One of my oldest holiday traditions is to create a "card tree" on my laundryroom door with the Christmas cards I receive in the mail. I use to get so many cards that I couldn't get them all on the door, but now, with the Internet and all, it's been a few years since that has happened. (Sometimes there's tinsil around the door, or bows between the cards, but none of that, this year!)
Without going into a lot of detail, I'll just share that our recent Christmases have been somewhat less than the joyful occasions they should have been. Sure, we exchanged gifts, attended church on Christmas morning, had a big dinner, and went through all of the usual motions of the holiday. But, our three-generation, all-female, basically isolated Christmases, which are always hosted in my home so that my mother can participate, have begun to take their toll on me - emotionally, and physically. So, this year, I devised a plan to change the pace (and the scenery), and gifted my daughters and myself with a Christmas trip to New Orleans. I'd been working on the idea of a holiday trip for several months, and had explored several options, but the overwhelming guilt of knowing that taking the trip would mean leaving my mother alone on the holiday, kept me from actually booking anything until December 12th. By that time, my original plans to book a Caribbean getaway for the three of us had become out of reach, financially, so after a few days of scrounging around the Internet, I settled on New Orleans, a city that was then boasting temperatures in the 70's, which sounded great to us, since we were in the frigid 20's and 30's.
My daughters arrived home late on the 23rd - actually just before midnight. The next day, we proceeded with our plan to have Christmas with my mother, and to make it as much like the actual day, as possible. We picked her up and brought her over for gift-giving, dinner, and caroling. We showered my mother with gifts, as we always do, and she loved them all. My oldest brother, Ed, who just lost his wife last month, surprised us all by showing up, something that has never happened before. So, as an added blessing, my mother actually got to spend a holiday with two of her children, for the first time in over a decade. We all had a good visit, but as the evening grew late, the girls and I realized we needed to start preparing for our departure the next morning, so we got ready to take my mother back to her assisted living home. On the way, we took our traditional "light ride" (as we call it) through Newport News Park. Normally, we do this on Christmas night, and it doesn't take long at all. Little did we know, this is apparently the thing to do on Christmas Eve. The line and the ride through the park ended up taking almost an hour and 1/2! When we finally got back home, my daughters tried to get me to open gifts that they had for me, but I'd requested that we not exchange gifts, so that we could spend more freely in New Orleans, so I refused, and that was that.
On Christmas morning, I was up early getting my bag packed when my cell phone rang. It was a recorded message from Delta Airlines, letting me know that our flight to New Orleans had been CANCELLED. I won't take up much space in this post writing about the ensuing drama from this, but I'll just say that you've never met DETERMINATION until you've met me. We made it to New Orleans on Christmas, albeit many hours later than originally planned. The Big Easy was freezing cold, with temperatures in the 40's and cold, cold winds blowing, but still, we had a fun trip, taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of New Orleans!
We returned home late last night. My oldest flew out first thing this morning, to return to her home in NY, and my youngest left this afternoon to drive back to DC. (They both have to work tomorrow.)
So, that was it. The Christmas that really wasn't. This year brought none of our usual traditions (except the light ride) - no opening one gift on Christmas Eve (when I usually still tend to give my daughters new pajamas...lol - no Christmas morning casserole - no putting up or taking down the tree (I didn't even decorate the house, since the girls wouldn't even be here to enjoy it). I could go on with what we didn't do, but I won't. What we did do was spend 4 days together, sharing the experience of traveling together for the very first time since my daughters have been "grown". We made new memories - some good, some not so good - but we made them together, and I hope my daughters will share some of the stories from this trip with their children, some day.. Not much about the past five days has felt like Christmas, but knowing that one of these days, my daughters will (hopefully) be married, with families of their own, I'm glad we took the opportunity to do this now. Still, though, 2010 kind of seems to me like the Christmas That Wasn't, so I think if I had it to do again, I would definitely not choose to travel on the actual holiday. I'd stay home, have my "traditions", and then leave on the first thing moving on December 26th!
By the way, about those gifts that my daughters were NOT supposed to have gotten me: Before we went to the airport on Christmas morning, my youngest daughter convinced me that I had to at least open the gift from my oldest, because it was something that I'd want for the trip. Under pressure, I opened it, and was surprised to find that I was the proud new owner of a NOOK! Of course, after that, I had to open the gift from my youngest, which turned out to be a lovely new blanket-scarf, the heavy type that I'd been wanting for a long time. So, even though I still wish they'd stuck to the agreement, I am truly happy and thankful to have two such thoughtful and loving daughters, who are now able to bless me with so many nice things. :)