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2005-12-12 - 8:35 p.m.

..Christmas spirit - getting there...

I have my pre-Christmas burn-out. I cannot work. Today I sat for hours playing solitaire on my computer. ugh.

I am remembering our first Christmas together two years ago, in K's flat in Jena. I had just given up my apartment and the cats and I were settling in to his place. He bought me flowers. We had real candles on the Christmas tree. I made stockings out of, well, stockings. I even made one for the cats. I cooked a goose and mashed potatoes. K made soljanka and his mother's famous herring-and-potato salad. We went for walks in the cold and stayed up late watching movies and eating curry takeout. I recited "The Night Before Christmas" (in English) and he the Christmas Story from Luke (in German). We watched the cats play with wrapping paper. We listened to music on his new stereo speakers and cuddled. Last year, we went into Manhattan to look at the Christmas decorations. I don't really remember any presents. I just remember that it was wonderful.

This year, I have decided not to give any 'things,' except to my niece. My parents have asked not to receive presents, and so I will bring a nice bottle of wine and make a donation in their names. My brother will receive a gift certificate for a golf game. My sister-in-law will get a gift certificate for a massage. We none of us need anymore THINGS.

I bought my plane ticket to St. Louis this weekend, with a sigh of defeat. K's visa remains a distant dream, and my own passport is locked in the clutches of some US agency waiting to be renewed. There is no prospect of our being together this year.

But today I had two lovely emails waiting for me from my brother and my sister-in-law. They both sent emails saying how happy they are that I'll be coming home for Christmas. Both listed a string of activities for us: movies, theater productions, and ice skating. While leaving in Germany I learned that holidays without my family have their own special feeling, especially when friends take me in.

Christmas is really a good time. Classes end. People - strangers - care for you if you let them. Stay away from the stores and the traffic, but walk through a little bit of crunchy snow. Breathe in some frigid air and look at some Christmas lights, and sneak a peak at some winter stars. Smile at the friendly newspaper guy on the corner who is there every morning, and maybe even buy him a pair of earmuffs for Christmas. Take some joy in the simple comforts of your furry housemates. Listen to some beautiful music, and watch schmalzy Christmas movies that make you cry. Remember that even if K isn't in your presence, where you can curl up and close your eyes and smell him close by, he is still with you.

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