Ok, if I sit for a moment and think back alone the string of time that houses my existence, I can remember what the year was. It was 2004 – the year Melissa turned 16 and because I was there when she was born and haven’t lost the ability to generate a correct result when adding two numbers together (yet) I know it was that year.
I could remember 2004 as the year Kate turned 20, or the year Shelley turned 17. I could also remember it as the year we’d been married for X number of years, however, it’s easier to remember it as the year Melissa turned 16 because it was also the year she didn’t spend Christmas with us.
She wasn’t even in Australia, as she was on a student exchange (adventure) in Germany, and we celebrated Christmas 2004 without her.
Oh, there was one quick phone call that involved a few tears over hasty wishes and kisses blown down the phone line, and my heart ached constantly until she was back home safe with us. But there we were, celebrating without her.
And yet, 2004 was not without its own delights.
That was the year Line came into our lives. (Pronounced Leena). Line was herself an exchange student from Denmark, and fast became friends with Melissa as they were both in the same ‘homeroom’ in year 11 at school.
Line had arrived in Australia shortly before Melissa was to head off on her student exchange and, as is the case with our youngest, Melissa took her under her wing and they quickly became friends. It wasn’t long before Melissa was begging for permission for Line to come over and stay the night, and although it was much harder to get her host family to agree, eventually they did, and Line arrived after school one Friday afternoon for a ‘movie night and sleepover’. (We had lots of those when our girls were little.)
Line fit right in, as you’d expect with Dean and I being the parents of three girls. She had a wonderful time and was most upset to leave and return to her host family. It wasn’t long before it became known to us, and everyone else concerned in and for her welfare, that Line was very unhappy with her host family, and after a very convoluted process of red tape, Line was granted permission to live with us for the balance of her exchange program – all nine months of it.
I still remember, two weeks later, receiving a frantic call from her mother desperate to know she was ok. Line had not called home once in that time. But this was a good thing because she had been so miserable that she’d been calling her parents (crying) on a daily basis. This had been going on for four weeks, and then suddenly nothing. Silence! Her mother was so please Line was so happy she had had no time to think about calling her parents. Finally, she was where she needed to be to enjoy a student exchange.
Yes, Line fit right in and fast became an adoptive daughter, and it was through Line and her parents that we learnt about their tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve and, I must admit, we continue to do so all these years later.
And so, in 2004, as December drew near, a beautiful gift arrived in the mail for everyone to share – Line included. It was a gorgeous home-made advent calendar with little gifts to unwrap each day. I cannot remember every gift, nor even if some of them were edible (though I vaguely recall tasting some Danish sweets), and amongst the little treasures were these little clay gnomes.
Each January, I carefully wrap them in bubble wrap and gently place them in my ornament chest, safe and secure for another year. Then when December 1 arrives, they are unwrapped and placed where everyone can see them.
I think of Line often, but especially every time I look at these little, treasured keepsakes. We may have celebrated Christmas without our youngest daughter that year, but we opened our hearts, and our home, to someone in need and she left an indelible mark on all our hearts.
– ⋅ o ♥ o ⋅ –