December difference

Silver tinsel dangled off the railings leading to most of the shops. With the colorful lights lacing around trees, I saw the fade of my past Decembers. These symbols stood upright in the middle of the mall, in the corner of the post office, and in the windows of my neighbors. Sometime – maybe two years ago the carols and the frosty night air had meant something different. I had nestled myself in between the bustling shoppers looking for the perfect gift, and found myself entranced with the holiday spirit once.

As years went, I faded into the background quietly observing the excitement of peers. Wrapping paper, spools of tape, and recipient labels could not contain the temporary sadness fizzling in and out of me. I remember when I raced down the stairs to my parents, not because we had placed presents under our tree. Christmas trees meant more to when I was nine, because aunts, uncles, and cousins filled our house. Voices overlapped one another, as the smells of my mother’s cooking floated throughout the living room and down into the hall.

When I grew older, my mother, father and I barely decorated. We sat downstairs together for most of the day, and retold old things we had said before. We found a movie or a TV series we all enjoyed and enacted our small celebration. The meals became smaller, and one year we preheated the oven and ate a pizza. Three years ago we had decorated to say that at least we had. The warm glow of the kitchen stove light shone across the counter, as I flipped through the ads of various sales. All December, our mailbox would overflow with large snowflake designed pamphlets how if we weren’t struggling, we might as well show it.

It’s different now. My holidays are mainly in the middle of the summer, or right at the beginning of the next fall semester. For my first Ramadan, I was glad that I wasn’t alone far as observing fasting, and meals. Though, Eid Al-Fitr was surrounded mainly by women who all spoke Arabic, I was grateful that I could look across a leasing office living room and see three or four classmates from school. Throughout the duration of the get together, I kept a plate of food in my lap and silently wished I understood the languages of the people around me. Women  who entered with black abayas, soon transformed into elaborate party dresses. When I arrived, I felt that perhaps I had dressed too prude since it was only a party of just women. I sat there with my eyes glued to the decorations around the room.The couches were pushed to one side of the room so the children had more room to run around. Soon, the children would run in and out of that suite room, while young and middle aged women danced traditionally in the middle of the floor. Every now and then, one of my classmates would engage me in conversation translating what I and another woman said to one another. That evening I fumbled with the sleeve of my long dress, and silently chewed away the feeling of how alone I felt.

I remember how in December when the remixed carols came on in the radio, I silently felt a little at ease. It was the safety net of the people around me.Everywhere you turned you saw the joyfulness of the people around you fixing wreaths on their front doors, and nodding at you as you walked past.

Sometimes, when I say Salaam Alaykum to my fellow brothers and sisters out in public, I feel connected again. Other times I walk away with my burning ember light only to be put again, once I am alone. It’s not easy to explain how American holidays are different to me now. The air isn’t the same. Frosty air as soon as I leave my dorm room or house doesn’t permeate as peppermint like it used to. It doesn’t link arms with me as I walk through the Christmas light decorations elaborately construed  throughout a park. It’s vibrant snowman, and other characters only appearing annually.

I remember one year before I officially wore the hijab, I took a picture with my mother in front of the large Christmas tree outside of a department store. Looking at the photo displayed on Facebook; our noses were the same, our eyes were the same, and for that moment we were in sync with whatever had happened that day. It’s all different now, but I can’t suppress the feeling of isolation around this time. Religion and family are so heavily tied together. This is where we birthed our traditions once more, year after year. So, although I spent Eid among fellow Muslims it was not at the same magnitude of the laughs from my family spilling throughout the house.

I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say here, but a tinge of sadness in December also shows itself.


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