Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Reflections - 2010

As the holiday season begins to wind down, I find myself reflecting on the choices I made for myself (and my family) this year.  Although it's just my daughters, my mother, and me, we have established a few holiday traditions over the years, most of which were pushed aside this year in lieu of a "different" kind of Christmas.

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!  
My daughters and me on the streetcar in 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 - 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!

My girls on Bourbon Street in NOLA

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. :)

Me with my new shawl and NOOK reader. :)


Carol said...

Renate, a belated Merry Christmas.

Love the shawl, and hope you will tell us all about your Nook, can you figure any way to use it for research, family files??

Renate said...

Thanks, Carol, and same to you!

I haven't done much exploring with the NOOK yet. We just got back last night, and as yet, I've only used it to read a book. I do think I will be able to put files on it though, and it also has Internet/Wi-fi, so I can go online easily without having to take my computer and with a bigger screen than my phone. I can also put my own pictures into the screensaver, so I guess if nothing else, I can look at my ancestor's faces wherever I go! :)
I will try to report back with more as I make new discoveries!

Barbara Poole said...

Renate, I loved this post. I read only a few this month, because of time, but since I enjoy your writing, I knew I had to read this. What wonderful piece. You and your daughters will never forget this Christmas, and the havoc the weather played everywhere. Glad you opened your gifts too. Carol and I will be buying a Nook before too long.

Renate said...

Thanks, Barbara! Yes, it was somewhat surreal watching the weather-mess on television. My area got between 8-12 inches. Of course, I'm sure everyone knows what my daughter, the New Yorker, missed out on. :)
Thanks for being such a supportive reader!


hummer said...

Wonderful post. Special to have your children around you at Christmas. Glad you had a wonderful season.

Renate said...

Thanks, Hummer!

Kristin said...

your daughters are beautiful. sounds like a good time. sorry it was so cold for you in new orleans but i'm sure it was warmer than up north. i really enjoyed reading about your Christmas. Sometimes it's time for a change, if only to see what we want to keep.

Renate said...

Hey Kristin - that's a great way of looking at it! Thanks for that, and thanks for your compliments. :)


Ms Vicky said...

A great story Renate! I enjoyed it very much! Happy Holidays

Greta Koehl said...

Sounds like your daughters are real gifts themselves! Sometimes it's just right to do something different. I don't know whether it's any consolation, but it was really freezing here while you were gone - 40s would have been nice!

Renate said...

Thanks, Vicky, and Greta. BTW, it was 75 degrees in NOLA today! Bah-humbug!

LOL, Renate

Mavis said...

Sometimes you just have to break the normal routine. I'm glad you still were able to make your trip. And you were one brave woman to make travel plans for Christmas Day.

Renate said...

Ha,ha. Thanks, Mav. I had no precedent, so I guess I was blissfully I won't do it again anytime soon!

Happy New Year!

Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

Renate... I have chosen your blog to receive the Ancestor Approved award. Please visit my secondary blog,, to pick it up. :-D Lisa

Renate said...

Thanks, Lisa! That's very kind of you! I will pick up the award later today, and try to do it justice. :)


Saving Stories said...

Hi Renate!
Your Christmas looked great!
I am selecting you for the Ancestor Approved Award:

Visit Leslie to get your award:

Kristin said...

wow! i am looking for bloggers i follow to give the ancestor approved award to and i was thinking great! you don't have it when i see two people beat me to it! LOL. it is hard to find people who don't aready have the awards. what to do? what to do?

Renate said...

Leslie and Kristin, you are both entirely too kind. It means so much to be that you (and Lisa)are recognizing me in this way. I originally received the Ancestor Approved Award back in April. Here is a link to my original post in response to the award.

Thanks, again, so very , very much!


Southwest Arkie said...

Renate, I'm glad it all worked out in the end, and it was especially nice that your brother got to be with your family.
Happy New Year!

Kathleen Brandt, Professional Genealogist said...

Beautiful shawl, beautiful daughters, and the Nook is off the hook! But I'm most happy you and daughters went and enjoyed NO inspite of all!
Happy New Year. May your school year be full of learn-thirsty students.