Little gosling was eight months old for our first Christmas as a family of three. It was the first Christmas we were spending in the Southern hemisphere and it felt so so weird celebrating it at all, at 30 and many degrees. Therefore, we spent Christmas Eve with friends, over a nice lunch on a rainy terrasse. We marked Christmas, but it just did not feel like it. I remember the weeks leading up to it, going around shopping centres in flip flops, enjoying the chill of the aircos whilst listening to Christmas songs celebrating the cold outside and the snow :P. Surreal :))). To think that the days before Christmas we were walking on the beach and watching dolphin and seal shows in Durban and the week after we were in Mauritius, feels like the most un-Christmassy time possible.
The second Christmas (that is to say, last December), little gosling was more than 20 months old. We figured he can understand what is happening around him this time and we had it a bit more traditional. We went home and gathered all four grandparents at my parents’ place for a few days. We had a nice, rich Christmas tree, probably the first one in my parents’ home in over 20 years. We decorated it together with little gosling and saw his curiosity and excitement for the Christmas tree gradually build up. He was in charge of taking the Christmas balls out of their boxes and handing them over to mommy to hang in the tree. I gently reminded him with every ball to hold them with both hands. He would have liked to place them on the branches, too. He tried, but he did not have the precision (fine motor skills), nor the patience yet.. The branch would just not go inside the loop.. He loved running around and hiding behind the tree or just throwing his toys, balls and pieces of puzzle under the tree.
His favourite part was the fairy lights in the tree. Every morning when he woke up his first thought was to see the lights. He ran down the stairs. Upon noticing they were off, he ran straight to plug them in calling “lights!!” He watched them for some moments with satisfaction. He kept them on, blinking, the entire day. Every evening, without fail, he looked over his shoulder to make sure they were there blinking when going up the stairs to sleep.
Immediately after plugging in the lights he put on music on the hifi. His granny had bought two CDs with nursery rhymes and he kept alternating them throughout the day. The music only stopped during his nap or when he was outside, in the garden. At first, he asked whoever was around to change the CDs and put the music on. Before the holidays were over, however, he was changing the CDs and pressing play on his own. I have to say the CDs are scratched in several places as a result and are skipping here and there, but he insisted on doing it all himself. And we enjoyed watching him be so independent.
He enjoyed handing the gifts around the table on Christmas morning. He enjoyed even more unwrapping his own presents: puzzles, books and clothes. Just for him, the presents remained under the tree the entire time it was mounted. He got very upset when we tried to clear the space under the tree.
His granny made our traditional nut cake without sugar, especially for him, and he liked it. He also got crepes, but instead of jam, we generously filled them with mashed baked apple, cinnamon and raisins. They were delicious!!
He played a lot. Most of all, he built numerous towers with his lego set. He did over and over again his many wooden puzzles. He played with his singing and ear flapping toy elephant.He played at throwing small ping-pong balls around together with his grandpa and enjoyed seeing him crouching under the bed to take them out. He went with his granny every lunchtime to take the eggs in a small bucket from the hens’ house and every night he helped her crumble the bread to prepare dinner for the dog and the cats. His granny excitedly showed him “to ride a horse” and spent many a minutes running around the living room with a giggling little gosling on her back, neigh-ing like a horse. Occasionally he still asks mommy and daddy to “do horsie”, irrespective of whether we’re at home or walking through the park. He also enjoyed pulling around the house a small wooden cart his grannies had gifted him with, after having loaded it with his toy animals and books.
We’ve attempted our first jigsaw puzzle, a 24 piece cardboard image of a dog accompanying a little girl to school and carrying her bag. He was interested in fitting the pieces together, but he was definitely a bit too young for it. That did not prevent him from asking that we do the puzzle over and over again. I explained every time what he needed to look out for and we placed the pieces together.
We read quite a lot. Over Christmas it was the first time little gosling had the patience to sit through a story from beginning to end. It was Raymond Brigg’s “The Snowman” that captured his attention so much. He used to sit in my lap on the chair and we’d look at the images together and I described everything that we saw. The last image intrigued him the most. We looked at various first words’ books, talking about what happens on a farm, foods and animals. We read the story of Pipkin, a penguin who wanted to know how high was the sky. The only other story hat captivated him, even though we more often than not stopped at the first pages, was “Craciunul perfect al Emei”, by Ioana Chicet Macoveiciuc, illustrated by Lavinia Trifan. It is a sweet and happy little book about what goes around at Christmas time in Ema’s house. Little gosling got stuck on the image where Ema accidentally dropped a Christmas ball whilst decorating the tree. But no harm was done and her daddy helps her put it on a branch. He would stare at it for minutes and minutes, saying only “fall”.
My mom and I regularly watch the New Year’s Concert in Vienna. Little gosling slept throughout, but woke up during the encore. For the first time I broke our rule of “strictly no TV before two” and took him down to watch the end of the concert with us. Only “The Blue Danube” and “The Radetzky March” were left from it and he listened and watched from mommy’s lap, swinging left to right to the music, his eyes all a smile.
Possibly, what we’ll remember most of his first Christmas celebration is the dismantling of the Christmas tree. We did it together again. Three months later, he still remembered his grandpa carrying the tree outside the house (“pom outside”) and putting it on fire (“pom foc”). For a while he recalled that every time he saw any fire in books.
We will also remember his fondness and insistence on eating foie gras (“pate”) and fermented milk, such as yoghurt or kefir, for which he used the same name (“sana” or “sanana”). That’s what he asked for at every mealtime. He had such a determined, yet pleading way of saying it, followed by a squeal. I used to find it amusing, yet slightly exasperating towards the end :))).
My parents drove us to the airport, a two hours and a half drive. Little gosling, who has never been fond of being in a car, woke up from his nap twenty minutes before we reached our destination and started crying and asking to be taken out of his car seat and breastfed. All my attempts to soothe him failed, but at a certain point he did stay quiet for some moments. As it turned out, he was processing all the information I had given him. I had promised that once we were in the airport’s parking lot and the engine of the car stopped, I would take him out of his seat and breastfeed him first thing. He called out half beggingly, in what was one of his first sentences: “Bobo…stop…car!” :)))). Bobo is what he calls his grandfather. That was so precious and unexpected, we couldn’t help but burst into laughter.