Not a Christmas holiday, but a holiday from Christmas. We’re in a Muslim country, after all. But I’m quite happy about it – the normal end of year madness is occurring out there, elsewhere. We’re not queuing up in Kirk Caldie’s for 90 minutes to sit with a tired, worn out old man in a faded red suit and fake white facial hair, after getting rammed in the back of the knees by a dirty push chair with a terrified baby inside it (“Oh, I’m so sorry”, says the mother – no she’s not). The radio isn’t playing Snoopy’s Christmas three times a day. Pine needles are not getting stuck up the vacuum cleaner. I can’t even find a leg of ham in this town (unless I’m in the know about where to locate prohibited pork products ), much less worry about budgeting for the cost of it. We’re quietly counting the days down til the 25th of December – which, here in the U.A.E, will dawn a normal 9 to 5 working day just like any other. A holiday from Christmas, how nice.
And the other reason a break from Christmas is welcome, is because I don’t need another one so soon – I remember last year like it was only yesterday. Waiting with bated breath for the Cuzzies to arrive from Levin; our tear-streaked faces pressed to the window pane, tree wilting, cream melting, even the presents looked wistful – would they make it, would they? Their car battery had just died (for the 15th time that year) and it couldn’t be jump started. Not even for Christ’s sake.
Does anyone know where to find a new battery on Christmas morning in Levin? And would you know how to install it even if you found one? While houses up and down the country opened presents, clinked champagne glasses, fried bacon by the open window, my swift-thinking, determined, sister-in-shining armour Sarah Yates, took Christmas into her own hands. She left her 4 young children at home, alone with each other and strict instructions, then pushed her bike out onto the empty streets and proceeded to ride from one closed petrol station to another. Finally, on the outskirts of town, she found one that was open. One battery in stock. Would it fit the precise dimensions of the old one? Take a risk. Juuuust enough money in the bank to pay for it, which let me assure you, is no accident of fate or good fortune, rather testament to the astute preparations of a lady who is always ready to catch life’s curve balls.
Sarah returned home the same way she came, by bike with back pack, and we will forever wonder how it is that she balanced the enormous weight of that battery on her shoulders without falling or faltering once. The kids were at the door when she arrived. If anyone was nervous, no-one let it show. Hand me that wrench, she must have said. Out came the old battery. In went the new one. Miracle. It fits! ‘Single Mother’ needs a new title – something shiny and brilliant, that reflects the depth and diversity of the skills of brave women such as this. With a slap of her now greasy black hands, Sarah dumped the bonnet, loaded the kids, applied mascara in the rear-view mirror (or so I like to imagine), and burned rubber all the way to our house in Wellington 2 hours away.
When we finally saw their car pull into the driveway, Christmas day last year, I knew there’d never be another Christmas to compete with this one. Not for a long time. We ran outside, a mass of kids, aunties and uncles, laughing and crying, hugging and dancing. Christmas is not about Santa, Snoopy or Pork. It’s about family. And this year, they’re not here.
So A Christmas Holiday? Sure, why not. I think I’ll even get takeaways (delivered of course) for dinner.