Geographical Triggers

It’s the reindeers.

We had three of them in our front yard in Canada. I’d never seen them before living in North America, and I thought they were hysterical. Is it fair to say that the majority of the population does lights in North America over the Holiday season? Everyone on our street did. It didn’t matter which religion or nationality – there were lights.

When I think of the reindeers, I think of driving home from work and it being dark because it was winter. I think of light snow, and gloves squeaking as they gripped onto the steering wheel. The click of a seatbelt as it stretched over a heavy winter coat. The feeling of being cocooned inside the car. I think of small children waiting. I can see G, standing out in the cold, getting the reindeers connected, the power cord for the Christmas lights running to the outside socket along the side of the house.

A catalogue arrived in my blazing hot, metal mailbox in Australia this week. And there they were, the reindeers. And in a second I was gone. I was standing with G in a warehouse store, with little travellers walking the isles in snow boots and puffer jackets helping out with the decision. It had to be the reindeers. We watched them from our front window, snow sprinkling gently over them as they charmed the little travellers.

Geographical triggers.

The Pottery Barn plastic bag that I keep under the sink and can never bring myself to use as a garbage bag.

“No, no, keep that” I say without explanation every time someone pulls it out to use it.

“Why are we keeping this? It’s a plastic bag” even the children don’t understand.

In a second that bag can transport me straight back to Houston. I know exactly where I’d park the car. I’d grab a coffee at the bookstore, the fourth little traveller and I would hover around the children’s section. Pottery Barn, Banana Republic, Gap, Anthropologie, and then the grocery shopping. America, you make shopping so much fun, no-one shops like you do.

Keeping that plastic bag under the sink, is my last little slither of still being there. We have mementos, artwork and trinkets – but the plastic bag came packed with everything else that was under the sink in that house. The Whole Foods carry bags, the pack of cleaning wipes from SuperTarget (think Target and multiply by 4).

It says permanent, weekly, ordinary and every day. It says, this was your life once, this was your ordinary, you don’t have to forget it and move on.

We’ll just stay right here, and remind you that it wasn’t all a dream.

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  • boomerang jane

    Yes, everyone does seem to do lights in Northern America, and it’s certainly taken off here these past few years.

    Had a huge giggle over the plastic bags…because I do that too!! Only I couldn’t fathom WHY I couldn’t let them go (or use them). I love the memories when I look at the Koala Blue bag from Olivia Newton Johns shop back in the late 80s at Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. The bag from Expo 88 in Brisbane QLD. The 2007 50th celebration Disney plastic bag I let my son use for swimming once…but just once. The panic it induced all day wondering if I would get it back was not worth it, so there it remains back in the cupboard! They all do offer warm fleeting memories in a split second & I thank you for making me feel a little more normal.

  • JO

    Some terms of reference like this can seem so wonderfully incongruous – I remember seeing a giant Snowman in Caracas (which is almost on the equator and never sees snow) and Christmas trees in Pokhara, Nepal (where most people are Hindu!)

  • Amanda

    I can’t wait to have kids and take them to my Dad’s house in Michigan. The lights around the neighbour hood there hold so many fantastic memories. I haven’t lived there in almost ten years but apparently the displays almost haven’t changed (a few bigger, a couple more hedges covered in silver white lights, other than that, very much the same). Not quite the same when it’s 35 degrees out and humid.

  • MsCaroline

    Christmas lights always take me back to the years we lived in Arizona when my boys were young. Our ‘winters’ never got more than a little chilly (after the sun went down,) but our neighborhood was full of Christmas spirit – and lights! Having come from the East Coast, it was almost like living in a foreign country there in the low desert. We would bundle our boys up in their little Radio Flyer red wagon with warm (not really necessary, but lots of fun) blankets and pull them around the neighborhood to look at all the lights covering the saguaro cactus, mequites, palms, and prickly pears – and yes, some people STILL put out those reindeer – desert or no desert!

  • wsb

    Great post ๐Ÿ˜‰ I remember flying into Houston just before Xmas one year and the light displays from the air were amazing. Totally agree that no one does shopping like the US ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Expat with Kids

    Hold on to that bag!