The contrast between this year’s Christmas Day and of 2012 was stark. Twelve months ago, my mom was in the United States celebrating with family and I was here in Cambodia with Allison, Nico, Giacamo, and Ritchie house sitting for our friend Dan. Allison and I woke up hungover as all get out and hurriedly found soccer socks to shove random what-nots into for Nico and Ritchie before they arrived- our Christmas gifts for our Christmas guests! Inside they found random massage coupons for Passion Spa, broken candy canes, Kurt Vonnegut/Chuck Palahniuk books, photos of our friends back in the States, tiny golden wedding gift spoons, and cigarettes- a stocking gift blend of a struggling college student, latch-key kid, and confused third cousin.
That day, we tried to prepare a Christmas meal with literally too many chefs in the kitchen. Attempting to make a decent biscuits and gravy breakfast that ended up getting burnt, looking sloppy, and tasting just how it looked. The rest of the afternoon was spent napping with Wes Anderson and Kung Fu as our lullaby and ended in a delivery order of cheeseburgers and ribs from Reaksmey Burger to sate our hungry bellies, dissatisfied from a mediocre mid-day whatever that gruel was.
For Christmas 2013, I awoke at eight thirty bright eyed and bushy tailed. I was ready to push gifts onto Ritchie, small packages not really wrapped with care under the tiniest Christmas tree. We enjoyed a few moments of time relishing a “real” Christmas morning with Last Christmas playing in the background and the twinkling of lights against silver tinsel bouncing around the room.
We schlepped to Lucky Supermarket and our favorite local mart around the corner to pick up food necessities of the day (4 wheels of Brie and Camembert, salami, blue cheese, Dutch butter cookies, champagne, two chickens, a case of beer, etc.) and prepare for guests. We were soon joined by my mom, bearing two gigantic backpacks full of booze, treats, and gifts and spent more time exchanging gifts, hugs, and jokes. I was lassoed into playing some cards with the game-lovers until guests began to arrive and I was saved by the bell.
Throughout the day, close friends and loved ones came and went as Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life played in the background. We enjoyed the warm company of Sheila, Allie, Ryan, Brandon, Conor, Rachel (Ritchie’s sister, not mine), and the Beck Family with nine month old Rosie and little Jamie who was eager to please and entertain with wily antics and sticky fingers. We did miss some of our key friends (Miller girls and Duncan, we’re talking to you!), but a full house wasn’t difficult to achieve in our small space of an apartment. Never though did it feel cramped despite the small living room and kitchen area we took space in, as we all moved in tandem to different areas- snuggling on the couch, chasing after the little ones, mixing drinks and filling our bellies with cheeses.
By the end of the night, around 11:30 as our last guests bid farewell all I could do was tumble into bed ready for a deep sleep dreaming not of sugarplum fairies but of wonderful friends gained in the past year, memories of a beautiful Christmas gathering in Cambodia, and the many years of holidays to come in so many places, with so many people.