A year into the Air Force, I celebrated Christmas on an island 6,000 miles from home. Three dollars a minute for a too quick phone call to mom and dad: Jean played softball and dad fixed the earthquake damage; mom made a turkey and Jake hated high school; Merry Christmas all around and I promise I’ll never miss another Christmas at home. $18 later, I left my room to go to the ocean, all warm and Guam and 1994, certain I’d keep my promise.
And then, last year, I got married. In a barn on a farm with a litter of kittens under a dais my father-in-law built.
We spent Christmas that year at my parents’ home, a baby on the way, a California barbecue, and a round of ‘See you next years!’.
On the way back to Wichita from Christmas, while talking about the growing nephews and her growing belly, my wife told me marriage is about compromise. I laughed at her joke, but she told me that Christmas should be with her family next year.
So here I am again, away from CA on Christmas for the first time since ’94. With a new family and new traditions of football and Christmas Eve present openings. We drink coffee and play some of the same games: Cribbage and Catan. We manage to incorporate some old traditions: barbecues and stockings.
This year is much better than that one in Guam. Even though there’s no ocean to see in Oklahoma. The phone call will be for longer than six minutes and cost less than $18. And I’ll make another promise, to see them every other Christmas. At least until we start hosting our own Christmas celebrations.