my neil diamond christmas

We’re back in New York for the holidays – our first visit home since July, when we moved.  When we left Abu Dhabi last week, the malls were filled with Christmas: fake pine trees, over-wrapped gifts, and big statues of Santa, often just down the hall from the prayer rooms.  In New York, of course, nativity scenes and menorahs sometimes stand right next to each other in the parks but for some reason—perhaps because I’ve lived in New York for so long, I find the collision of menorahs, mangers, and Santa less jarring than the collision of call-to-prayer with ho-ho-ho.

We’ve been away from New York for five months and in many respects it’s as if we’ve never left: the same buildings are still under construction, the same sirens scream through the streets; the same lines form at Trader Joe’s during peak times.  I’m reunited with my beloved iPhone (which doesn’t work in Abu Dhabi) and like all the other New Yorkers, I walk through the streets making phone calls—after all, what could be more private than a busy Manhattan street? Our wonderful community of friends has carved out time for us in their hectic holiday schedules and our conversations seem to have picked up exactly where we left off last July.

Everything is just as it was.

And yet. We no longer have an apartment in the city, so we’re bouncing around: hotel, family, friend’s apartment (thank you Carey!).  The boys look wistfully at our old building and Caleb has asked more than once why we’re not going “home.”  I can still do the city-street hustle, but at the end of the day, I’m exhausted—I’m out of practice, I guess: my life in Abu Dhabi moves more slowly than my (former) life in Manhattan.

In lots of good ways, these past ten days have been a compressed version of our old lives—but the same downside still exists: Husband points out that once again, here we are in New York, where there is so much to see and do, and he ended up having to take the boys to see “Chipwrecked,” which he says may quite possibly be the worst, most cynical piece of film-making in the history of cinema.  In New York, there are a gazillion things to do and we used to be able to do about four of them; in Abu Dhabi there are only about twenty things to do, but we can manage twelve.

Hectic schedules and singing chipmunks aside, however, being here makes me homesick…for here. It’s a strange feeling, to be homesick in the place you call home.  Don’t get me wrong –I like our life in Abu Dhabi; I like the warmth and I’m fascinated by the complexities of modern Arabic life.  It’s where I live, but I’m not sure it’s home—so you know what’s happened?

What’s happened is that this entire visit has me channeling Neil Diamond, circa 1971. I’ve got about the same hairdo, actually, and a version of his eyebrows.  Who knows. Maybe I’m actually a Jew from Brooklyn. But in any case, Neil has it pegged: “LA’s fine but it ain’t home, New York’s home but it ain’t mine no more.”  Swap AD for LA, and Neil’s singing my Christmas tune.

photo source:

click here to listen to Neil (and go ahead, sing along. You know you want to)

Neil and I are connecting this post to Erica’s lovelinks. You should click over, sing a bit, read around, then come back Wednesday night to vote.

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25 Responses to my neil diamond christmas

  1. Shireen December 27, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    nice post! being in the philippines, with its immense diaspora and big love/worldwide family feeling, has been causing me to meditate on the meaning of home as well. <3

  2. Susan W, December 27, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    Neil is from my old neighborhood, though I’m far too young to remember him. 🙂

    • Deborah Quinn December 29, 2011 at 12:12 am #

      I hadn’t realized until now how quite dashing he was as a young man. All that hair and those dark smoldering eyes… how do you say “yowza” in hebrew, I wonder? : )

  3. anna December 27, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    we only moved to the suburbs, so i insist on an annual one week vacation to nyc every year, it is wonderful but also oddly unsettling when you realize how less “new yorky” you are when it’s not where you live anymore.

    for me, i’ve always liked dolly parton’s explanation of home which she called “anywhere i can hang my hair.”

    • Deborah Quinn December 28, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

      I LOVE Dolly. Always have, always will. And will now adopt her “home” mantra as my own. Thanks for that!

  4. Kindred Adventures December 28, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    I still have so much admiration for your family and their wonderful adventure to live in Abu Dhabi. For me, I think it would be painful to come back to visit the place I would always call home. Besides…no iPhone oh my. I am sure there are so many differences between each city. Some good, some bad. I am happy to hear that the visit went so well. Over all it sounds like a good visit! -Laverne visiting from LoveLinks

    • Deborah Quinn December 28, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

      a new Abu Dhabi friendly Iphone is waiting for me when we return. Santa promised. It’s not been painful to be here, precisely, just…weird. Displacing, if that’s a word. But good, nonetheless.

  5. Alison@Mama Wants This December 28, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    It’s a big change so it’s not surprise that after 5 months, Abu Dhabi isn’t quite home yet. Before you know it, Christmas 2012, you might want to stay ‘home’ for Christmas (AD that is). (and what, your iPhone doesn’t work in AD??)

    • Deborah Quinn December 29, 2011 at 12:11 am #

      Yes, a new iphone that’s UAE compatible is waiting– Santa promised! AD will be nice to get back to…we’ll see about next year. I’m partial to having holidays with lots of chaos and family around, so will have to work on either getting all of them out to the desert, or bringing my Neil Diamond self back to the city!

  6. Ado December 28, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Your iPhone doesn’t work in Abu Dhabi? Oh. My.
    I think it’s so interesting how you can do 12 things in AD but only 4 in NY. Maybe something to do with the culture and lifestyle – NY is so busy and frenetic, I imagine, compared to AD.

    • Deborah Quinn December 28, 2011 at 11:58 pm #

      NY= incredibly expensive theater tickets, babysitting, taxis. Kids much busier, thus less time; me busier, thus less time, and etc. In AD, babysitting is cheap, there is no theater so that solves that problem, and things like kayaking or exploring we can all do together. Slowing down seems to have some benefits, I guess…(but I still miss the museums here).

  7. XLMIC December 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    So glad to have the honest review of “Chipwrecked”! My husband’s instincts were spot on 😛 I tried to shoo him and the kids out the door to see that one…he balked with all his might. The saw TinTin instead.

    I understand somewhat what you’re feeling. I grew up in Berkeley, CA and then moved to the conservative East Coast for 12 years. Neil’s words definitely resonate.

    Hope you enjoy the rest of your time in your old hometown 🙂

    • Deborah Quinn December 29, 2011 at 12:00 am #

      Avoid Chipwrecked like the plague unless you want to be paying your husband back for that favor for months! Berkeley to the east coast would be tough, I can well imagine. Berkeley is one of those places that gets in your blood, I imagine (like nyc) – hard to leave it behind.

  8. Lolo, at The Lyons Din December 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    I can only imagine New York at Christmas… Enjoy your visit!

  9. Recovering Supermom December 28, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

    Your post is so bittersweet. I hope you enjoy the rest of your time home.

    • Deborah Quinn December 29, 2011 at 12:10 am #

      aw…thanks. It’s been a good visit. And will, I imagine, also be good to get back to the desert…and the warmth!

  10. Kimberly December 28, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    I was somewhat tearful until I got to the photo of Neil, which produced a grin; this is great writing. It also brought back memories of my childhood Christmastime soundtrack–the Carpenters. Thank you.

    • Deborah Quinn December 29, 2011 at 12:09 am #

      Ah yes…the Carpenters. That poor skinny girl. Did you have the plastic record player with the cover that closed so you could carry it around? Funny, how those songs from childhood stick with us (should I confess here that I still listen and sing along with Mr. Diamond? Husband covers his ears in pain when this happens).

      • Susan williams December 29, 2011 at 9:42 am #

        You neglected to point out that “listening to and singing along with Neil Diamond” took place as recently as the Champagne-induced Christmas song-fest that took joyous place in your sister’s kitchen!

  11. Jenny Leigh December 28, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    I read this and could feel it. We’re contemplating a move, and you have verbalized exactly the thing that I worry about… But at the same time, it seems like such a wonderful adventure! I hope Abu Dhabi grows to *feel* like home.

    • Deborah Quinn December 29, 2011 at 12:02 am #

      Moving is good. That’s the long-run answer. Short-run? Hard! But good. I think my kids are more resilient, we’re tighter as a family (even if the bicker mcbickersons known as my children spend half their time trying to rip one another’s throats out)…And it’s easier, I think, the younger the kids are — they’re less entrenched in friends/sports/teams, and meeting families is easier when kids are young, I think…

  12. Jamie December 28, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    I can understand these feelings of “where do I hang my hat” when no place really feels like the place. So many familiar sayings, home is where your Mother is, home is where your story starts… I’ve often found that home for me is wherever my bunch is, nestled safely and breathing heavily in their sleep.

    • Deborah Quinn December 29, 2011 at 12:07 am #

      ah yes, the breathing heavily. snoring makes a house a home, I guess, hmm? It’s true. Home isn’t a specific place – it’s more about having the brood all together, wherever that might be.

  13. Just Jennifer December 29, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    After we relocated from CA to WA state I still felt like CA was home, but after being here a few years, I happily now feel HOME. There I still want to visit, but now I’m home.

    Very glad you had a nice time. And I so get the song thing. I get songs in my head so easily.

  14. Robin | Farewell, Stranger December 29, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    I can just imagine. We moved to a new place in our own country and even that is odd. UAE must be quite the culture shock!

    A friend of mine lived there for 4 or 5 years (after going for 1 initially) and really liked it. Sounds like an amazing place to live for a while.

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