"Monday December 24th/Tuesday December 25th: Christmas Eve/Day. Spend this time with your family and enjoy it!"
It was strange to say at least to be back at my parents home in New York when I had just spend the start of the school year alone. It was 4 whole months without even once seeing my mother and father. And now here I was sitting in my old grand room getting ready for our family Christmas dinner then to be entertained for the rest of the evening by Mama's side of the family as they have come all the way from France to celebrate with us. It felt strange speaking just french again to people,yeah i spoke French when my parents called me but there was something else being immersed into the old and familiar again.
I already dreaded the wholesome family photo that Aunt Yvette requested every year,I always felt like she was mocking me,that woman. I was always put right at the end because I am so tall (I am not really that tall) but I am tall for my kind. Aunt Yvette is a bit of a racist ,and that's kind of funny because she is french and is suppose to be laid back and all but she is a French woman who thinks she is part of the monarch of some sort. Papa and I always make fun of her when we can. Usually she drags the whole family down to Cannes (where she resides) and we have to play according to her rules and do what she tells us . Papa tells me that Yvette has always been like that,apparently it's because she is the middle child in Mama's family and thus she wants to somehow control everything and have things according to her liking. The thing that Papa said as he explained Yvette's behaviour to me was. That I should never strive to control things because I can't,I should just let them happen .
"Les enfants",I heard Aunt Yvette's shrill voice calling the children to the drawing room. I rolled my eyes.
Another tradition that this woman had called into was the children's entertainment before dinner was served. All under 21 had to be part of it and we all had to present and entertain ...it was stupid and I hated it since the day that I was bought into this tradition. I think I was about 5 years old . I had been with Mama and Papa for about 3 years. If you couldn't tell but I am adopted. Mama was just teaching me French then,both of my parents are fluent in Japanese ,Papa more fluent in Mandarin. Mama told me that I spoke Japanese when they got me but they found me in China. So I spoke a broken form of both which she always tells me was incredibly adorable.
So here I was 5 years old, just about being able to make myself understood in one of those 3 languages but never really mastering either of them ,and there this woman was Aunt Yvette she called herself requesting that I perform on the Christmas Eve party.
It was my first time attending so I was nervous,so nervous you couldn't believe. I wanted to be liked of course. I wanted to be part of the family. Even though Papa always says that I am part of the family ,I remember clearly the night before Christmas Eve ,how Papa came to my room and told me :" Listen Yana, without you there is no family. You are our family. Mama and I ,you complete us and we wouldn't want you any other way. D'accord ?",he has asked me.
"Okay" ,I had replied and he kissed my forehead and sung me a lullaby.
I simply had prepared to sing a Chinese lullaby.
It was a sure hit ,well that's what Mama said anyhow.
But here I am again after all these years,still attending these " my-child-is-better-then-yours" competition that no one but Aunt Yvette cares about .
"Yana",my father called me over to him "Sit next to me,I beg you",he said and winked. I smiled and hurried over to him.
"Where is Mama ?",I asked him.
He looked around "Checking on the food,hiding from your Aunt. We really tried to escape this Yana,I swear. But she insisted that we have our family Christmas and that if we couldn't make it to France she would bring France to us ",he told me.
I looked at him "What does that even mean ? Is she a representation of France ? If I wanted France I would just speak to you and Mama",I told him. He chuckled slightly.
"That's what I thought. I don't need France..I just came from there. Oh my little girl I just wanted to have a quiet family Christmas with you and your Mother. Watching Lord of the Rings",my father confessed. I grinned.
"How many times are we going to watch that movie Papa ?",I asked him.
"Until I tire of it ?",he told me and winked.
"You will never tire of it will you ?",I asked him.
"Most likely not",he said and put his arm around me.
My father and I exchanged looks and smirked at each other.
My mother's side of the family consisted of exactly 17 people.
Mama,Papa and I
Aunt Yvette her husband Vincent and their three children : Cyril, Adele and Gaspard.
Uncle Fabien and his wife Laura and their twin girls Elodie and Eloise
Uncle Leone and his wife Joelle and their son Ethan.
And of course Grandpa and Grandma.
"First up is Ethan,it's his first time performing today so lets give him a big welcome",Aunt Yvette introduced little Ethan.
Ethan today was about 6 years old and a bit and he looked nervous as hell. It was his first time after all and even thought his father didn't care too much about the competition I could tell that his mother would have loved to stick it up Yvette a-ss the fact that her little Ethan was better then any of her three "perfect little children".
My father squeezed my hand as we watched a little brown hairs ,olive skinned boy clumsily approach the middle of the drawing room .
"Bon sour, My name is Ethan Joachim",he introduced himself . And then he started singing with that wee voice of his.
"It's pretty",my father commented . I nodded I personally found it beautiful. He was small for his age and looked adorable in that little suit of his,he carried in his voice pure innocence and I found it perfect for a Christmas evening like this. All it had to do was snow and it would have been sheer perfection.
As Ethan stopped ,he blushed straight away and hurried towards his mother and then proceeded to bury himself in her lap. She looked proud of him and his father patted him on his head,like he was saying well done. It was nice to see.
I heard my mother heels click down the corridor and arrive into the room,I had by now drowned out Aunt Yvette voice and Eloise play of the Violin which she played every year whilst Elodie played the piano every year It almost sounded like the same song ,that's how I often I have heard them play. It was boring and they looked bored while doing it.
"Please tell me I missed it all ",I heard my mother voice whisper into my ear.
I shook my head. Papa smiled at her.
"Next up is Yana Amarante",she called me.
I pulled a face. He hated that she called me by my middle name.
My mother rolled her eyes the way she most likely always has since the day that Yvette was born.
Well that what she tells me.
The thing about my middle name is that ,it's not a middle name it was the place my parents had met. Amarante is a small town in Portugal,it's also the place that they had their wedding and the place that they were at when they received word of my adoption going through. So it meant a great deal to them this town so it become a middle name. I don't mind,it has a great story with it to be honest but the fact that she must call it annoys me.
I got up.
"Bon soir, I am Yana",introducing myself .
Then I recited "À peine défigurée" by French poet Paul Éluard . My father smiled in glee as he loved that poem. My mother was satisfied with that as that meant that I had finally read Bonjour Tristesse.
There was a little applause but mainly my parents and I sat back down so that we could listen to the performance of Aunt Yvette children.
We all completely ignore that performance as we did every year.
Papa looked at me and smiled :"You did good little one".
"You need to stop referring to me as little one Papa I am already 17 years old",I whispered.
"But to us my dear Yana ,you will always be that little girl that we held in our arms and asked us if It was okay if she called us Mama and Papa",my mother whispered.
I sort of blushed a little. Papa squeezed my hand again.
"We missed you",they both whispered. I nodded solemn.
"I missed you guys too",I admitted even thought I didn't want to.
"Oh god it's over ,clap ",Mama commanded us and so we did.
"And now prepare for the picture and the off to dinner. Right Roxane ? "My aunt ask my mother.
Mama just nodded .
"Don't worry I will stand behind you this year so you would look so lonely",Papa informed me. I smiled thankful.
"Defying Yvette grand plan ? Uh have fun with that",My mother joked.
We shuffled together with the rest of them.
As I stood there poised and smiling ,I couldn't help but feel happy.
As much as I dread this,I also miss it. I missed my family,the ridiculousness of this made up tradition. Mama and Papa's jokes throughout the night. I couldn't wait for Grandpa to fall asleep during dinner and Grandma to tell about her crazy times as a dancer in Paris. I was sort of excited for the gathering of the cousins. I wanted to hear about Gaspard Uni experience in England and Elodie's boyfriend. I wanted to hear it all. I wanted to speak French .
I wanted to whisper thinks in Mandarin to my papa and crave sushi with Mama.
Living alone really makes you appreciate the things you never knew how to.
(this turned out longer then planned. I apologise. Merry Christmas everyone)