Merry Christmas!

BY Naazish YarKhan

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” goes the song and yes, with the snow and blustery temperatures finally here, I’m happy to report that we are truly and completely immersed in the holiday spirit. Christmastime is my favorite time of the year. My theory is that those living in these frigid climes make the most of Thanksgiving and Christmas so that we have something to be merry about. It gives us something cheerful to focus on instead of the short days, the lack of sun and the sub-zero temps.

Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. Warmer temperatures have given way to more frigid temperatures and I, for one, was taken by surprise. I had taken my car to have a puncture fixed – apparently I’d driven over a nail – and was asked to come get the car three hours later. Four hours later I arrive, only to see my car frozen within sheets of ice. It was raining … not water… but hard ice.

“I’m so surprised. All this happened so suddenly,” I sputtered to the car repairman who I’d called to my rescue when I discovered my Nissan caked in unbreakable ice.

He looked at me, weirdly. “They’ve been predicting this since Thursday, three days ago,” he said, jamming his ice scraper into the gaps between the car door and the chassis, to free it open.

Once inside, I turned the heat on. We still had to get the ice sheet off my windows and, most importantly, off the windscreen. I had my own ice scraper in the trunk but that too was frozen shut. It took 20 minutes for the heating to kick in, while we hacked the ice off the trunk where it had gotten sealed shut. Next, we attacked my windscreen, until sheets of ice, each at least a foot long and six inches wide, came crashing off.

My friends in India say we’re obsessed with the weather here and are paranoid because we make it a point to listen to the weather reports each and every day. They can’t understand it. Well, duh, if I’d listened to the weather man, I wouldn’t have ended up having to crack ice off my windscreen, now would I? I would have taken in my car a day earlier and avoided the issue altogether! But to stay true to the holiday spirit, let me give the sarcasm a rest.

Later that evening we were expected to go to Farhat’s office party. From my frozen car, I had called him, asking if he thought it wise to drive to this party when the roads were so slippery and driving conditions so nasty. The roads can be mean when icy. While highways get doused with salt to melt the ice, local roads stay slushy and frozen longer. Many times, brakes won’t grip fast enough, leaving your car skidding into whatever is in front of it. Ditto if you go a tad too fast when turning. “It’s winter in Chicago,” he said, unperturbed. “Just drive back safe.”

My fiasco at the store had well and truly set me back an hour. Needless to say, I was late getting dressed. Farhat wasn’t happy. “Look, no one’s going to be on time. The weather is a mess,” I said, sliding into the passenger’s seat, at length. How I could have kicked myself when we got there. Farhat, I saw, wasn’t the only one thinking, “It’s winter in Chicago. Deal with it.” The room was full and we were one of the last ones to arrive.

That was a week ago. Two days ago, we were inundated with our first bout of snow. Lots and lots of it. Last year, our backdoor and front doors had gotten jammed with snow and ice and weren’t opening. For days, we had to use our garage door to get in and out of our home. Taskeen gleefully wished this would happen again – but not to us. Instead she wished her Quran teacher would be snowed it and unable to come to our home.

“Or, maybe she’ll be too afraid to drive in this weather,” Taskeen added with a twinkle in her eye. With all due respect, I think Taskeen may be right. Our Quran teacher is very uncomfortable even driving in the dark be it as early as 4:45 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. Hmmm… and she lives in Chicago, where it’s dark by that time for half the year. ( But bad me, being a bit of a ‘Meow’ and forgetting all about the kinder, gentler disposition required of the holiday spirit.)

With my Muscat trip on the horizon, I’m even shopping all the sales and snapping up Christmas merchandise. A la Santa, there’s gifts to bring, after all. Yousuf has even created a wish list for things he wants from Santa, and I must take him to the local mall to meet the man in red. Yousuf is older but, without fail, all the babies and toddlers begin to cry the moment they have to sit on Mr. Claus’s lap and have their photos taken.

Also in the holiday spirit, Taskeen and Yousuf both had musical productions at their respective schools. Yousuf’s required some dancing and all I saw him do was stomp his feet down, one after the other, as if he were in the middle of a tantrum. He does not enjoy this singing, dancing routine.

Anything I write isn’t quite complete if I don’t focus on lessons I learned from the experience. So here goes. Farhat used to say that I wasn’t quite content with something until it happened exactly the way I pictured it in my head. For instance, my idea of family time together was never watching TV together. Rather, it was eating dinner together. Or, it was a scene where the father read a paper and the mother read a book, while the children happily played a board game on the floor. I’m pretty sure this was part of my own childhood, in some measure and I brought this scene to my marriage and tried to get all the pieces to fit. 13 years later, this newspaper reading scene has never happened in this marriage of mine, and rarely have I sat down to read a book. So I’ve settled for watching movies together, as family time. Once in a way, the kids and I’ll do board games too. What’s that saying about marriage being all about finding a middle ground?

But, apparently this fixation for the right picture isn’t just a fascination I have. That the song “White Christmas” is the most popular of Christmas songs, is testimony to that. It goes, “I'm dreaming of a white Christmas / With every Christmas card I write / May your days be merry and bright / And may all your Christmases be white. Christmas time was meant to be white, with snow caking roof tops and tree branches, while we slowly drove past in our warm toasty car, listening to Christmas songs on the radio. I doubt Christmas in Florida, or Muscat, really feels like Christmas. It’s just too darn warm and sunny. So now you have an open invitation. Come to Chicago in the winter! Until later, Merry Christmas everyone!