Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Musings

The holidays make me melancholy.  I miss my children and friends and the non-stop party schedule that one gets used to during the Christmas season in America.  It is not unheard of, in America, to have, literally, ten or eleven invitations to various functions pinned to your bulletin board in the month of December.

Most weekend nights in December in America, Mr. Big and I would have to go to two or even three functions in one night.  This year, we had two.  In one MONTH.  (And, one of them we hosted, so it doesn’t even count.)  All of my little black dresses are rotting away in the closet with cobwebs hanging off of them.  The other function, besides our own little cocktail party, was affiliated with Mr. Big’s work.  Let me tell you about it.  (Please note that this was NOT Mr. Big’s party, i.e. I had nothing to do with it!)

Because Switzerland doesn’t have Halloween, they dress up in costumes here at Christmas time for parties and, also, on New Year’s Eve.  That’s why, last year, on my New Year’s blog post from Chamonix, you saw people in crazy wigs and kilts guzzling champagne in the streets.  They also dress up for bachelor/bachelorette parties.  If you are ever walking in the Flon (the club district in Lausanne) and see eight guys dresses up like Power Rangers pushing a baby stroller containing nothing but a guy in an oversized diaper, that is a bachelor party.  Swear to God.  No Atlantic City, titty bars or strippers, just Power Ranger costumes and a really big nappy.  Woo-hoo!

Anyway, Mr. Big’s Christmas party, oh, excuse me, HOLIDAY party, required Medieval costumes.    You know, I am the ultimate Corporate Wife, so I did my part and ordered an appropriate costume, like, three months in advance from Estonia.  I was a completely true-to-life peasant girl.  Mr. Big, who was in denial until approximately 36 hours before the party, finally had Right Hand Woman order something online at the last minute and it showed.  My costume was totally AUTHENTIC.  His was totally SYNTHETIC. 

His sword broke in half the first time he swashbuckled it.  Cheap Chinese piece of crap!  Gawd, can’t those Chinese eleven-year-olds do anything right?

Y’all.  It was bizarre.  Picture this.  An actor troupe, dressed in Medieval clothes, acting out various skits in MEDIEVAL FRENCH to a group of 100 or so people who don’t even speak modern French.  There were gymnastics, cat fights, a lot of yelling and screaming and some crazy wine called mead which tasted like fermented peat moss. 

There was a real, live baby in a basket, who I am pretty sure was not supposed to be Moses, for some unknown reason.  Tres bizarre.  I don’t even think the Swiss people (all two of them) got it.  Anyway, I looked fabulous, so that’s all that matters.

And then, the band started playing lost ‘80’s hits and that was all she wrote.  Imaging dancing with Henry VIII, Charlemagne and Joan d’Arc to Loggins and Messina and you are starting to get the picture.


Otherwise, the holidays here make me melancholy.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  As soon as Charming Daughter arrives in 3 days, I will totally be alright again.  Then, on Christmas Day, two of our dear friends are coming and, finally, the next day, Small Son and New Girlfriend arrive.  Yes, that means that we are going to the Geneva airport three days in a row, but that is FINE!  I can’t wait.

My feelings of nostalgia make me harken (now, there’s a medieval word for ya!) back to the days when the kids were small.  People love their children when they are small.  It is so easy to love your children when they are small, because they look so cute and they say the cutest things.  You just want to EAT them, they are so cute.  Then, they get to be about 7 or 8, and it becomes a little more difficult to love them ALL of the time.  Because they are starting to get their own attitudes, which are, oftentimes, not so cute, and, oftentimes, not exactly in line with what you want them to do.  Where you used to have these perfectly cute little specimens of humanity who bowed to your every whim, suddenly, POOF!  They start to have their own opinions.  Excuse me, Small Son, but I really don’t care that everyone else is wearing Sponge Bob boxer shorts to school and letting them hang out of the tops of their blue jeans.  You, Sir, are wearing your little tightie whities and you will like it!

I am even so far gone that I am feeling nostalgic about their middle school years.  Jeez, they were jerks, but I still loved them.   Remember those times when you were doing the dishes and you would find the little rubber bands from their braces on the side of the plate?  Gross!  And they would fight with each other for “touching” each others’ stuff and each others’ bodies.  Remember that?  MOM!!!  He is touching me!!!  Small Son, back away from your sister and no one gets hurt.  Remember that?

So, y’all, I am waxing nostalgic here and involving you.  Sorry!  I will continue on in the next post about how difficult it is to keep on keepin’ the faith through their teenage years.  Finally, (the whole point of this post), I will reflect on how nice it is that they are grown and what that means when they come and visit you.

Getting back to Switzerland, I also want to touch on more of the holiday traditions here and how ex-pats can better prepare for them.  For instance, the concept of a Christmas tree stand into which one puts water is anathema to them.  I’ll explain later.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pre-Holiday Musings

Well, I’m back from America from the 16th annual Misfit Thanksgiving and already throwing myself into the Swiss Christmas Hoo-Haw.  We have got a lot to catch up on, so let’s get started.

In early November, Mr. Big had a meeting scheduled in Gdansk, Poland.  Would you like to go to Poland with me, Trailing Spouse?  Umm, I don’t know, really, Mr. Big.  WOULD I like to go to Poland? 

I was picturing a country entirely rebuilt from rubble after 1945 in communist-bloc style architecture, gloomy and gray, with an abundance of kielbasa shops and women wearing kerchiefs and army boots.  Stupid American!

Gdansk was great!  They did rebuild their city, but in a thorough and historic manner and it couldn’t have been prettier.  Stay at the Radisson Blu hotel but don’t eat the eggs on the breakfast bar.  They LOOK like fluffy mounds of deliciousness, but they are some unidentified powdered product. 

I haven’t spit anything into my napkin since I was six, but the busboy at the Radisson Blu can tell you that that is no longer true.

One of the best things we did was climb to the top of the tower at the Archeology Museum to enjoy the views of the whole city.  Fabulous.  Here’s a hint.

You don’t have to go into the museum proper, which we didn’t know, to climb the tower.  The tower is free and separate from the museum.  Oh well.  We did get a sick sort of thrill looking at all the exhibits of the skeletons that were displaced during the bombings.  Sadly, when a city gets annihilated, the cemeteries are blown sky high along with everything else. 

It is common practice in Europe to stack bodies in villages one on top of the other, century after century after century.  When the dust settled, Gdansk found itself knee-deep in a thousand years of jumbled bones.  Impossible to sort, obviously.

Their scientists, after the war and during reconstruction, picked some of the most interesting examples for display in the Archeology Museum.  The rest they reburied.  (I think in mass graves, but I didn’t want to be crass and press the point, even though I was morbidly curious.) 

So, they have skulls on display from the 1300’s that show what happens to a human head after a spear has been run through it.  They have all manner of examples of some seriously medieval dentistry issues.  Scurvy, dwarfism, malnutrition, various plagues, etc. can all be followed through the centuries via these poor folks who were upended and tossed willy-nilly in the 1940’s.  Creepy but fascinating.

The Polish food, by the way, was delicious.  Gdansk sits right on the Baltic so there was abundant fresh fish on the menus.  I did make Mr. Big order sausage one night just so we could say that we ate Polish sausage in Poland.  One restaurant, Velevetka, serving typical, regional food, is located in the cellar under the Tourist Information building right in the main square. 

Order either the meat platter or the fish platter.  That’s it.  The chef sends out a big platter with various kinds of either meat or fish and bowls of side dishes of his choosing.  It was all good.

Misfit Thanksgiving also involved many big platters.  Too many.  As usual, every time I return from the US to CH, I carrying an extra 5 pounds of body fat back, which, luckily for me, I could just transport on my stomach and hips, because there was no extra space in my baggage.  I thought for sure I would be singled out in security in one of the many airports I slogged through to go through the new Peek-A-Boo x-ray machines, simply because of the crazy crap in my luggage.

TSA:       Ma’am, you’ll have to come with me.  You’ve been selected for additional screening.

Me (feigning innocence):  Me?  Why, whatever for, Nice Officer Who Is About To See Me Naked?

TSA:       We cannot determine the nature of your carry-on items.

Me:        What?  Have you never seen a woman lugging a sewing machine, the seat and backrest of an Eames lounge chair, including down-filled insert, a bag of corn meal, a bottle of cream of tartar and a small container of allspice?  Really?  Where have you people been?

Y’all.  I took a brand new sewing machine (remember I blew up my last one?) through 4 airports and no one batted an eye.  Apparently, you can’t take a half-drunk bottle of water through security but various needles and a seam-ripper are OK.

Anyway.  Misfit Thanksgiving 2010.  Uneventful except for our walk-in fridge died halfway through dinner.  On any other night this would be a minor issue, but on Thanksgiving, one must guard the leftovers.  Many people, myself included, like the leftovers more than the meal itself.  A Thanksgiving without edible leftovers would be like, umm, something really bad. 

So, our pictures this year include shots of the two, glistening golden brown turkeys, the three tables set with sparkling china and stemware for 26 guests, a Martha-Stewart-Worthy rum cake with caramel sauce brought by one guest who is DEFINITELY invited back next year, and . . .

shots of the asses of Mr. Big and Small Son hanging out of the ceiling as they try to repair the refrigerator.  Lovely.

Now, it is back to normal life in Switzerland and I am checking our outfits for his work Christmas party.  Long blond braids?  Check.  Chainmail head gear?  Check.  Sword?  Check.  Ahh.  Switzerland.  You see, they have no Halloween.  (No Halloween and no Thanksgiving.  No wonder they always look so dour!)  But they like to dress up in costume just as much as the next guy, right?  Dilemma, dilemma.  I know!  Let’s dress up at Christmas parties!  Done.

Last year, when we were just newbies, we didn’t realize that the invitation was serious until we arrived at his office party and everyone else was in some crazy get-up.  I was in an LBD and Mr. Big was in a suit and tie.  We told people we were dressed as the Clintons with better stylists.  They didn’t buy it.  THIS year, we are prepared.  The theme is Medieval Times.  Mr. Big is wearing tights.  I am going as the honest and hard-working peasant girl from the village who enjoys the occasional dalliance with the knight who lives in the castle on the hill.  THIS year we even have a backstory.  I hope we get some pictures early in the evening before Mr. Big starts to shed parts of his costume.  I cannot foresee him wearing those tights for more than, oh, 11 minutes or so.