Christmas Eve dawns fiercely. At a quarter after eight bells, the cashmere sky is slashed to blue ribbons and splashed with florescent scarlet. At breakfast, Hartmut, Margarete, and I are joined by specters of international politics and when these specters lean across their plates to claim the milk carton, the shadow of the Third Reich distends over the table.
By noon, the Weihnachtsbaum has made its home in the corner of the kitchen and Florian and I begin glitzing it up. Tall and lanky, the tree was a gift from a farmer-neighbor. As we braid the boughs with fairylights and hang glass orbs, the tree cinderellas from a gangly broomstick into a bejeweled belle.
After Tobias emerges from hibernation, all five of us (plus Lennon the bouncing mutt) go for an afternoon walk. As we cross the fields, the mountains rise before us like crepe paper cut-outs, scenery for Act III Scene 3: Ode to Southern Bavaria. Stagehands have crafted the alpine collage in every shade of winter-blue, from slate to ink, from glacier to ice-bear. Smoke savory with nutmeg and sage spices the air—it is the smell of being six-years-old and burying my face in my father’s shirt. We cross glassed-in streams, rivulets running beneath panes of frazzled ice. The low tones of a glockenspiel ring amongst the stones under the bridge.
Back at the farmhouse, I shake the cold out of my hands and curl up with a book. My ears are full of shrilling. An echo of mountainsong rings in my tympanum. How loud the still, blue peaks can sing.
All day I have played my part in this Christmas puppet show, pulling all the right strings to set the scene and smile. Yet I feel full of sawdust. I am just a ragdoll, not a Christmas child. At half past seven bells, I creep downstairs to set the last prop and meet my last cue: gifts and supper. I expect to be the first in the kitchen, but the Weihnachtsmann has already shuffled through, leaving a red-and-white-striped flock of packages under the tree. Cross-legged on a fleece-draped bench, I drift into a Christmas-tree-trance, rising through the boughs with their ethereal glass orbs and galaxies of fairylights. Suddenly the puppet show is over and Christmas is here, evergreen and incandescent.