I may no longer be in school, but this past winter break was probably the best one ever. (If anything has topped it, my aging brain has forgotten it.) There are several reasons why it was so fantastic, but what made it stand out the most was that it was truly a time where I and my family focused on us. We did things together without school or work looming large.
The Verona school system closed at 12:30 on December 23, 2015 and my office closed several hours later. From then until Sunday, January 3, 2016 we did not think or worry about anything school- or business-related. When my son read, it was for pleasure, not for logging minutes. When I went online, I was checking personal email and social media, not worrying about business projects. (What a blessing it was to have a “forced” vacation with my company realizing how slow things would be during the holidays and shutting down completely until the morning of January 4.)
So what did we do that was so great? We relaxed. We didn’t worry. We didn’t stress. We enjoyed each other’s company. We did things together … and apart. We did go away for a few days and were pampered and that added to our vacation experience, but it was not solely what made those 10 days so special. (I’m not including Sunday in the mix, since that was our “gearing back up for reality” day, which included instrument practice, study review, and logged reading for my son and clearing up most of the holiday trappings and general cleaning for my husband and I.)
Here’s a list of just a few of the things that made this winter break so special for my family:
- Listening to my son sing (not just in the children’s choir, but as he stood beside me in the church pew and sang carols) and watching him be one of three kings at the family Christmas Eve service.
- Having all of my immediate family attend the traditional Christmas Eve service at 9 p.m.
- Watching my son and his friends play outside (in their pajamas) on Christmas morning since it was so warm.
- Going for a walk on Christmas morning; Santa hat on and holiday tunes playing on the iPod. As I did a brief, modified walk before I put the holiday meal together, everyone I saw greeted me with a “Merry Christmas.” (Some people even shouted out the car window to me on Pompton Avenue!)
- Having a mid-day Christmas meal with my extended family. Gave us enough time to enjoy the morning and there was no rush at the end of the day.
- Catching the “final” showing of the A Christmas Story marathon with my son. (Maybe he was more focused on building with the multitude of Legos that he received by the glow of the Christmas tree lights, but we were laughing together.)
- Enjoying time and a meal out at Frank Anthony’s with my in-laws the day after Christmas.
- Making more holiday cookies (because we ate too many and gave away even more) with my son. (Maybe I did incorporate some fractional math there since I doubled the recipe.)
- Going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sadly there aren’t as many local theaters around as when I was a kid. (I saw Star Wars many times at the long gone Cinema 23.) However, you can still get a bargain at the Caldwell Cinema on Tuesdays. We went in the morning and enjoyed the show with a huge bucket for popcorn for under $25. I’ll admit it, I cried during the opening text crawl. What can I say, I’m a sap.
- Hiking with my son, not once, but twice during our trip to the Poconos. (I’ll ignore the fact that he complained half way through our second hike.) We also did a lake walk in the fog.
- Watching my husband and son get dressed up for 3 dinners.
- Ice skating on the last day of 2015 and first day of 2016. The skates had been hiding in my parents’ attic for at least 40 years, but I dug them out and managed to squeeze my feet into them. (It wasn’t easy!) I was much better the second day despite falling once. (I had to drag myself over to the rail to get back up! Completely embarrassing when a very sweet teen asked me if I was hurt.)
- Dancing with my son AND my father on New Year’s Eve. Watching fireworks as the year ended. The five of us being together when the balloons dropped at midnight. (And we all stayed awake!)
- Emptying out our gratitude/memories jar and reading/remembering all the great things that happened in 2015.
- Seeing a red-tailed hawk on the fence at H.B. Whitehorne on my final “vacation walk” late Sunday afternoon when it was still warm enough. And being lucky enough to get a (so-so) photo. It was the perfect way to wrap up a wonderfully relaxing winter break.
Were there some less than perfect moments during my winter vacation? Of course there were (and there always will be no matter how hard everyone tries to make a vacation “ideal”). But those moments will fade; the memories that we had together will last a lifetime. It will be those memories that carry me through as I rush out the door to get my son to school early in the morning and when I get stuck in traffic during the evening drive home.
Beth Shorten is a life-long resident of Verona. You can read more of her writing on her personal site, Bfth’s Boring Blog.