Once again, Christmas has come and gone. All the usual festivities are in the books, the presents have all been opened, the Christmas stuff in the house has gone back into storage (actually, in my case it never even came out since I was gone for a lot of it and the Christmas stuff in the stores has hit the clearance rack, and aside from New Year’s Day in a week or so, it’s back to the usual routine, accompanied by the traditional three-month slog through the Seattle Winter (such as it is.) And although the whole thing has been nice as usual, I just haven’t been able to shake the feeling that it all seems just a little bit strange this year.
I suspect that a lot of it has to do with the changes going on within my family this year (which included my parents moving into a new house some distance away, my brother moving out of the state and a new niece and nephew born this year, while I pretty much stayed put) and the various disruptions to the usual order of things that come with it, but we did still manage most of the usual traditions along the way. We had the standard Christmas Eve get-together at my parents’ house with the extended family, but since my parents live much farther away from almost everyone now (it’s about a 42-mile drive on mostly backroads from my house, and as much as an 80-mile drive in each direction for some people) we opted to have it a couple of days early on Sunday. This meant that for the first time in recent memory I was actually on my own for Christmas Eve. Fortunately, I did have some plans lined up (I attended a choir and symphony concert at Benaroya Hall) and managed to figure out the rest as I went along. Christmas Day was celebrated in the usual fashion with a family gathering at my parents’ house, albeit a smaller one than usual (albeit just as loud, six young children running around the house hopped up on candy and presents will do that.) In the end, all the usual highlights of the season in the family were checked off, and yet things still felt a little unusual.
Of course, the most obvious explanation for this was the cruise I took prior to Christmas. As I alluded to in the last post, there’s something about a cruise ship (no matter how big it is) that places it off in its own little world, regardless of where it happens to be at any given time. Even though you’re not truly cut off from the outside world while you’re at sea, most of what’s going on doesn’t really seem to matter much on board. There’s a couple of news channels on the TV, but hardly anyone seems to pay any attention to them. There is also ESPN, but it’s the Caribbean feed rather than the American one, which seems to concern itself mostly with Soccer and Cricket (although they do also find a way to get the NBA and NFL games whenever it’s convenient.) Internet is also available, but it’s very expensive (unless you’ve been on enough cruises to get free Internet minutes on the ship through the cruise line’s loyalty program, and even then you only get enough to use about 20-25 minutes a day at most) and best used in small bursts.) And even though the ship is decorated for the Holiday season, pretty much the only acknowledgement of the Holidays besides the decorations is that occasionally they’ll have some Christmas movies on the stateroom TVs or on the big screen on the top deck. I understand that things tend to be a bit different if you’re on board the ship during Christmas itself, but even then it’s far from the traditional Christmas you might come to expect on land. Combine this with the fact that (assuming you’re in the Caribbean) it’s 80 degrees and sunny every day, and it gets to be surprisingly easy to almost entirely miss the fact that the Holiday season is even happening. Even in the ports of call that the ship visits (on this particular trip it was St. Thomas, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire and Aruba) there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of Christmas in the air. Sure, the decorations are out in force, and the reggae music playing in the shops and the flea markets includes a fair number of Christmas songs, but even with all that it’s still hard to take any of it seriously when it feels like Summer outside and the day’s schedule involves a trip to the beach.
And then after nearly two weeks away in that little bubble (as nice as it is, it still feels like living in a bubble) I get home just in time for Christmas to happen, and immediately start to wonder where all the time went. I’m pretty sure I can account for most of it, but it definitely tends to distort things a bit. As for the cruise itself, I’m sure I’ll be talking about it some in future posts, but in the meantime you can find a few of my thoughts on the trip in this post over at Cruise Critic. To make a long story short, I really enjoyed the itinerary and the chance to see a number of different ports I hadn’t been to before, but there were a few minor quibbles along the way. I’m not sure I’d be rushing to go do it all again at this point though. I think it would be a good time to stay put (sort of) for a while. After all, if I start needing a vacation from the vacation I needed after the last vacation that starts to complicate things a bit.