Dear Loved Ones Near and Far,
I confess that one of the main reasons I write this Christmas letter is not so much to let you know what we are doing as to find out what you are doing. Sometimes I fantasize about what it would be like to grow up and live my whole life in the same little village. And then I watch a moody European crime drama awash in small town secrets and decide I don’t so much mind my itinerant city life. But I do miss being able to see all the people who mean something to me and be a part of your in-person lives.
We’re grateful to report that it’s been another wonderful year for the Familias. We are no longer the new guys in town in Amsterdam; in fact, we had a sort of mass exodus of expat friends moving on this year, which may be the impulse for starting off this letter on such a melancholy note. We’re in that sort of in-between phase of setting down roots where the roots are yet tender and tentative. I still get that tingle of awe and delight when I see the reflection of a row of perfect canal houses in still water. But I’m also starting to feel a sudden rush of home-like recognition when I glimpse Amsterdam from the window of a descending aircraft.
For the first time in living memory, Tony and I are both working at the same jobs as last year, although Tony did get a promotion.
He also went on business trips to Dubai, Madrid, Cologne, London, and Paris. I tagged along on a couple of them, and took full advantage of the opportunity to spend full days alone in the Louvre and the British Museum. I also took my own first international business trip to Milan this month, and had more fun than should be allowed, as well as bringing home a proper Italian panettone for Christmas.
Raj is still at his bilingual school, and participated in his first fencing tournament a few months ago. Axa graduated from primary school this year, so we went through the fascinating and stressful process of figuring out Dutch middle/high school.
The reason we put her in a bilingual primary school to begin with was so she could continue her education in English if her academic Dutch wasn’t up to scratch after just two years. But she surpassed all expectations, and ended up tracked into the highest level of Dutch secondary school. She goes to the oldest gymnasium in Amsterdam, where (be still my nerdy heart) they still teach the kids Latin, Greek, French, and German.
When Grammy and Pampa came to visit at the beginning of the summer, we decided to explore a bit more of the Netherlands with them. We spent a day boating around Geithoorn, a tiny village with no roads, only canals, and then continued by train to Groningen, a northern university town with one of my favourite small museums I’ve ever visited.
Even better, when the grandparents left they took the children with them! Axa and Raj spent a month in California hanging out with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. In the meantime, Lyra went to the dog sitter and Tony and I went off to spend a romantic week in Iceland, where we renewed our wedding vows and did a photoshoot at (of course) a Game of Thrones site.
At the end of August, Axa and Raj came home on their first transatlantic flight alone, which worried their mother far more than it worried them (their main concern being whether their candy stash would last the whole flight, which was more than taken care of by Grammy’s careful packing).
We are spending Christmas at home in Amsterdam this year, holding back the dark with a Christmas tree that takes up 25% of the floor space in our tiny living room. We wish you a happy and warm holiday season and a coming year full of promise and unexpected magic.
Sarah, Tony, Axa, Raj, and Lyra