Disappointment sets in the instant I realize my efforts do not mirror my
expectations. A crisp Schwarzwald breeze, a freshly chopped tree, and my grandmother's
whispered opinions are key ingredients in assembling a truly inspirational tree. I lack
all three and must come to terms with my unsuccessful attempt to recreate a German
Christmas in Roswell. Magnifying the tree's inadequacies, a string of mini lights that
my grandmother would deem unacceptably artificial rests on my tree's prickly limbs
instead of the traditional gold clip-on candleholders, which are definitely outlawed by
the Roswell fire marshal. Carved wooden ornaments collected at numerous European
Weihnachtsmarkts constitute the sole element that ties my tree to its Teutonic heritage.
Yet, despite its lack of authenticity, my hybrid tree still graces the room with its warmth
and fragrance. Its sappy pine smell combines with an aroma of bell pepper and garlic
wafting alluringly through the air, evidence of the black beans simmering on the stove, an
integral part of any typical Cuban Christmas celebration.
I am determined to be the first to taste. My mind is set but suddenly, the shrill
ring of the house phone interrupts my mission. Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik"
plays in the background and a Mainzer German accent answers my English hello.
Karma unveils itself as I converse in my somewhat rusty German and notice my dad's
scrutinizing glare in my peripheral vision. Undoubtedly, I deserve this disapproval for
my frequent reluctance to reciprocate his conversational attempts aimed at practicing
my German. In contrast to Mozart's precise notes, my brother's pitchy, untrained voice
reverberates loudly while my Abuela, my Cuban grandmother, struggles to teach him a
Christmas carol in Spanish. Mozart's upbeat notes flow mellifluously while my brother
and grandmother strive to achieve harmony. The melodies are vastly different yet both
marvelously capture the spirit of the holiday.
My Christmases rival the rich variety offered in the most exotic bazaar. Two
worlds collide as advent wreaths and chocolate Christmas calendars commandeer the
walls and tables, rivaling the Spanish tiles and Colombian tapestries already present
there. Traditional Cuban delicacies such as flan and turrón battle for their place among
sumptuously bitter German chocolate and an endless army of cinnamon cookies.
December 25th has brought me intimate holidays amidst frigid, snow-capped mountains
and at times boisterous celebrations surrounded by a warm Caribbean breeze and a large
extended family. Gifts are likely to be opened on Christmas Eve; but some years they
wait to be freed from their decorative paper confines on Christmas Day. Often it seems
my house is overflowing with thoughts and bursting with competing customs; the same
scenario also occurs within me. My jumbled identity, I formerly thought, was a place
of limbo, a symbol of indecision. But with time, I have come to realize the richness of
expression and the vast freedom it represents.
Life would be much easier if I had merely one heritage! There would be no
guesswork about which language to speak at home, no fluctuation in which holiday
customs to follow. A culturally homogenous life would be undeniably simpler; but
simpler isn't necessarily better. An amalgam of cultures has shown me that flexibility
is crucial, emphasized that inspiration can come from many directions, and highlighted
that there are infinitely many ways to accomplish one task. My exposure to multiple
viewpoints has prepared me for the realities of the world. I am now equipped to embrace
ever-changing environments and able to enlist ideas from two distinct continents.
Darkness closes in and my tree's incandescent lights guide me upstairs. Maybe
it's my sleep- seeking senses that overcome my passion for perfection, but now, the
tree surpasses my expectations. The lights twinkle and provide the comfort that stubby,
extinguished traditional candles could never offer. I am no longer seeking to replicate a
traditional German tree, but rather, I embrace what my hybrid has to offer; just as I accept
the unique combination of cultures I embody.