I’ll be home for after Christmas.
We’re at T-minus two days and counting until the big day. Soon, Carla’s parents will be arriving and we’ll being going to Christmas Eve services at church. The surprise and joy of Christmas morning will give way to the irritability and arguing of sleep-deprived children.
Cognitively, I know that Christmas isn’t for me. It’s for the kids. Emotionally, though, I need to have a connection with my past before I can truly feel I’ve celebrated Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong, Christmas with my wife and children in our own home is special. I treasure the traditions we are developing and enjoy building life-long memories with our boys. But for me to feel like I’ve had Christmas requires a trip to my parents’ house in Central Florida.
Since I left for Troy University in 1988, I’ve been making a pilgrimage to Lake Wales some time during the holidays. The 502-miles of pavement allow my mind to travel through time to revisit memories of previous Christmases.
Like the time I gave my brother, Lee, the life-size cardboard standup Michael Jordan for Christmas. All our Christmas pictures that year had Mike wearing a Santa hat in the background.
Or the year my youngest brother Lyle ate too many helpings of Lee’s famous barbecue meatballs during an all-night Madden football video game tournament. He has since sworn off meatballs.
Like Christmas itself, now that I have kids of my own, the trips to Florida have taken on a different meaning. My children look forward to these vacations because they get to spend time with grandparents they don’t often see, and, yes, they get even more presents.
My dad’s unpredictability adds to the excitement. One year he took the boys and their cousins for a night-time hay ride through the orange groves. Not a year goes by that he doesn’t introduce them to such classic songs as “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?” and “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd.”
So like so many snowbirds over the next several weeks, we’ll load up the minivan and head down I-75. If you have to drive home for Christmas, Central Florida isn’t a bad destination. At the risk of sounding like a member of the Florida Tourism board, this is really the best time of year to visit. It’s in that narrow window of about two months when the weather isn’t unbearably hot and humid. With temperatures in the 60s and 70s, we will be packing shorts and T-shirts, ready to enjoy outdoor play in my parents’ expansive yard or at one of the nearby parks.
Central Florida also just happens to be home to a number of theme parks. This year we’ll be trying out the new Legoland Florida, which opened this fall a convenient 20 minutes up the road from my parents’ house.
There is no place like home for the holidays, even for grown ups. I look forward to making more memories with my family even while reminiscing about a few that happened before I had one of my own.
Now I’ve got to go find my shorts to pack.
It’s your turn! Where do you travel for the holidays? Do you take family vacations or do you travel great distances to see family? Are you separated from family by geography and miss out and seeing family members? Leave a comment below on how you cope with holiday travel.