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  • Writer's pictureTanja Battle

Christmas Triggers and Sacred Moments

What is Christmas without an emotional meltdown triggered by something seemingly innocuous? I won't say the holidays are necessarily hard for me, but there are moments in which I am keenly aware of huge losses and magnified aloneness, the latter not to be confused with loneliness. Admittedly, there is some of that, too but not enough to make things unbearable.

Yesterday, in between two walks under clear, blue, southern skies and an ill-timed dogfood run (the grocery store and its parking lot were a nightmare,) I received a text message from my cousin in Germany. Peter was wishing me a Merry Christmas and included a picture of dinner cooking on the stove which I, of course, recognized immediately. I salivated at the sight of it and smiled as I texted back. Almost in an effort to distract myself from the meal, I asked if my aunt had made her delicious Christmas cookies - the ones that my Oma and great-aunt used to make when I was a little girl. In return, I got a video in which he relayed the question and my aunt answered affirmatively while looking into the camera. Thereafter, I got Christmas wishes from her and my uncle, too. I noted the meal from the stove had made its way to the table and Peter's son, Kevin, said not a word as he was already savoring its flavors. Without warning, a lump in the back of my throat rapidly grew and the tears that always accompanied such welled. Before I knew it, I was sobbing. I have some triggers around the holidays, most for which I can prepare and brace, but this…this caught me by surprise. It was, after all, Christmas Eve in Germany when families gather and gifts are exchanged. Normal enough. What didn't escape me was the signifance of the meal. My family had not roasted a goose or a duck nor were there potatoes or spaetzle, a German staple, as one might think. Instead, there was beef teriyaki with marinade made from scratch and steamed rice from a rice cooker. It broke and delighted my heart simultaneously and I was certain there was not another family in all of Germany enjoying such a meal. Immediately, a swell of gratitude washed over me as I thought about the two worlds that collided thanks to the love my parents had for one another.

I was reminded of the time my mom met her German relatives ("The Germans") in Hawaii. It was the summer of 1994. I was living there at the time and got to witness one of the most beautiful displays of human connection I have ever seen. The Germans had rented a huge house on Kauai for three weeks. During that time, my dad's family ("The Domingos") visited them most nights and weekends. They cooked together, exchanging recipes and teaching each other how to perfect them. They ate together, laughed and enjoyed one other. What amazed me the most was how little it mattered that the Germans couldn't speak English and the Domingos couldn't speak German. What they needed to communicate was done through hand gestures, facial expressions and a few words here and there. Despite any barriers, it seemed nothing was left unspoken. At the end of the visit, the Domingos went to see the Germans off at the airport. The goodbyes were heartfelt and teary-eyed. The men wore sunglasses to camouflage the emotions. The women smiled and hugged. And I choked back the tears at the beauty of it all and the absence of my father, who was tending to things back on the mainland. I found myself in the midst of all these wonderful people who I'd been afforded the opportunity to love over time, each with close proximity at different phases of my life. It was a sacred moment, much like the one I experienced because somewhere in Germany, teriyaki and rice was being enjoyed on Christmas Eve. In that moment, I was reminded that my parents are still with us and I'm thankful for them showing up in the exact moment I needed them.

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