Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Past and Present

-->The Christmas of my youth was a rigidly formatted affair.  I say this with affection - it took none of the fun out of it for me - but there it was.  One knew that every year would follow precisely the same pattern as every other, to the minute.  The eleventh commandment: Thou Shalt Spend Christmas the Exact Same Way Every Year of thy Life.  Christmas Eve: 6pm N family party; 7pm church; 8:30pm K family party; 9:30 home, candle lit and to bed.  Christmas day: 8am wake up and wait to be allowed downstairs; 8:02am stockings; 8:15am breakfast; 9am presents; 11am watch movies in a chocolate-and-Pringles-induced stupor until 4pm L family Christmas.  Boxing Day (oh, look it up, ye non-Canucks): 3pm J family Christmas.  And so it went.  Year in, year out, decade after decade.  When Erik and I became an item and arrived at the dating milestone of “What about the holidays?”, I happily discovered that he and his family celebrate on Christmas Eve.  I endured the yearly eye-rolls for skipping that part of the schedule, we went to his parents on the 24th, his troupe of three was assimilated into the Borg of my family events on the 25th and 26th, and No Difficult Choices Needed To Be Made.  Hurrah. Even now, with children of my own, my family at large resists the changes that age and geography have brought, and insists we follow our ancient pattern as closely as possible.

And so, perhaps you can understand what a Big Deal it was when the family discovered that we would be away for Christmas this year.  More than one reproachful look was levelled in my direction, more than one subtle opinion lobbed across the dinner table.

This is not to say that Erik and I were blasé about the whole thing.  On the contrary, repetition had worn a groove in my soul, and I found it a bit wrenching to think of missing my very first Christmas at home.  Even when we lived overseas, we came home for those precious few days.  But this year, it was not to be.  And I was a little sad.

And then:

Yeah.  Swimming on Christmas.  Kind of takes a lot of the sting out of it.  And not to be callous towards you people living in a winter wonderland, but ha ha ha!

Frankly, we were lucky.  You’ve no doubt been too busy shovelling snow to follow our weather report, so I’ll give you the synopsis.  Weather in Florida this December: freezing.  And I mean, water-turning-to-ice freezing.  The whole month.  Maybe you aren’t boo-hooing for me that I only put on a t-shirt three days this month, but honest to Murgatroyd, was it so much to ask?  From Florida?

Throughout our cold, cold cold, oh-so-cold days and nights in the Chesapeake, Erik and I would huddle by the diesel stove and give each other knowing nods, whispering “Florida” like a holy chant.  We knew.  No matter it was unseasonably cold throughout Maryland.  And Virginia.  And both Carolinas.  And Georgia, which we skipped altogether because it was so cold.  We knew.  Florida was waiting, and with it the beaches and bathing suits.

Pfft.  Wrong.

Anyway, nuts to you, Florida.  We’ve had our fun, but, sunny or not, we’re pulling up stakes from Key West next week and heading for the Bahamas for...

Can you guess?

That’s right.  A belated family Christmas.

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