As I consume a traditional piece of cherry pie my neighbor sent up, I reflect on the happy Christmas I spent in sunny Dubai.
"I was telling my son how many presents used to overflow from the room when we used to spend Christmas in Utah!" wrote my sister. I have celebrated the "heavy heavy hangs" tradition in last year's XMas post: one that consists of wishing much more to the giver of the gift, before we are told who he/she is.
We have sought shortcuts to that tradition because our maternal family, which is now divided geographically between Dubai and San Diego, is so large that we could not muster the energy or even fathom the thought of exchanging gifts in that theatrical tradition anymore.
Christmas eve is a feast and a party at my Aunt's home. She gathers old timers of the village of Dubai, friends from the eighties that are now scattered in the Dubai metropolis. This year, the music was vibrant as it moved from the Gypsy Kings of the day to David Guetta of 2011.
Christmas day is held under the hospitable tree of my cousin, her husband and her triplets. Enter a home of endless hospitality where espressos are offered effortlessly and where my visiting cousin, her brother, toiled over the oven, making the best French toast I have ever had (move over laPetiteMaison!).
Opening the gifts, I observed a group of five young, handsome, athletic twenty something guys: my cousins! These recently graduated or college students spontaneously tried their new jumpers and fumbled with their new books. I was very impressed to see them exchanging literature as Christmas gifts! One of them received On the Road by Jack Kerouac and the other received David Foster Wallace's strangely titled Consider the Lobster.
These books drew me into their group, as we passed notes and exchanged our thoughts on Fitzgerald, the Beat generation, the Little Prince and Khalil Gibran.
My own children looked at these young men with bewilderment, one a professional rugby player, the other an actor, another one a talented chef, and two others in film, international relations and the last a freshman. When my son's arrow got stuck in a tree, the youngest of these men, jumped on a wall, shook the tree and delivered the arrow. My son discovered his hero.
It is during these festivities, family gatherings, that I realize how dynamic my family is, how my grandfather's spirit never died, how he would be so proud of that group of grandsons that caught my attention this morning.