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Christmas Letters

Christmas Letter 2011: A Tale of Two Cities

This year’s Christmas letter is being written later than usual. I blame Facebook. After a year of prolific posting, I am frankly bored of myself. (I can only imagine how my Facebook friends feel.) Still, despite the never-ending status updates featuring snapshots of husband drinking Riesling, there are a few things left to say about our year.

River Spree, Berlin

2011 is a tale of two cities, one I will tell here in the type of revisionist history that befits a Christmas letter. In other words I will highlight all the best bits and skim over the seething underbelly of marital discontent I provoked by our move to the first of those two cities, Berlin. It was not exactly a life of hardship, what with the company-sponsored Mercedes and apartment, not to mention all that two-euro-a-glass Riesling. And yet while I revelled in nostalgia from my childhood time there in the eighties (courtesy of my father’s employment flying shuttles with Pan Am), husband felt like he had gone back in time to the grim environs of northwest England circa 1976.

To cheer him up we made frequent visits back to the Cotswolds, like the time we went back to celebrate a little local wedding. We watched from the wine bar — where else? — as Kate and Wills tied the knot, then celebrated our own tenth wedding anniversary a few months later in Paris. But returning to Berlin did not get any easier for husband, although it was lightened by a few welcome visits from friends and family. Late in the summer my personal best interest aligned with my professional best interest when I finagled a new job opportunity at my company into a move stateside, where husband was yearning to return. And so in October I bid my goodbyes to Berlin—her golden Lizzy, her Käsespätzle, her nudist Tiergarten sunbathers.

Elterwater, Lake District

We returned to England where we were treated to a special melodrama facilitated by the US embassy in
London. Husband went in for what should have been a routine visa interview, and yet somehow my plans for post-interview celebratory champagne at Claridge’s turned into manic taxi rides around London securing missing paperwork before degenerating into a week of obsessive waiting for his visa to arrive. When it did we finally felt secure enough to start saying our goodbyes to those places and people we had grown to love most over the past six and a half years, up in the Lakes then back down in the Cotswolds where our last stop before Heathrow was, naturally, the wine bar.

Boston Common

In November we arrived in the second city of our tale of two: Boston. We quickly felt at home — it’s not called New England for nothing. (Husband was, I daresay, a bit miffed to find that his collection of cravats, bow ties, and tweeds would fail to achieve the desired effect of standing out as English in this town.) After skirting our way around “hills” in Europe — the still-waiting-for-gentrification perimeter of Notting Hill, the ‘wolds, and atop an old rubble heap that comprises one of the few rises in Berlin — we have settled on Beacon Hill, complete with views of the Common and Public Garden. Sure being above one of the busiest crossroads in the city means it sometimes sound like we are sitting track-side at Nascar, but never mind for now. We are told that soon enough the snow will come, nature’s welcome muffler.

The year has ended on a sad note. My grandmother, Willie Pearl, passed away at the age of ninety-two. (I wrote a little about her here.) There is nothing nice about death, but the fact that this one happened so close to Christmas forced my family to let go of any expectation about the holiday. There are fewer presents under the tree and no turkey in the freezer. This is all fine with me. At the risk of having an expectation, I’d be happy with scrambled eggs for Christmas dinner.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, whatever your table holds!

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