White Wine In The Sun

Christmas 1996. The family gathered around a dining table, in Cancun, Mexico. Clockwise from left: Dad, Aunt Carol, Max, Lisa (sister), Bill (brother-in-law), Betsy, Tom, David, me, Mom.
Christmas 1997. The family gathered around a dining table, in Cancun, Mexico. Clockwise from left: Dad, Aunt Carol, Max, Lisa (sister), Bill (brother-in-law), Betsy, Tom, David, me, Mom.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

The picture above is one of my favorite Christmas memories. My family, seated around a table in a dining room in Cancun, Mexico, eating Christmas dinner. No gifts (except for Max, my nephew, who still believed in Santa Claus), just all of us, good food, booze, and warm sunny beaches.

Starting in 1996, my family began a tradition of celebrating Christmas with vacation trips, almost always to warm, tropical places. It began when mom won her first battle against cancer, and has carried on in some form ever since.

The first trip was in ’96, I believe, and the family went to San Diego and Tiajuana. I had just started a new job, though, and could not go with them, so I house-sat for my sister in their new house in the West Hills. We got an ice storm that year, and I ended up trapped by a fallen tree, and missed some work.

Calling in Sick From Mexico

The next year, the year in the picture, I was able to afford to go, except for not having enough vacation time to cover it. I had left that job for a short stint doing phone support for a different company. I’ve never told anyone about this, but I fell into a deep depression, and basically didn’t show up for my new job for 3 or 4 days. Luckily I was able to go back to my previous job, but in doing so I lost my scheduled vacation time, even though the trip was paid for already.

My solution was to go on the trip, not tell my boss, and then call in, making up a story about being stuck at the beach and unable to return. When I got back, my boss, a very patient woman who was probably the most empathetic and understanding manager I’ve ever had, asked me point blank if I went on the planned Mexico trip. When I admitted it, she just shook her head and said, sadly, “we could have worked something out.” I earned some demerits (company policy) and lost a promotion, but remained at that job for almost another year.

The Alphabet Game

It was all worth it, to spend Christmas with my family. Now I have the memories, and the stress of that job is long forgotten.

That trip was the year David (Bill’s brother, my sister’s brother-in-law) and I played a drinking game where we drank one drink for each letter of the alphabet. In one day. It was epic. He and I and my sister and her husband were sitting around in the afternoon and noticed that the names of all the drinks we were drinking started with the letter B, or included the letter B? It’s a little unclear. But we joked about drinking the alphabet.

Lisa and Bill dropped out, but David and I took it as a challenge. We made it to the letter S (I believe that drink was called the Seven Seas and featured that many kinds of rum), or possibly R? I barely remember making it back to my room. In the morning, I woke up to Max pounding on the door, because it was Christmas morning, and it was time to open presents.

This Year, and Next

This year, I’m house-sitting again, in a different house in the West Hills. My dad and Carol are going to Carol’s kids’ house for Christmas dinner. My sister and her family are on a cruise in South East Asia. And I’m sitting here, remembering Christmases past, and vowing, like always, next year I will go away, to a warm sunny place, and celebrate.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope whereever you are, and whatever you do, you’re surrounded by people you love, warm, safe, and happy.