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Home for the Holidays - Or Not


by Diane McCalley

The image of Christmas in most people's minds is that of the entire family congregating at the family homestead and enjoying Christmas at home, a fire in the fireplace, a Christmas tree with all the family ornaments, and perfectly-wrapped presents tucked beneath. That's the way it's always been and that's the way it always will be. It's tradition. And, you don't break tradition, right? Right?

Actually, for the past 11 years my son and I have altered from that routine. We leave the comforts of home for parts unknown and travel over Christmas. We don't see it as breaking tradition, but, rather, creating new traditions, and, in the process, creating memories to last our entire lives.

I noticed a curious thing one Christmas when my son was about 8 years old. All those toys I so painstakingly searched for, ordered from catalogs, stood in line at the post office to receive, wrapped and distributed under the tree were opened, played with and forgotten about within a day. Christmas, it seems, had become a one-day wonder, much anticipated and quickly forgotten.

I began to think back on my own family traditions growing up. What did I remember most? To be honest, toys weren't the highest things on my list. Oh, sure, there was the occasional doll or stuffed animal, but I can't honestly remember which Christmas I received which gifts. What really stuck out in my mind, though, were the times my mother would take my brothers, sister and me to a local park, where we would enjoy the 'picnic breakfast' she had packed of powdered donuts and little individual boxes of cereal. We were a poor family, so those little cereal boxes were a big deal to us. But, what was an even bigger deal was my mother setting aside time just for us.

That's when I realized that the best gift I could give my son was me. My time. My attention. I decided that my son and I would begin creating our own Christmas tradition by taking a journey together over the Christmas holiday. That one journey spawned the next one, and the next one. And now? Well, it's tradition, and it's been that way for 11 years.

Did my son miss his tree and toys at home that first outing? Actually, he didn't. Although I did give him a couple small packages to open, he felt special helping us create our own Christmas traditions.

Of course, I also benefit from this new tradition. I have memories of my son that will last my entire life. I remember one of our early Christmases staying on Coronado Island near San Diego. My son thought it was pretty cool that on Christmas day we were having Christmas dinner at the Hotel del Coronado. It was one of my favorite Christmas dinners, and no cleanup!

Strolling along the beach in Coronado was also the place he shared with me what he wanted to be when he grew up -- a circus performer. He tried to imitate the acrobatic moves he'd seen and landed hard on the sand. I could tell his pride was bruised, so I didn't say a word, just held out my hand to him to let him know I'd always have his back.

Well, 11 years later, he's now a student at l'Ecole Nationale de Cirque in Montreal, Canada. That's right, a circus school. One of the best circus schools I might add. And, last Christmas, on our ski vacation to Vancouver, I took a hard tumble onto the snow during one of my ski lessons. And, though he could tell my pride was bruised, he didn't say a word, but just held out his hand to me to let me know he'd always have my back too.

So, would I go back and change anything about our Christmases together? With memories like those, not a chance.

Diane McCalley is an accountant and website publisher. You can visit her websites at http://www.thetravelerscompanion.com.

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