It was our first holiday season as a married couple and we were living in Washington, D.C. I was eager to fly out of Ronald Reagan National Airport to get home in time to see Santa Claus atop the Indialantic fire engine as I had every Christmas Eve since I could remember. It was the Eve of Christmas Eve 1998. And it was snowing.
My husband and I endured delay after delay as they de-iced the plane yet again. Finally seated on our flight and ready to go at ten o’clock at night, we heard the fateful words of our pilot:
“Sorry, Folks, the flight is canceled. Please deplane, collect your luggage and call the airline in the morning about rescheduling.”
At this point two people on the plane started sobbing hysterically: The over-tired five-year-old seated behind us and me.
With his inconsolable bride wailing non-stop, my dauntless husband retrieved our bags, hailed us a cab back to our Arlington Courthouse apartment, loaded up our Honda Accord and started driving us through sleet and snow in the middle of the night to Florida.
Somewhere in southern North Carolina or northern South Carolina we stopped to rest for what was left of the night at the only motel off I-95 that wasn’t full. When we awoke the next morning we found our vehicle iced shut. We opened the lock remotely and started the car to get it warmed up for the half hour it took us to consume our free continental breakfast and check out.
At around 5pm Christmas Eve, we cheered at the sign indicating our entrance into Brevard County. We made it to my parents’ house where the smell of baking homemade apple crumb and pumpkin cream cheese pies welcomed us. We were just in time to hear Santa coming down Riverside Drive. I jumped up and down and waved from my parents’ driveway as Santa and his crew threw candy to us from atop of the siren-blaring, holiday-light-bedecked fire truck. There were tears of joy in my eyes.
It was great to be home for the holidays.
We’ve since moved home to Indialantic, in part so we would never have to make the trek down and then back up I-95 ever again. You would think that the thought of the holidays would continue to delight me. Not necessarily so. I’ve heard it said that we don’t really become adults until we have children of our own. That certainly seems true this time of year. Now, my perspective is a little more like:
“AAACK, I’m not ready! We can’t spend all that money! I can’t stand to have one more toy junk up the house or the floor of my car. Not one more toy that is destined in ten months or less to find its way to the bargain pile at a neighborhood garage sale. Hand write, address and mail dozens of heartfelt holiday cards? Not happening. Bake an assortment of traditional pies? Fogettabout it. Can’t we have something healthier please? And just when are the kids going back to school? I can’t get any work done without a schedule. They seem to be watching entirely too much T.V.”
How could a woman so nostalgic for her childhood holiday memories turn into a veritable Grinch twelve years and two school-aged children later? To summon up some holiday cheer this year, I turned to the wise little people in the back of the minivan on the drive to Indialantic Elementary:
What do you think about the holidays, Kids?
“AWESOME!” said my son.
“Yeah, AWESOME,” my daughter concurred.
“What’s so awesome about them?” I queried.
“Well, we get to open lots of presents.”
“Is that what it’s all about?”
“No. It’s also fun to stay home, play games with the family, eat special foods like turkey and latkes. We get to drive around and see all of the holiday lights, especially that light fest in Wickham Park. Can we do that again this year?”
“Of course,” I said getting a little excited myself, “I guess it is fun to have that break from school and activities and have a chance to really hang out together, isn’t it?”
“Yeah!” they chorused.
“I guess we don’t get to do enough of that during the rest of the year, do we?”
“You’re right, Kids. The holidays are awesome. You know what Mommy likes? Mommy likes it when Santa Claus comes by on the fire truck on Christmas Eve. Did I ever tell you about the time Daddy and I were on a plane to Florida and we almost missed seeing Santa Claus...”
What we need is to savor these special times with our families. We need to focus on the fact that each holiday gives us a unique opportunity to make sweet and magical memories for us and our families to cherish, look back on, and laugh about. It's a time to spend quality time together, slow down and remember to love each other. We share this love with special foods, rituals, and traditions that even include giving each other little (or big) tokens of our love for each other. This time of year, we are reminded to be a little more gentle, a little more tender and to think of others.
So I've decided not to be a Grinch or a Hum Bug this holiday season. I'm going to forget about the stress and the mess and just enjoy being home with my family. Better yet, I'm going to try to hold on to this feeling all year long and I'm going to do what I can to make amazing memories for my children. I want to make the holiday season something so cherished that my adult children would be willing to drive through a snow storm just to get back home.
That is my special holiday wish. So peace on earth, good will towards all and bless us every single one.