Dear Crystal, Merry Christmas!

Dear Crystal,

Merry Christmas, from this faraway land to your perch on the sea!

I think of you today for several reasons. Most notably, because you have a lot of experience with spending Christmas away from home. My situation is slightly different, as I’m in South Africa with my immediate family, but there is something really strikingly strange to me to be spending the holiday in a place so foreign and oftentimes recognizable.

My “winter holiday” this year is startlingly different than any from the past. For one, it’s the height of midsummer in South Africa–and HOT! We went on a walk through our local park this morning, and by 10am it was already almost unbearably hot. It’s also the rainy season, so we’ve been encountering evening thunderstorms nearly every evening since arriving–peals of thunder shake the sky, a few moments before the clouds open up and dump exhaustively for several minutes. The rain is warm, with big fat drops, so rather than clearing the heat it contributes to the humidity.

And Crystal, I wish you could be here to hear the birds. You’ve probably experienced pretty epic ones, during your travels (I think immediately of your trip to Costa Rica), as have I, but this is distinctively beautiful. The soundscape here is so sweet (with the exception of an occasional jarring call from a La-Di-Da bird–I’d call it “horrifying,” and I don’t use that word lightly!). For the most part, however, the birds are abundant, and chirping and singing at various frequencies nonstop starting at about 5:30am. Due to jetlag, I’ve been waking early; today, on Christmas day, I climbed out of bed around 6am and headed outside into the garden of our beautiful Airbnb. In all areas of Johannesburg (even the nice suburb we’re in) it’s not safe to walk around solo, but here, surrounded by thick walls with an electric fence at the top, I felt very comfortable and calm. It’s wild to have this idyllic setting amidst the rough & tumble of the outside world. The contrast is intense.

I can’t imagine how hard it is to be away from Emily and the kids, especially as you’ve deepened into your role as parent and caregiver. Yesterday I was dealing with a lot of melancholy; I blame the jetlag, first & foremost, which brought about a pounding headache and general feelings of lethargy. When you wrote me last from the ship you mentioned being sick, so I’m sure you understand how hard it is to function in any capacity when dealing with physical dis-ease. And I can imagine that you, too, have moments of deep melancholy or sadness; wishing circumstances were different, longing for the support of your partnership, and craving wrapping your arms around those adorable amazing kiddos that love you so. I hope today isn’t one of those days, for you. I hope you’re able to find joy, even in the separation.

I so admire your ability to demonstrate an ability to stay present and involved in your family’s lives, even from afar. I think of you, on your ship, working hard. I wonder what today is like–do you have any semblance of a celebration? Is there any hint of decorations or presents? Is there a big special meal, or are you just surrounded by your standard daily routine? In any case, please know that I’m there with you, giving you a big Christmas squeeze from afar.

I love you!

PS Today’s cover photo displays a sparkling abundance of Christmas lights–a full avenue in a touristy pocket of Johannesburg blinged out with holiday cheer and festivity. The display was dazzling, and quite rare; virtually no one here seems to decorate their homes with lights, or other stereotypically Christmas-themed accouterments like holly and Christmas trees. The street was also unusual because of being pedestrian-only, and lined with security guards and police officers, making it safe to walk after dark. As a result, the street was thronging with tourists and locals alike.

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