December 2013 has been one of the most eventful months of the year. Feeling exhausted with massive work overload I welcomed Adam's sickness with pleasure, treating it as an opportunity to stay at home and catch up with some sleep. However, for some reason I cannot now recall, I decided to resort to public medical services instead of visiting our regular pediatrician, which, as usual, turned out to be a traumatic experience I'm not going to repeat any time soon. I just cannot stand the mess, people not keeping their appointment time or not having any and trying to sneak inside without any order and agenda. People quarreling and shouting, crowds of sick kids and adults coughing their lungs out at one other, babies screaming and queues which never seem to end. I really hate the fact that I contribute more than £100 each month to the national health system and what I get is kick in the ass. All right, lets move on to other December revelations.
In mid-December I had a minor car accident, which resulted in a terrible nuisance of driving a car with a rattling bumper or exhaust pipe, I have no idea which one, and ongoing problems with the insurance compamy, who first awarded a replacement car to me and then demanded the return within 2 working days, divided by X-mas time, a time in which any repair could have been done only with the use of a magic wand. I suppose the insurer believed miracles happen at Christmas. I'm going to make a claim if the matter is not resoved amicably. Luckily, I don't need the car for the next couple of weeks.
A colleague of mine had her in vitro insemination done at a clinic in Warsaw, the whole thing ended up in a terrible fiasco and her nervous breakdown. Before that she'd had us witness all stages of the process, informing us daily of all ups and downs. I felt as if I was participating in some TV series with daily episodes revealing new dramatic facts.
December in Poland is a month of massive gift giving. It starts with St Nicholas Day, when kids find sweets and small toys in their shoes. We find this tradition repulsive, so we always hide the gifts under the boys' beds. Having a son named Nicolas also means having all senior members of the family come over with presents. Very stressful. The boys go berserk, my dad keeps entertaining everyone with some 'discussion topics' he pulls out of his sleeve, my mum waits for signs of gratitude for the numerous and extra-size gifts she buys, the great grandma expresses her dissatisfaction with the new generation, the father-in-law sits in his armchair making comments about my parents arriving late as usual and lying in wait when the time comes for him to go home and return to his World of Tanks and and mother-in-law seems on the surface of all this, never involving in any discussions, just nodding, laughing or exchanging customary phrases.
St Nicolas day is only a prelude to what happens at Christmas Eve. My mum couldn't host us this year as there's an ongoing refurbishment of their house, our flat is way too small to hold us all, so, like every other year, we all met at my in-laws house. It never struck me quite so hard, but this year I suddenly realized that their way of celebrating is not MY way and I'm going to return to MY family tradition as soon as possible. The table never looked festive like Christmas table should. According to our tradition, twelve different dishes should appear on the table, but we could see only a few morsels at the time cause my mum-in-law kept serving and clearing away the dishes like in a restaurant. At some point there was only soup on the table or (not and) carefully counted dumplings (very cost and time efficient). When we arrived there were also name tags next to each plate, which turned the homely atmosplere into a hostile territory of restaurant space and a family meeting into a gathering of people who'd never seen one another before. Glamour sometimes needs to make way for homely mess to make people comfortable.
This atmosphere of order was destroyed by Mikolaj stumbling over a cord of a 150-year old lamp which was hanging across the room. Everybody cared for plate and seat arrangements, but nobody took precautions to prepare the place for a visit of two little overexcited boys. Thank goodness nobody was hurt! But it was a lesson of patience for my father-in-law, who is normally quite a temperamental guy but he had to restrain himself just because it was Christmas.
Almost everything was pre-planned and staged, except the arrival of the Santa. Nobody , except the kids awaited his arrival, the presents appeared on the doorsteps in supermarket bags, nobody celebrated the art of receiving presents and thanking for them.
But it's all right cause I believe the kids will remember their Christmases as time spent with family in nice atmosphere. I remember my Holidays as the time of terrible rows between all members of the family, the time of the strongest tensions between my parents, the time when me and my mum literally begged the father to put up the X-mas tree and install the lights (until one year when I said enough and took an axe and chopped and trimmed the tree trunk myself), or when my father pretended he couldn't start the car so that we wouldn't be able to go to his in-laws for the dinner (he changed his attitude when I bought my own car and he realised he would simply be left behind).
Everyone is different, but without ideological differences, so nobody converts anybody to catholicism, nobody tells us to baptise our children, nobody says that gays are perverts and should be kept in prisons, nobody is actively involved in politics, nobody believes in Jewish conspiracy so there's nothing for us to fight over and we all have a common goal of giving the kids the best childhood we can and our parents know well that, having no other children but us, they would have to spend their Christmasses in their own sad company.
My reflection is that I no longer like the traditional food that was served on X-mas Eve. Polish cuisine is generally bland, but the taste can be improved with a bit of time and effort. I had the impression that everything was prepared quickly, without selecting ingredients carefully, which influenced the taste strongly.
Ok, so we did survive the X-mas Eve with our stomachs half full and resisted all further invitations to family meetings and dinners and spent the two subsequent days in our own company, most of the time wearing our new pyjamas, watching Despicable Me, Moonrise Kingdom and Love Actually.
Ah, I nearly forgot. We took my replacement car, a brand new Toyota Yaris, and took the boys to the city centre to show them the Christmas tree that the city authorities treated us folks with this year. This turned out to be a cultural shock to me. The tree was huge, but it was barely decorated at all. A couple of baubles and horrible paper decorations, most likely some kind of children's handicraft, or proof of their handicap, the most striking ornament being a clear plastic bottle (like the 2l Coca Cola one), stuffed with coloured magazines, rolled to go through the bottle mouth, hanging proudly and pretending to be a bauble.
There was also a nativity scene, most certainly carved by some local folk artist with such refined tools as chainsaw and axe. My attention was drawn to the symbolic representation of two animals present at the birth of Jesus. Due to some economic or spacial restrictions (I don't want to think this was actually an artistic vision) the animals were reduced to heads on poles. It looked like some pagan ritual with slaughtered animals protecting the newborn from evil. Scary. From now on I strongly object to subsidising culture, especially the folk one.
We celebrated the coming of New Year is the company of our best friends in homely atmosphere. I hardly drank anything at all and woke up with the most horrible headache of the year. Hmmmm, considering that was January 1st, that was the only headache of the year.
December was definitely a month of excessive alocohol consumtion. We never went to sleep without a dose of cheap red wine, preferably Georgian semi-sweet.
Apart from heavy snowfall at the beginning of the month, the weather really spoiled us with temperatures well above 5 degrees and calm, windless weather, which is rare here by the sea.
We bought a couple of sets of Chinese lights to decorate the tree, they lasted for about a week.