This is the first Christmas we did not travel to see our extended family. I could say this was on purpose; I could say that we wanted to start making our own holiday memories as a new(ish) family. That we’re trying to stand on our own two (four?) legs. Drawing lines in the sand. Setting boundaries. Duh duh duh. La la la. Bah.
See what I did there when I ran out of points to support my argument? Scholars and politicians, take note!
But really, we didn’t travel to see our folks because we’re just plain broke. Sorry, parents. The magical money train did not arrive at the station this year. Oh, you didn’t know about the magical money train? Forget I said anything.
We’ve been trading off holidays since our third Christmas together, when I dragged the beau to Michigan to meet my extended family for the first time. That trip ended up being a travel story from hell, and I should totally tell you about it one day. But that’s the latent danger in going anywhere at this time of year: weather can make your trip a total nightmare. And for me, there’s always heightened anxiety around ohmigod will there be snow please please please, and crushing bitterness when a blanket of white fails to manifest on the ground.
AND ABOUT THAT: Let me just say I am so glad that all the places we usually go for Christmas were bone-dry this year. I couldn’t have handled it if this year, of all years, had been the one in which my longstanding Christmas wish for a raging blizzard was finally granted. It genuinely would have broken me. You would have never gotten another post, because I would have died of rare but severe condition called Advanced Snow Jealousy.
It’s a thing. Look it up on Web MD.
Still. This was the first time in my life that I wasn’t going to be around any sort of family for the holidays, and I was ready to experience a slight twinge of disappointment about that. Because sometimes it’s nice to be around those you love; to embrace the bustle and craziness of your family home. At least for the first day or two, because after that every time your mom spews high-pitched nonsense syllables at the dog or every time your father-in-law says something about how all women like shopping you start gritting your teeth until they’re worn down to nubs. But those initial hours tucked in the warm, woozy, boozy bosom of family! Oh my, they can be enchanting.
Then, as Christmas gradually approached and then suddenly arrived like BAM!, a curious thing happened. The twinge never came. I didn’t experience one iota of sadness over the holidays.
Because I was too busy having buckets of fun. Permit me to now prove it to you, via words and pictures! Crappy pictures. Crappy pictures that I took with my cell phone and DIDN’T EVEN ADD A FILTER! Hey, how’s that for a Christmas miracle?
On Christmas Eve I dragged my new bike out of the spare room, where it has sat sadly unused since my birthday, and the beau and I went for a ride to Montecito. Down State Street, along the waterfront, around the bird preserve, past the Biltmore, and over the freeway. It was sunny and clear and warm enough to rip my jacket off halfway through the ride and toss it in the basket. Turns out that a tunic and leggings are questionable apparel when seated on a bicycle, but I was too giddy to care. Merry Christmas, everyone! Look at my crotch!
In Montecito we stopped at a bar. The beau ordered a beer and I, seeking something different and somewhat seasonal, ordered an Irish coffee. And when the bartender asked me if I wanted whipped cream on it, I looked him right in the eye and said, “Hell yes, I do.”
Then I sat down and invited him to look at my crotch.
Just kidding! I think.
The sun was beginning to set as we mounted our bikes to ride back home. Down around the bird preserve and to the waterfront we sped, the wind in our hair. Just taking in the sights.
An old man slowly walked arm-in-arm with an old woman. Tourists tried unsuccessfully to navigate brightly colored rented surrey bikes. Children clad in rainbow colors danced outside a drum circle. Homeless men passed around a bottle and laughed. An woman passed out sandwiches in brown paper sacks to two benches teeming with unruly children, shrilly barking, “Whoooo wants tuna fish?” To my left, I spotted a family of four adults standing in the sand with cups in their hands, waiting for one of the group to pour some celebratory champagne. The grandmother smiled, and I did too.
Almost seven years I’ve lived here, and this was the first time I’ve seen Christmas in my town.
On Christmas morning at my parents’ house, you’re expected to get up and eat iced sweet rolls in the shape of a tree and drink coffee and open presents while still in your pajamas. But on Christmas morning at my house? You go for a hike.
Apparently. I don’t know. We were kind of making this up as we went.
By the time we got around to opening presents, it was the middle of the afternoon. We opened a bottle of champagne and commenced with the festivities.
Beau got me a pair of pajama pants with a TOMMY GUN printed on it. Because I needed EVEN MOAR ATTENTION drawn to my crotch!
My parents got Beau a bottle of Virginia rye whiskey!
Beau got ridiculously sappy with his “to” and “from” names!
After we were done unwrapping, we celebrated by consuming chocolate and more booze.
Christmas dinner was held at a friend’s house. We stuffed ourselves with bacon-wrapped scallops and shrimp cocktail, and then her Italian mother force-fed us delicious lasagne while grumbling that we were all too skinny. SERIOUSLY. I wanted to take this woman home with me forever.
A delirious time was had by all.
The moral of the story? I think every Christmas should be a stay-at-home Christmas from now on.
And now, I really hope one of these videos works:
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