An Unconventional Christmas


Two days before Christmas day we had landed at Chiang Mai International Airport after a brisk six hour flight from Korea, and the day before, Christmas Eve, we pottered about our locality and did some shopping for the apartment we were staying in. We went to bed that night as we would have any other night, happy that we had made it finally to Thailand for the winter, and hopeful for what the coming few months would bring.

_DSC0166

The next day of course was Christmas Day, and we had not done much in preparation for it. We woke and breakfasted on what we could scrape from the fridge – an egg or two, some bread, tomatoes, and fruit. We played together with +1 for a while, waiting for it to warm up outside and for +1 to fall asleep again for her morning nap, which she dutifully did at the usual time.

Upon awaking we quickly packed what was required for the day and caught a cab to a big shiny new shopping centre on the ubiquitously named Super Hi-Way which circles the city. Once there we entered and began to potter around.

Spending Christmas Day in a shopping centre with all its glitz and annoying repetition of door after door bedazzled with logos and products may sound like an awful turn following the usual Christmas charge for presents. However, I don’t think we had been in one all December, and to be honest, it was an easy way to take the mind off obvious alternatives several thousand miles away.

_DSC0168

There was of course plenty to see and with a little baby in tow (or doing the towing as the case may be) finding the most appropriate entertainment is always the main concern. We wandered around different shops, obviously, trying our hand at the Japanese version (original perhaps) of Daiso in Thailand, a kid’s café, and we even took a few moments to wonder at the indoor ice rink on the fifth floor.

Before long we found a big kids section and went about choosing a few presents for +1 for her second Christmas. Although she’s only one, she was all but a month old for her first birthday so this would be kind of like her first Christmas. We decided against Santa because, to be honest, she will not understand or ever recognise the amazingness that is Santa Claus on a Christmas morning. We discussed it but decided that simply giving her presents without that kind of ‘appreciation’ seemed a little unnecessary. Herself didn’t really experience Christmas until she lived in Ireland with me, so when it comes to Christmas-like decision making generally she takes my word (at her peril). From next year I think there will be a big change.

After a little more shopping, like for stuff like food for the fridge (to vary the breakfast content and the likes), we settled on the notion that we would be well served by having some dinner. We had perused the restaurants already and knew for certain that there wasn’t a turkey to be found in the square mile of Thailand we were in, so we settled on the next best thing; wine, cheese, and serrano ham.

_DSC0171

We had snacked earlier and didn’t feel like going in for a huge feed, and we decided that if we could manage this and still feel hungry then we might consider something greater. We immersed ourselves in the wine and accoutrements, while feeding +1 who was happy enough to demand what we were eating while throwing all her toys and food on the ground. Later we decided on a plate of pasta, more I think to keep +1 satiated than for our own appetites, and cake.

At some stage, I’m not exactly certain when, we skyped my family in Ireland who were all up and busy with Christmas morning. It is always worth witnessing how the wonder of Christmas can relieve a good hangover, but I believe St Stephen’s Day is a little less effective. We did our best to hear what everyone else was saying over the din of the restaurant, and after a decent chat we let them be with promises to call back when we got home to stronger connection.

By the end of the day we were home again in our apartment not far from the city’s old walls. We quickly got +1 ready for bed, made another call or two wishing people happy Christmas. Once +1 had gone to bed, myself and Herself stayed up chatting, while I polished off more wine. She fell asleep and I decided to sit up at the computer. I may have wrote something, but that may have been the night after.

_DSC0170

So that was my Christmas. It was unconventional sure, but I think I’ve become used to unconventional Christmas happenings, although I will always stand by the belief that it’s not what you do that matters, it’s who you do it with.

A belated merry Christmas and happy new year to all my readers wherever you are in the world.

A Catch Up


For the past two weeks I’ve been stuck in a mini-post rut. I dilemma if you will.

A couple of weeks ago my grandfather passed away back in Ireland, which meant a return home at short notice. I brought Herself and +1 along too, because Herself really liked my grandfather and we’ve a lot to be grateful to him for. We could hardly have left +1 at home now could we?

The dilemma has been how to write about it, because initially I wanted to say something about it. I’ve already started a 1,500 word post on this experience, but it is just a stream of and-then-this-happened-and-then-this-happened-and-then-this-happened. Maybe you or someone else would have liked to read this, but I just couldn’t finish writing it and had to stop. It’s not because it made me sad, it was something else.

It was an emotional return for several reasons. First, we had to come and say goodbye to my grandfather, a man we hadn’t seen in a year and half, but whom we both loved dearly. Secondly, we had to return for the first time in a year and half, and this is something we’d been hoping on doing for a year and half. Third, we had to bring +1 to see everyone, and this was perhaps the most amazing part of the journey, but we had hoped that we could introduce the two of them to each other when we go back to Ireland this summer. In terms of knowing how to react it was difficult.

We should have been sad, but it was hard to mourn. It wasn’t a black and white happy -v- sad thing, that’s not how we do it in Ireland. I’m already going on again.

Still, the more I think of this the more difficult it has been to make this post which I was crafting into something. I think in the end I’ve decided to keep this event, essentially, private. It will be something that you’ll know happened but I will keep the finer points to myself, family, and friends. 

That’s all I wanted to say.

That being said I don’t want to let everything I wrote to sit and rot in a folder in my computer. Here are a few snippets and thoughts which cropped up while drafting the longer post.

  • The cursing was not because I would be going back to Ireland. My grandfather was notorious enough in his own way, but he had always been a source of gentle encouragement, antagonism, and support over the years, and since I married I don’t think that myself and Herself could be in our present position without his help.

  • We bought my ticket first, but then we realised that this was not a journey which I could do alone. After a few hours of rummaging around we eventually managed to pay for another pair of tickets for both Herself and +1. At three in the morning we finally went to bed, and for some reason I set my alarm for nine, but fortunately our natural alarm clock (a.k.a. our five month old baby girl) had us up before seven. We set to packing and eventually we managed to pull ourselves together and made it to the airport bus, and to catch our flight in plenty of time.

  • For parents traveling with an infant for the first time on a flight that would last a combined length of fourteen hours, the scene was set for the unpredictable. In hindsight this was good. We are travelling back to Ireland in the summer, but with over two months to ‘plan’ the journey, I would not doubt for a second that we would have worried ourselves into taking the bus eventually. Fortunately there is no surer cure to nerves than having to do something without thinking.

  • The death of a loved one or family member is never easy, but we had travelled across the globe for a funeral of someone who we had not seen in a year and a half. This was also someone who was quite unwell. When we last left Ireland in the summer of 2011 myself and Herself tried to say goodbye properly but the last memory we have of my grandfather alive was of him boarding a bus to go on a trip with the other people who he was now living with in the care centre where he lived out the last of his days. He was in such a position that he didn’t know much better and my old man told us not to worry over it, and that it was better like this. Of course you can never really know the best way, and we will not know as none of our family got a chance to properly say good bye to him as he passed away in his sleep. 

  • When we arrived everyone was caught between two emotions. Sorrow at my grandfather’s passing, but also delight and gratitude for our arrival, which I think this was multiplied greatly by the arrival of cooing and gurgling +1, who revelled in the attention of so many new faces. 

So anyway, that’s it. Back to normal now. Oh, except for the fact that +1 is still jetlagged. Fan-fuckin-tastic.

 

 

Old Man Syndrome


On Friday morning at around 6.40, while many were still in bed or still only waking up, I was standing in the delivery room of the maternity hospital in Dongtan where myself and Herself have been frequenting on and off over the past nine months. Staring right in our faces was a tiny, screaming child, whose skin was still blue and covered in quickly drying blood having just being removed from the womb of my beloved wife. I will not lie. I cried at that very moment, but I did my best not to show it.

20121125-201837.jpg

Our little girl, otherwise known as +1, is perfect. She is tiny, delicate, confused, but still she is part of both of us and just thinking of her makes me smile. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of parents out there who have felt exactly the same at this moment. It’s this happiness and pride which is coercing me to share this news with you today.

I think that, right now, my biggest challange is accepting the fact that the rest of the world is moving on around us, oblivious of this moment, one which is probably irrelevant to many. I think tomorrow morning when the world restarts with work and appointments to meet, we will click back into gear somewhat. but for now, I don’t really care.

I really can’t go into enough detail about much now, as I am too riddled with emotion to account for myself adequately, and even if I could it wouldn’t represent my state of mind, because it is basically just full of mesmerised questions!

20121125-202247.jpg

These are just some of the thoughts fleeting around my head at every second:

How can a person’s skin be this soft?
What will she actually be like?
I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.
A smile really does make one smile in return.
All communication is a language which needs to be learned.
The future has just become a whole lot more daunting.
For all that we imagined, we could never have imagined this.
It is now less of a wonder why people believe in God.
We are not the first people to have a new baby and we will not be the last.
The human body is more amazing than you think, and when you look at women you really have to appreciate this even more.
My mother, who had five sons, really is a tougher nut than she looks.
My daughter looks like my mother.
How should I react? Herself’s friends and family, as well as hospital staff have congratulated us over and over again because our daughter resembles me. If this was in Ireland I’m fairly sure people would be consoling Herself… (maybe not the hospital staff but definitely my brothers and friends).
I think that the occasions where I’ve been happier, or equally happy, have been few and far between.

And as I tweeted earlier…

Over the past three days I have turned from a skeptic and a cynic to an idealist and an optimist. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Life has changed this weekend, and I hope to be a better man because of it.