Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Ghost of my Wintry Past

A Canadian friend of mine sent me this picture of his frontyard after a severe snowstorm blanketed the city. It brought back pleasant memories of my very distant past. I have always been a winter person. I thrive in cold climates. I love walking in the snow all bundled up like the Michelin man in my thick parka. With itchy thermal wear inside to keep me warm, layered with turtlenecks, sweaters, lamb wool pants / skirts, mufflers/scarves, thick stockings, mittens and a woolen cap to cover my ears. Fully stuffed like a turkey with rosy cheeks and a cold red nose to brave the frosty elements.

I vividly recall our entire class (in elementary) had this 'Classe de Neige' ('Snow Class'). We lived one entire month away from our parents, away from school in this little mountain town high up in the Swiss Alps. We took the train from the Gare du Midi (Central Station in Brussels) and traveled miles through the scenic European countryside, crossed the border to reach this remote Swiss town. The entire class was billeted together in this spacious boarding house with bunk beds. We walked to the large mess hall for our meals. Our lessons were conducted in a heated chalet. Amidst a panoramic setting of white clouds in clear blue skies, powdery flakes of fresh snow with cable cars nestled in a valley of snow capped mountains, we studied the geography of Switzerland, had group science projects, mingled with the pupils from the other schools (also attending their Classe de Neige), learned to ski (I totally failed in this subject, I'm Asian for God's sake :D), went hiking in the mountains - it was total assimilation in a winter wonderland up in the chilly Alps.

I was such a happy trooper. My classe de neige is an experience I would always cherish and remember with such warm fondness. But that was a long time ago, back in the days when I wasn't jaded nor sarcastic when every single thing had this semblance of pure innocence coupled with simple joys. Much like this classic French Christmas Carol I sang with my former classmates, way back when "I was small and Christmas trees were tall".

Petit Papa Noel
C'est la belle nuit de Noël
La neige etend son manteau blanc
Et les yeux leves vers le ciel
A genoux, les petits enfants
Avant de fermer les paupieres
Font une derniere priere.

Petit papa Noël
Quand tu descendras du ciel
Avec des jouets par milliers
N'oublie pas mon petit soulier
Mais avant de partir
Il faudra bien te couvrir
Dehors tu vas avoir si froid
C'est un peu a cause de moi

Le marchand de sable est passe
Les enfants vont faire dodo
Et tu vas pouvoir commencer
Avec ta hotte sur le dos
Au son des cloches des eglises
Ta distribution de surprises

Il me tarde que le jour se leve
Pour voir si tu m'as apporte
Tous les beaux joujoux que je vois en reve
Et que je t'ai commandes

Et quand tu seras sur ton beau nuage
Viens d'abord sur notre maison
Je n'ai pas ete tous les jours tres sage
Mais j'en demande pardon

Little Santa Claus
It's a beautiful Christmas night
Snow spreads its white coat
And eyes lift toward the sky
On their knees, small children
Before closing their eyes
Say a last prayer.

Little Santa Claus
When you come down from the sky
With thousands of toys
Don't forget my little stocking.
But before you leave
You should dress well
Outside you will be so cold
And it's kind of my fault

The sandman has passed
The children are going to sleep
And you will be able to begin,
With your sack on your back,
To the sound of church bells,
Your distribution of surprises.

I can't wait for sunrise
To see if you brought me
All the lovely toys that I see in my dreams
And that I ordered from you.

And when you are on your beautiful cloud
Come first to our house
I wasn't always very good
But I ask for your forgiveness

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