In my part of the world, way down at the foot of Africa, it has been unbearably hot. The afternoon thunderstorms that bring relief from the shimmering heat have been delayed. Since Christmas is a time of excess and little self control, it has been uncomfortable to gorge on deliciously rich food and do anything more taxing than melt into a chair and sip iced water.
The Christmas tree went up in the early hours of the morning and for a plastic tree it looked thirsty. The branches drooped under the weight of shiny baubles and the tinsel was disconsolate and sulky.
Five strands of Christmas lights required more adhesive materials than the hardware store stocked. The sticker pads melted every day and the lights ended up on the ground, dusty and twinkling feebly against the wattage of the sun.
A massive cooking effort, labouring over a hot stove and oven resulted in pools of sweat and no appetite for anything. The freezer worked overtime to keep up with ice cube demand and the swimming pool turned into a bath. But still we persevered with the Christmas spirit.
We have perspired our way through December, hopefully scanning the achingly blue sky for any sign of a cloud. Our hopes were burnt. Daily, Santa was asked for rain. Cooling, blessed, life giving rain.
There is nothing hygge about being so hot that your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth and your eyes burn. No amount of water can quench your thirst or cool you down. No relief came when dusk fell, the humidity rose and our heads throbbed. We were living in a pressure cooker, tempers were flaring like the fires in Alexandra and there was no end in sight.
We ran the gauntlet to the shops for last minute presents, food, decorations and other non essential items. We moaned and complained and fanned ourselves. And we spent money. We threw it at the shops, restaurants, bars and play centres. We couldn’t burn through it fast enough. We needed a distraction from the heat and a hot and bothered toddler.
When it felt as though our blood was boiling in our veins, we took a step back, wiped the sweat from our eyes and looked around at the monumental effort that goes into making Christmas bigger and better than the year before. We tuned out the adverts, the shows, the news and the billboards. We looked at each other and although we were hot and sticky we hugged each other hard and we held each other close. In my little family of three, we broke the fever and remembered what the holidays are really about. Family, friends, love and care. Respect, kindness, fun and delight in each new day. Time spent with the people we love is worth more than a million presents under the tree. Memories made and captured last longer than any toy. This will be the hottest Christmas we’ve had so far but it is also the summer my son learned to swim fearlessly.
The heat broke two days after Christmas. The clouds grew and swelled and the air changed. The winds threw up dust and cooled the earth and our skin. We lifted our heads, closed our eyes and breathed the thundering atmosphere deep into our lungs.
And then the rains came.
I miss the rains down in Africa – Toto