Who could ask for more?

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

We’ve already received the best Christmas gift we could hope for.

Well, almost the best. Mary and Rainer are coming for Christmas.

I haven’t mentioned it before in case they changed their minds, but our ex-pat daughter has bought tickets and given us her flight details. That clinches it for me.

For most of her years living in Europe, we’ve worked out a pattern of getting together about once every two or three years, taking turns as to who travels. This time, we’ve already been together twice, and come Christmas, we’ll make it three visits in two years.

There was the summer of 2011, when they came here to do some traveling in Florida and in the West, notably Las Vegas. We went with her to Florida and she was here at home for some time.

Then our extended visit in the spring of this year, when we met her in Barcelona, and went back to Düsseldorf with her and Rainer for a long visit there.

For years people have asked us whether she would be coming for Christmas or Thanksgiving. No, we’ve said, fall and winter are the busiest times of her year, what with special Christmas concerts and seasonal operas. No way she could get loose enough to spend some time here in December.

But she did. Of course, she had to arrange for substitute keyboardists before she could  take herself off the roster.

And bless his heart, Rainer wants to come along. He too has a heavy schedule, but somehow he got himself free. Both his parents are dead, and his sons not especially “into Christmas.”

You know what got Mary off? Germans are as sentimental as the next European and give rather a lot of latitude when it comes to family time. Both parents, for example, can take off as much time as they wish, sometimes as long as six months, when a new baby is born – or adopted. The theater and the company just work around them.

Mary must have sat down and checked her records, and discovered she had not been “home” for Christmas for more than 25 years.

She moved to Germany about the time we were building this house, and has never thought of it as “home.” Maybe “home” is also in the people who live here.

I think what did the trick, besides seniority, was that she willingly “jumps in” to serve as the company pianist when other people have had to take leave. (Germans love that expression, “jump in.”) She has saved many a singer’s bacon, and kept many a rehearsal schedule intact – although it does also mean good compensation.

Funny how eager to decorate the house and buy a tree I find myself. For the last few years, we’ve put up only the Nativity scene and a wreath on the door to welcome Christmas. Pretty paltry.

This year I’m almost giddy in anticipation. The boxes in the attic will groan when we start exhuming Christmas stuff – what will we find? Yikes, there are still presents to buy, and I’m not good for more than an hour or so without a break.

Do you want to know why I said this was “almost” the best gift I could receive? The only thing that could improve it at all would be an announcement that Jean and the grandboys (whom Mary has never seen) were coming too, from Northern Virginia…. I haven’t put them on the spot – it would only intensify the disappointment – but wouldn’t it be nice to have them here too?

They are so busy with job, church, and other family concerns that they simply can’t take off for two days’ driving or buy three expensive plane fares around Christmas just to get here. The logistics are formidable.

But the German contingent will arrive on Christmas Eve and fly back to Germany on New Year’s Eve. A week…

Who could ask for anything more?