Adjusting to holiday changes

Throughout my life, when my holiday traditions have changed, for financial or family reasons, I have found myself yearning for what used to happen.

When I was young, my family would travel regularly during winter vacations:  Florida, Washington DC, the Caribbean, Europe.  I grew accustomed to the ritual, and was very excited about all the family planning and discussion in preparation for the event:  what we would see, friends we would visit, places we would stay.   I would wear my favorite outfits (white go-go boots stand out in my mind), and prepare for the warmth or the cold of our travel destination.  With a family of four children, we each kept a travel journal, and I was the collector, the one who saved every little travel trinket that could be taken from any location we visited:  shells, coins, pamphlets, playbills, and postcards…I brought back my treasures and could relive the moments that stood out from the wonderful adventures we experienced.

Time passed and I started my own family.  We were not in the same financial position as my family had been when I was younger, and the travel to which I had become accustomed no longer filled up my winter holidays. I remember the first few winters when I would anticipate the upcoming holiday vacation, assuming we would make some sort of extravagant travels plan.  The disappointment would come slowly, as I realized that the holiday break would consist of a local gathering, a meal with friends, and a lot of down time. It was very hard for me at first, and I resented what I felt I was missing. Lots of neighbors and friends were traveling and making plans; why weren’t we? The travel planning that took place in my family of origin was not even vaguely discussed in my new family.  No trips, no travel, not even a word.

More time passed, and my children got a bit older.  We began to establish our own rituals:  a visit to the zoo to see animals and holiday lights, a small holiday party with a Yankee Swap, a day train trip to New York City with the local train club (my son was an avid train enthusiast), eating latkes and playing dreidel with our neighbors, or taking yet another holiday train ride at Edaville Railroad.  These memories became special and very important as my expectations shifted, and time with my new family became the focus of the holiday.

Now both of my children will soon be out of the house.  We have continued some of the family holiday rituals, and some new rituals have been established.  We no longer travel on the train to New York City, and our Yankee Swaps no longer take place. And my children are not spending all their holiday time with my husband and me.

Instead of having memories of far away places and collections of travel trinkets for a scrapbook, we have photos, and stories, and memories that are connected to events closer to home.  And my longing now is about returning to a time when my oldest son was 6, and we got up early to catch the train to New York City, singing holiday songs along the way, and treasuring every single moment of that amazing and wonderful time in life.

Perhaps the holiday travel I yearned for earlier in my life, and the time I yearn to return to now, have more to do with the oft-forgotten lifelong motto by Robert Ingersoll that I had tacked on the wall of my childhood bedroom: “The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here.” Perhaps holiday travel in my family of origin was the same as the holiday rituals that now take their place in a different form in my family now.

Perhaps if you want to, and you are able, you can travel and enjoy wonderful family experiences.  And perhaps if you are not able, you can still enjoy wonderful family experiences closer to home.

No matter which train you board, I now have learned that the journey can be wonderful and amazing. All Aboard!



1 Response

  1. CP

    Very resonant piece, Amy. My kids are adolescents now and I wonder what it will be like once they begin spending more time away from us. I only hope they can afford it so they can have other experiences.

    When we were kids, my parents could only “afford” one four day “vacation” a year. It was usually camping which was fine with us, we grew up in the woods and this was just a change of scenery, often to cool places like WV and NE. And we had a canoe and in our teens we worked hard at jobs to save up and buy kayaks so running rivers was all part of it and worthwhile. I eventually turned that into a job with a river guide company—one of the best jobs I ever had. My parents were big on picnics when we had to go on long drives (usually for their work or school assignments) rather than restaurants. We camped instead of hotel/motelling it—most places were $5 at most back then. Frankly I didn’t know this was because we didn’t have funds for such things. The travel I did on planes and other modes were to go places with music groups I was a part of and funded typically by fundraisers and grants (which don’t seem to exist anymore). I was lucky I was a musician with some ability because I did get to go places kids from my background didn’t. I loved and still love to explore other places and “feel” what it means to be “from” there.

    I do remember feeling bummed out as I watched other kids go to Florida, the Carribean, Wyoming and CO to ski, etc. Today I feel my kids’ disappointment as their peers go to Hawaii and Europe to their second homes and we basically hang out with a bonfire in the backyard. I have mixed feelings about all of it.

    Pre-kids, my Mate and I traveled all over, camping, mountaineering, etc. using the same methods I thought of as normal: picnics, stuff that basically only cost gas to get there and back, gas was cheap and going to the woods and mountains didn’t cost an access fee (permits were basically “free”). The few times we did “travel” in conventional manner it was on expensive credit which we paid for over many years and hurt us in the short and long term financially.

    Once kids arrived, we camped, but less often as mountains were no longer places to climb and car camping involved fees, that got more expensive every year until we had to stop “vacations” altogether. I feel the wanderlust in a big way. My son and I took a trip a few years back to the Grand Canyon to backpack. It took me a year to squirrel cash away under the mattress (if it went into the bank it would disappear) to afford it.

    Holiday travel we haven’t done for years, no funds for it, especially with hours and job cutbacks December, along with September & June seem to be the hardest months and the ones where everyone around us goes elsewhere while we stay home. But then again we have little patience for the holiday crowds and the general intensified crowd-agitation and aggression that holiday “leisure” seems to involve.

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