We haven't had a tree in years, probably due to a combination of non-Christianity and laziness. We haven't collected ornaments, no garland, no star. Christmas is a fun holiday in our house, don't get me wrong, but it has always centered around friends, meals, and gifts. The decorations of our childhoods haven't made it into our home. I always love going back to the Midwest, especially to my sister's house where the decorating is especially perfect, abundant and detailed but not tacky at all. Her house is gorgeous at Christmastime. Even this, which should ignite both artistic feeling and sibling rivalry, has not inspired me to get off my Yuletide butt.
Well, Vienna, another score for you, delivered at a crucial moment. Just when you're treating me like we're in an extended foreign language version of Mean Girls, you serve up a Christmas miracle: I dragged my first Weihnachtsbaum home on Tuesday.
For weeks, there were no trees to be seen, and I imagined that one must have to go far out of the center of town to find them. Turns out that they just show up late. As in, less than a week ago, Vienna was suddenly full of trees, little knots of trees every few blocks. The whole town smells like pine. There's more. Not only did I go to a Weihnachtsmarkt to buy ornaments, I got MtMn to go with me. I imagine this will be his only such sojourn, but he did it for me: big husband points. We had to walk by tons of crap, but there were treasures to be found: beautiful honey from about an hour outside of town (German word learned: beekeeper = Imkermeister), and six handpainted glass ornaments. I realized even as I bought them that someday I'll be handcarrying a box of decorations onto a plane when we move back to the states. Either that or we'll have to take a boat.
There is exactly one tree on our block with electric lights on it, and I suspect they came from somewhere else, because I've seen no such thing in the stores here. Everyone I talk to at the opera puts candles on their trees. Maybe this is less of a fire hazard because the trees are fresh? I guess we find out tonight when we light ours. I do know that the smell of the beeswax along with the pine is, in a word, herrlich. The light twinkling off the ornaments just might be perfect.
Wednesday I went around work giving out present to colleagues, and everybody said the same two things: "Thank you" and "already?" Everything happens as late as possible, so different than stretching it out over a month. Yesterday almost nothing happened at work except gift-giving, plus a big company party in the afternoon. There was singing and a huge buffet and good conversation all around, and promptly at three everyone disappeared to finish the preparations. I was asking people about how they decorate their trees, and no one else had done it yet; that's for Christmas Eve. I found out that lots of my colleagues grew up hearing Bing Crosby and Perry Como.
Wednesday night I sat in the Loge for Rosenkavalier, which turned out to be an exercise in delicious disorientation. The same director did this production and the one at the Metropolitan Opera, which I assisted on several times. The sets vary a bit due to the different sizes of the two theaters, but the action/schtick on stage is almost exactly the same. That was the where-am-I entry point, watching a well-loved piece in a new place with new people but knowing everything that was coming. And then suddenly, beautifully, I realized I was not watching the opera, but watching a group of colleagues and new friends. Under a grey wig and spectacles is a sleepless young father whose second son came quickly in the middle of the night a few weeks back. My new recital partner and friend masquerades in breeches, sword at the ready. The elegant woman in ermine picked up her family at the airport today. This is the experience I've had in other theaters, other homes, shifting in and out of worlds at will. Vienna was warm and foggy and full of lights as I walked home, a little unreal, and I could enjoy the feeling of displacement all the way.