New Zealand is the baby blanket that you have forgotten about; New Zealand is your oldest and most treasured friend, and the most beautiful.
Flying into Auckland City–my home for my first seventeen years–from college in Brooklyn, New York–a new home, of sorts–the soft, green mounds of earth, glittering cobalt waters, soft accents, winding roads, smells, and smiles made me feel as if I had finally returned home from some arduous trek down the Ganges: falling face down into my old bed, my old pillows, my old blankets, old smells, old memories, with my shoes and my backpack still on.
December, 2009, Christmas time, summer in New Zealand and escaping the Brooklyn snow, family, barbeques, swimsuits, lotion–SPF 45–sleeping on couches because I no longer have a house, instead, a home here, happiness.
Christmas morning was spent in pajamas and crepe paper crowns. The night before I had slept on an old fold out bed with one shaky leg that had given way somewhere between the witching and sunrise. As I rose off of the floor and felt the blood rush back through my tired limbs I heard someone outside the door whisper “Merry Christmas”.
Up until my nineteenth year Christmas morning meant rushing to the tree and carols and eating around my mother’s table in fresh clothes. This year however, as a guest at someone else’s home and without my mother, there was no tree or gifts, no carols, no sparkling table, no fresh clothes—only a kind of love I had never before seen at Christmas.
We were a group of twelve, ranging from 16 to 65, sitting around a picnic table wearing paper crowns and pajamas, eating mixed fruits with pancakes, then later, sausages, homemade hummus, cheese, crackers, meats, salads, cakes, tarts, and pies. The dirty rock music that hummed from the kitchen mingled with the laughter we could not help but engage in under the December sun. As nameless guests came and went, whose literal names I cannot recall, each of them gifted me not with tradition, money or pretty boxes with ribbons, but the true and invisible gift of Christmas that I had looked at, perhaps smelt, but never before felt, the love that exists in community, hospitality, joy, freedom, and Christmas.
There was camping and beaches and swimming, sunburn, fish and chips, all together too much beauty. I remembered what my bare feet looked like, and my legs, my knees, maybe even my heart that I saw palpating on my sleeve as I wrapped myself up in home and family and summer and beauty.
Here in Brooklyn, its still beats, but with less, vigour, less breath.
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