Yesterday, 93.9 WLIT-FM, also known as 93.9 My FM Chicago, started playing Christmas music. I learned this after watching my brother’s Snapchat story, which featured the caption “They’re playing Christmas music already???” I fumbled around on my cheap Nokia EcuaPhone FM settings to get 93.9 but when I got there, all I heard static. In between those few seconds of trying to figure out why I wasn’t hearing Christmas music and realizing I was on a completely different continent, it hit me that I won’t be home this Christmas. My happiness was replaced with the most intense homesickness I’ve had so far. I thought my solution would be downloading iHeartRadio, and that maybe hearing something from back home would make me feel better. As soon as I heard the music start playing and hearing traffic reports and weather reports, my eyes welled up with tears and all I wanted to do was decorate my Christmas tree.
My siblings are a lot older than me and my parents always talked about how before I was born, they never really cared about putting up a Christmas tree or any decorations. But when I was born, they were obligated to put it up since there was someone who still believed about Santa in the house. I remember Christmas Eve when I was younger and putting up the tree that night just so we would have somewhere to put the presents in the morning. We’ve had the same 6 foot tall tree since I could remember. Its got bald spots from where the fake pinecones and needles have fallen off, but once it’s all decorated, you could never tell. I was probably 12 years old when I started dragging the tree out of our dusty basement to put up the tree by myself. The tree was always up before Thanksgiving because something about having the tree up made the house feel warmer. When I would decorate the tree, it was always lights (obviously with some section burnt out) up first, then ribbons and bows, then ornaments. I used to hate my mom’s ornaments so much, they would always have some Southwestern look to them or be in the shape of Texas because my mom loves her hometown. She would even go to the extent of putting plastic chile peppers on the lights. I always thought it took away the Christmas spirit but right now I can’t think of having a tree without those ornaments. I wouldn't mind have a little Texan Santa Claus by my door anymore.
The more I missed my tree, the more I missed everything that was Christmas back home. Ice skating in Maggie Daley park, watching the tree lighting ceremony or parade of lights Downtown, Frango Mint peppermint bark, window shopping, the CTA holiday train, Christmas movies, ugly thrift store sweater, snow on Christmas, gray gross snow a few days later- everything that made the city feel like magic. I thought about how I won’t be wrapping Christmas presents this year or won’t be making or eating tamales or won’t go to Midnight Mass followed by food at the Aguilar’s house right after. I thought about how I’ll miss my family’s arguments everyone will have when they get tired of eachother or watching movies together when they make up.
With tears rolling down my face, I tried to think of where I could find a tree to decorate to make home not feel so far away. I couldn’t find a tree, so I made one out of construction paper. I cut out a tree and made some uneven ornaments. With the Christmas music still playing and hanging my elementary school tree on the wall, I started to feel better. Something about having a paper tree on my wall made my room feel like home. The thought of buying my host family gifts and celebrating something that’s important with me felt so comforting. While Avenida Ordoñez Lasso isn’t Miller Street, in that moment, it felt really close to it.
A classic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLunrqTyjqg