Forty-seven years celebrated exactly the same– same family members; same neighbors; same hand made ornaments each telling a nostalgic tale, same trivial meal preparation squabbles; same Christmas Eve Mass…sacred traditions created with love and family bonding for almost half a century.
So what happens when you lose an integral part of that tradition?
Christmas Mantra 2016: Keep things as “same” as possible. Since this was the first Christmas without my father, we tried to maintain all traditions. We remained stoic as we sat around the dining room table and stared at the empty chair. We remained stoic when we heard Neil Diamond singing, “You Make it Feel Like Christmas” on my parents’ old Bose radio–the one that my father loved to listen to every snowy Christmas Eve. We tried to keep every tradition alive because we believed that’s what my dad would want.
Fast forward to this past October. While chatting with my mother on the phone, she announced, “Kristen, we are going to do something different this Christmas.” My first thought was trying a new recipe? or perhaps visiting Rockefeller Center after Christmas rather than before? inviting a new neighbor that my mom had befriended over the past year? Those were changes I was expecting to hear.
“I want to go on a trip.”
“A trip…Somewhere different. Something different.”
So…in a couple of weeks, we are heading on a Central American Christmas cruise. We will be celebrating Christmas Eve over a vast ocean, Christmas morning pulling into a Mexican port and sharing our New Year’s resolutions on the beaches of Belize.
No crackling fire. No presents under the Christmas tree. No dining room table.
Growing up, my parents loved taking cruise vacations. In fact, we cruised almost every year. I remember my father squeezing my hand so tightly on the upper most deck, where the sea winds were so forceful, he was afraid I’d blow away. I remember him telling me there was probably another little girl on the other side of the horizon, looking out over the sea, just as I was, probably dreaming the same exact dreams at that very moment. I remember us writing a message that we placed into a glass bottle and tossing it overboard (you were encouraged to do this back in the day). I wish I could remember what we wrote in that message.
So besides breaking every Christmas tradition, this will be my first cruise without my father. My mother’s first cruise without her husband.
I’m hoping our trip will unwrap new traditions, heal hurts from the past and offer new memories for our family. Nothing will ever be the same. We are breaking traditions–we must sail on.