into the house, calling up to her son, the dog greeting her. And how it struck her in that moment that when the catastrophic happens, when we are in the depths of grief, we don't want to feel rapturous, we just want to feel NORMAL. That we come to realise the real gifts are the ordinary days - the normal interactions with those we know and love, the changes of season, and so on - miss them and you miss your life.
That's what I'd say to the cleric friend of mine who said he didn't get how couples stood the boring parts of marriage (read: ordinary days) - those ordinary days are the building of a joint history through love that isn't always inferno bright, and they are just as, if not more, true than the big moments of a proposal or wedding. They're the days that bring you to the other big moments like the birth of a child or a special anniversary. They're the bricks of the house you build with love. Just like the little touches say far more about the love between a couple than tonsil hockey does.
And the ordinary moments of my friendships are the same - the real heartbeat of our relationships.
Now don't get me wrong - I still love packages and cards, and even more, I love giving them. Yes, I still love bath stuff, etc. I'll never be an ascetic; the sensual will always be one of my pleasures. As will books. But this year, I'm really looking forward to the present of a friend's artwork and poem that I know is coming my way.
Oh, and let's not forget the pleasure of the cards that land on the doormat, with scrawls about how friends are, pictures, design choices that reflect the friend's personality.
This past Friday, I came home, poked my head in the lounge to say "Hi" to Greg, and my eye fell on the post. My heart - and I - smiled as I saw "The infamous Miss Irim Sarwar" on the envelope and the American postmark. My grin grew wider as I turned the envelope over to the side that had, to quote Hyphen, "been attacked with markers."
My laughter mixed with tears as I opened the envelope and first pulled out a drawing of four faeries with blue accents, signed by the artist in a heart: "Love, Lily". Next, I pulled out a drawing of two faeries (one in a flower, one flying) on a sunny day, signed "Love, Ellie". Finally, a water colour, by an up and coming young artist, simply signed "Bazzy".
Greg looked at me curiously, so I handed him each drawing as I pulled it out, almost as if I were a proud aunt. And finally - the card, with pics of all four wee ones, Brad and Hyphen. The message from Hyphen on the back made me well up even more.
That card and those drawings will never see the inside of a recycling bin. My dusty drawers, most certainly, but I'll always have them. As I will the card from Vanya, drawn by her stepdaughter, wishing me a Happy Kristmas.
Simple, but utterly, utterly perfect.
So what do I really want for Christmas? You. An evening or a coffee with you to build more of those moments. (Aside from the above-mentioned gift and the keychain with a picture of Hyphen's Adeline with her WTF expression) Time on IM, time via email exchange or Skype, just *you*. More giggles, tears, and heart-to-hearts - our unique blend of soul-time that weaves another thread into our tapestry.
I want more moments like recent ones: Hazel's 2.9 yr old, Daniel, saying, "Daddy, I love Irim!" on a night that he couldn't possibly have known was one that I needed it most; a 5 week old baby perfectly curled against my shoulder, settling into sleep; a heart-to-heart with Dani on Friday; being able to lean against Dom today.
Those are my greatest, dearest gifts - you - all of you. I love you.
But if you want to know what the other things on my list are, well, here you go:
So here's my lifelong wish
My grown-up Christmas list
Not for myself
But for a world in need
No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list
Chanukkah sameach, Happy Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and a blessed end to the noughties (damn, I loved saying that!) and start to the teens for all of us.