Wednesday, May 10, 2006

First Noel

As Christmas approached I was feeling very homesick all of a sudden. Even a little party with mulled wine and mince pies in Cairo didn’t help. We had planned to spend Christmas with Jacques family in France, but just before I panicked and needed to see my parents. They were very understanding and took a day Eurostar train to Paris to spend a day with me and Marc before we caught a later train to Poitiers. I simply needed the grandparents to be there, to make it real, and to mark Marc’s first Christmas. This would be my first Christmas with the French family too.

Christmas Eve arrived and the whole French family sat down to a meal of oysters, fresh prawns, mussels and salmon. This was odd to me as in England we usually eat very little on Christmas Eve - we go out and drink or invite friends for a party. There was no tree as such or house decorations and at the last minute Odile cut down some pine-tree branches from the garden, stuffed them in a bucket and decorated them. My family dresses the tree and house at the beginning of December with great fuss and attention to detail and we have ‘family’ decorations that are special for me like the angel for the top of the tree. This tree did nothing for me. At midnight the adults and children put out their slippers in neat pairs under the tree. No stockings I asked? Non, c’est les pantoufles. Later we loaded the slippers with gifts.

Next day we opened our gifts watching Francois, nearly 2 years old, and Marc, a week short of a year, excitedly unwrapping their gifts. My gift was a crêpe (pancake) pan and some perfume from Jacques mother. Our lunch was a beef fondue with vegetables and salads and a chocolate log cake. I missed my turkey and gravy with all the trimmings. I longed for the cranberry sauce and roast potatoes my mum makes……I was dreadfully homesick then and much as I loved my French family I didn’t want to be there that day.

A few days after Christmas we left for the Alps. We had decided we needed a change of scenery after all the hot Cairo sunshine and had booked a ski holiday with my sister and her boyfriend. Poor Marc got a shock as we hit the slopes and he felt the cold for the first time since he was a small baby. Left in the Nursery he attached himself to one lady and refused to budge. He was soon evicted from the Nursery and so Jayne and I took turns looking after him. Marc hated the snow. But the fresh clean air did me good and I returned to Jacques parents house feeling better.

On our last day in France, the 3rd of January, Odile made a birthday cake for Marc and invited all the family. Sat round the table singing ‘Bon anniversaire….’I was happy to be there and happy for Marc to have such a loving family and I realized I would have to get over my obsession with my perfect English Christmas if my kids were going to be part of both cultures…..

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