We went back to Colmar, the small French town with the killer Christmas markets, but it wasn’t the same trying to recreate our first visit, when it was just me and Dawn.
But if you’re a 10-year-old, on the cusp of not believing in Santa, there’s no better way to close the deal than what Charlotte experienced: a late night Santa outside a tavern leaned up against a wall, pissing.
Mom and I stopped in for a beer and had to laugh—we tried to rework the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” from,
He’s making a list,
He’s checking it twice
He’s taking a piss,
He’s shaking it twice
And there was a prostitute at the bar mom said, but somehow I missed her…a whole band of drunk Santas and one Mrs. Claus, a guy in drag with a blonde wig.
Five of us: mom and I, Dawn, Lily and Charlotte: Lily, with her new wave hair cut and AC/DC shirt…Charlotte, still doing the parallax view phenomenon tic, where she tilts her head from side to side…five of us looking for a table at a place we could all agree upon, and my limited French.
And we found it, barely, on the edges of town in a small place that looks like a convenience store, where Dawn and I got a bottle of wine our first time, pour l’emporter (to go).
There was just the right table for us in the back and enough room for Charlotte to swing her legs, and the kids to be a bit loud: and then an older couple came back and sat beside us, the man spoke French/German and we could paste the two languages together, sometimes in the same sentence, not realizing it…and when they left he and his wife shook hands with all of us, going around the table, and it made our night, they were so nice…it made the idea of borders seem foolish, we threw in some Italian even, some English…how often the best parts of travel remind us of how similar we are, how much humanity we share through a simple smile and handshake.
In the morning the street workers and pigeons were out, Monday, a week from Christmas, and time to go back to Besigheim.
We wanted to load up on cheese and yogurt, wine, mustard—but restrained ourselves: mom handed me a 50 and said just get some cheese, a variety: and Dawn and the kids waited outside our favorite café but when they opened they said COMPLET, and kept saying that until Dawn left: and we couldn’t work out the parking ticket to get out of the garage but the attendant was kind enough to help between what English he had, and what French I did: and by the time we got back to the car it was 3:30, we only had to take the 8, the 5, the 81…but a truck blew up on the autobahn, the radio said something happened in Tacoma we couldn’t understand…and by the time we got back to Besigheim to warm up our pasta, we were just glad to be home. The weather calls for snow Tuesday into Wednesday, but the extended forecast shows no hope for a white Christmas.