I don't know if there is a god in our universe, but if there is one, I would like to make a complaint to her: my grandfather should have lived longer. He passed away at 66, leaving not only my 9-year old self behind but also all of my other future selves in a deficit of his company. My grandfather loved Christmas. I think I learned to love it with him. He had a couple of vinyl records with instrumental Christmas carols - I can clearly remember a harp on the cover of one of them - that he played throughout Christmas eve and Christmas day. The memory of those songs sends me straight back to the living room at his and my grandmother's house, where their Christmas tree stood tall and majestic. He had a talent for making things special. Once, he bought a recorder so that my brother and I could record our own singing. Of course, me being me, I wanted to monopolize the microphone to sing my own songs. His voice saying "Bia, let your brother sing as well!" has been a source of comfort for me ever since. I wish I still had that cassette tape, but somehow it disappeared in one of the many times I moved to a different neighborhood, city, or country. My therapist told me recently that I have a "moving bug", and by that, he meant I need to move constantly. I think that is partly right. It is not the moving that attracts me, but the process of going to a different place and learning how to exist in it. I owe that to my grandfather as well. Right before he died, he got a passport (pictured above) because he wanted to explore the world. He also wanted to go to Italy, his home country, perhaps to understand where we come from and why our family struggles so much with mental illness. He passed his sense of curiosity to me. I carry it within me every day as I make decisions to initiate my own explorations of feelings, places, and times. He also taught me how to be happy by being alone. He would sit in the front yard of his house with his portable radio and listen to soccer games by himself. He would stay there for hours, without having a clue about what was going on in the world apart from his games. That is how I feel when I am reading fiction. I sit in my chair and stay there for hours without realizing what is going on around me. I am content that way.
Sometimes I think about a life in which we could do all this - the exploring, the being lonely - together. I wish that life existed.
Beatriz Rey is a political scientist and a writer based in Washington, D.C.