“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” ~Laura Ingalls Wilder
As you may have seen in my last post, my family celebrates “Alternate Christmas” every year. It is a tradition borne from necessity, mostly because we really do like each other and enjoy spending time together during the holidays. It was easier, of course, in early adulthood when my siblings and I all lived in New Jersey. But then one brother moved to Philadelphia, one brother moved closer to New York City, and I moved to Connecticut.
Then I had a kid, and then my parents followed me here. Don’t worry, it’s not an “Everybody Loves Raymond” scenario. We love each other, but…please. They live 45 minutes away. Close enough that we don’t have to make overnight trips, far enough to not feel free to just drop by unannounced. It’s perfect.
My brothers got married and now have to split their time with their extended families. Plus,they both work non-traditional schedules, and while one usually has to work on holidays, the other could be scheduled to work on a holiday ahead of time, or called in to work on a moments’ notice. So all of that led to some rethinking of how to celebrate the holidays.
Enter my parents’ brilliant idea of Alternate Christmas! One or two weeks before actual Christmas, we gather at their house and exchange gifts, have lots of laughs, eat all of the food and maybe have a glass of wine or fourteen. My children get to see their aunts and uncles without all of the major Regular Christmas overwhelm, my parents get to have all of their kids and grandkids in one place at the same time, and really, despite any drama leading up to the event, without fail, it is wonderful.
This year, we had an extra bonus, in the form of a random thought I had that made it out of my mouth before I really thought about it. You know what I mean, when you have what seems like a good idea at the moment, and you say it aloud, and your littles get all pumped up for it, and when the time comes you’re like, ehhhhh…can we skip that? And then there’s near-tears and “you promised!” (even though you know you’d NEVER be stupid enough to promise anything by this point) and then you really have no choice but to look into those giant eyes and say, “Of course, let’s go!”
My idea was to go to the “Holiday Lights” event at Lake Compounce here in Bristol, Connecticut. It’s a theme and water park that is open during the summer months, and then opens for limited times for Halloween and the December holiday season. For Holiday Lights, the park is open for a few weekend evenings, a limited number of rides are open, the place is all lit up, there are wandering elves, the largest Christmas tree in the state, food trucks, crafts and Santa Claus!
My original idea was to gather the aunts and uncles and grandparents and go Saturday afternoon. That didn’t work out, so we made plans to meet my parents there the next afternoon. And somewhere around 1pm is when I was like, ehhhhh…but I got over it, rallied, and we went, and I’m so glad we did! Even though it was cold, SO COLD, it was a tremendous amount of fun for all of us. So worth it! Just look:
Happy Holidays, and I’ll see you when the calendar flips!