I have no wish to go back in time to those very early days when I longed for festive seasons such as Christmas. One supposes that it is easier to make children happy, but it won’t serve too much purpose to recall what made me happy those days even though I can never stop recalling the many little things from which I derived so much joy and pleasure. Some people say that only happy moments should stay in one’s memories, while others say that experiences, good or bad, are based on memories. My Buddhist studies have taught me to love in the present and to remind myself that imperfections are as inevitable as impermanence in life, and so on. What a full bag of contradictions I have become!
But we all have ideas on what Christmas should be like: presents in festive and colourful wrappings, often tied up in strings or ribbons, choirs singing, midnight Masses, turkeys and puddings and so on, and above all, some cold weather. There was actually not a lot of Christmas in the air so far. It was almost two in the morning by the time we got home from midnight Mass at Ricci Hall. My Samsung Note 4 said it was 20 degrees, so it must have been. I quickly got into bed to ensure that I could get up a few hours later to savour more Christmas, but by the time I got up, it was too late to make the Children Party at Sandy Bay by public transport. The air was anything but Christmas. There was no sun, not much wind and it was neither cool nor warm. Then it rained and it became slightly but not a lot cooler. I went to the baptism of a two-tear old who is the daughter of my God daughter. She allowed me to hold her in my arms and had pictures taken. She is a beauty indeed, and I counted there must be over a dozen adults coming for her ceremony. But she was only one amongst the 11 babies being baptized, so that the chapel was rather crowded and Father Ng had a busy time afterwards having his picture taken with the families, individually and altogether. In his well appointed sermon, he addressed the parents and God parents and reminded them of their responsibilities, drawing on his personal experiences over the last few decades regarding the influence of non performing adults on those who were baptized very young. It was not light stuff, but very Christmas, I thought.
Back to the small joys of old, I used to go out of my way writing Christmas cards to many friends and posting them well before Christmas. I don’t know about you, but I remember writing cards to my wife in the early years and receiving from her the same at Christmas, birthdays and other occasions. Of course, such practices are now frowned upon as being not environmentally friendly, and for a long time now, people have turned to sending each other emails, global emails adapted from service providers or recycled messages which take on new meanings on seasonal greetings. Today, we receive tons of electronic greeting cards on our mobile phones from many sources; friends, loved ones, relatives, colleagues and institutions to which we belong; but interestingly, many have identical trailers or messages. Then it seems that very few people practice gift exchanges. I went to a Christmas party last week which was meant for families and friends; and every person was required to bring along a gift for exchange valued at no more than $100. Now, for that money, one cannot go very far. The result is that some young children get upset by what they are landed with, typically some useless and meaningless household items such as hair conditioner or skin care products. Buying gifts for children has always been an art; and in present day Hong Kong, many children tend to be over provided with toys and presents. More interestingly, the phenomenon appears to be universal. I happened to be involved in organizing parties for underprivileged children and orphans. We never had problems getting gifts; Hong Kong still has many generous and spirited donors. But matching them with the gender and age groups could present interesting challenges, and we don’t want to end up with situations where young children burst out crying as soon as they unwrapped what Santa gave them, which had happened before. This brings me to our annual teddy bear distribution in children wards of selected hospitals. It doesn’t take long and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that not every child enjoys getting a teddy bear even at Christmas, particularly when our institution has been doing this for quite a few years such that some long term patients could have received some genre of teddy bears before, albeit in different size, shape or colour. Something can be done to put more Christmas in the exercise.
Boxing Day arrived uneventfully today, which also marks the sixth anniversary of our first date or encounter, as opposed to our sixth wedding anniversary which would come in about four months. We wished each other well during breakfast and began attending to our own businesses after tea, enjoying our togetherness and privacy at the same time. Six years passed away quickly enough, particularly in the first years when we did travel a lot, which could have given friends the impression that we are always on the road. Nowadays, Su appears to want to refine and perfect her culinary skills through practices and experimentation. In the meantime, I have been following, or rather I try to follow a regime recommended by my dietitian to cut down on meat and fat, eat more fruits and vegetables, and exercise more, a lot more. In the first eight or nine months, I lost almost 20 pounds, but then it became hard work to lose more. I would see what the dietitian has to say in about two weeks.
So we are into our seventh year together, we don’t send each other birthday cards or exchange Christmas or anniversary presents, we try not to shout at each other except when I am in the shower without a drying towel or when dinner is ready and I am on my desktop computer. Su’s very good friend and ex-colleague visited us on Christmas Eve and thanked me for taking the plunge to marry her, while a few of my friends at Ricci Hall often said that I looked or acted younger than before: so it can’t be bad, and long may it last.
Back to after breakfast, we were both working on our own devices to catch up with friends, and before we knew, we were asked to go out for tea, which we did, we having not lined up any parties at home or elsewhere for Christmas and Boxing Day. Indeed, the guard for our block had actually asked why we had no visitors this Christmas. We certainly have some rather observant guards. Next week, Su assured him, we would have some young men and women visiting us.
I hope to talk to you again soon.