Family Christmas

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

As big a Christmas lover as I am, there’s a certain sense of relief—mixed with accomplishment for surviving—that accompanies the arrival of Jan. 2 each year. Today, I am feeling this tenfold after the last 10 days that we’ve had, 10 days that were not lacking in mileage—or weather drama—as might not surprise you in the least.

New Years Eve in PensacolaWhile a helluva lot of fun, December kicked my behind. After nonstop visitors for two weeks, followed by nonstop holiday parties, our actual Christmas Day was pretty mellow. We spent the night before at my parents’ house, as per tradition, and the five of us—and six dogs—had a pretty quiet day, filled with two viewings of Elf, a Homeland marathon and a lot of neat gifts.

Christmas in TennesseeIt was our first Christmas without Granddaddy, and there was definitely a noticeable hole in our day but we made the best of it nonetheless.

SVV and I headed to our home without Ella that night; she stayed with my parents’ dogsitter while we got up early on the 26th and drove to Memphis via Leipers Fork. What was in Leipers Fork, you might ask (other than some kick-ass restaurants and adorable antique shops)? Why, the Vagabond3 duo! We have long been online friends with Jade and Bob and were able to have drinks with them on their last visit home to see his family in Brentwood, so I was stoked that fate worked in our favor and the four of us were able to convene again, on a snowy winter day in a good ol’ country cafe. These two are no doubt some of my favorite friends I’ve met through this site, and we have made tentative plans in the work to travel together soon (I hope!).

Vagabond3We continued our journey through the fields that had been touched overnight by a blizzard.

And by “blizzard,” you must know I mean the Southern definition of one (i.e. a light dusting of dandruff that barely sticks to the grass). The second there is the threat of freezing rain in these parts, the whole darn state shuts down!

Our final destination (for the day) was Memphis, where my cousin Rebecca lives with her brood. My aunt Lou fixed us an incredible Christmas dinner—something I look forward to each year—and then things got a little crazy.

Family ChristmasThere’s not a time when I don’t have fun with this lot, but this Christmas was particularly action-packed, including a trip to a Korean BBQ joint that had a hidden karaoke room and a lot of Just Dance: Disney Party on the Wii. Even my dad got into it.

The girls have always been the cutest kids I know, but I swear they get more darling by the day, as their personalities develop even more.

MargaretMargaretMargaretThe youngest, Margaret, is coming to stay with Mom and me for six days later this month while Rebecca and John take McKayla on her first trip to Disney World. I know what you’re thinking—Rebecca must be crazy to leave her child in my custody. She’s one trusting cousin.

MargaretMargaretKariI promise to limit her Internet time, Rebecca.

MargAnd keep her Taylor Swift consumption to five hours a day.

We also stopped by the assisted living home down the street to see Granddaddy’s one living sibling, Charlie (aka “Doc”), age 95. He’s a pistol, and talking to him, it’s easy to forget I’m not having a conversation with my granddad. As I was told at the funeral, “brush your teeth—because you’re going to be living a long time!” The people in my family live to be old: My grandmother died at 86 only because of a stress-induced stroke, but both of her brothers are still alive at 86 and 92—still alive and rascally as ever, I should add.

Uncle CharlieOur visit was too brief as always. McKayla apparently bawled the entire day after we left, much to her mom’s distress, then demanded we all show her we were equally sad to be gone.

Sad FacesOf course one thing was missing from the celebration, and that was Rebecca’s twin Andrew, his wife Kelly and their newborn baby Colt. Andrew is an ER doctor in the Air Force, which means he doesn’t always get holidays off. It’s never fully a party without those guys present … so SVV and I decided to take the party to them!

But not without some trouble along the way.

From our house in Middle Tennessee, it’s about a six-and-a-half-hour drive down to Destin. From Memphis, it’s around eight. It took us upward of 13 to reach the Redneck Riviera this time around. Mainly because this followed us the. entire. way.

Florida StormI have never in my life been stuck in such a relentless storm system for so long; it didn’t let up once during our drive. And it sucked hard. SVV is a champ for not losing it even for a minute—he piloted the whole way, and each time we pulled over for gas, we’d find ourselves standing in five inches of water.

RainBut then, we arrived at Kelly and Andrew’s house at 12pm, and while Kelly was sleeping upstairs with the baby and Andrew was on an overnight shift, they took care of us nonetheless.

Four RosesThe next morning, we spent the day with them and oohing and aahing over Colt (who his two-year-old cousin Margaret calls “Baby Goat”). OK, and we did a wee bit of shopping at Silver Sands (my favorite outlet mall in the world). Their friends Liz and Marc, both of whom I just adore, arrived that evening from Birmingham and we stayed in, catching up, cuddling Colt and sipping on Nutella bourbon milkshakes.

Baby ColtColtOn Sunday, it was west along the Panhandle to Pensacola for my good friend Andrea’s 30th birthday celebration.

Andrea and I go way back 20-something years to our kindergarten Sunday school class, and I was thrilled SVV and I were able to celebrate such a birthday with her. It started at noon with a Breakfast at Tiffany’s-style brunch at a beachfront restaurant in Gulf Breeze.

Andrea's birthdayAndrea's birthdayAndrea's birthdayThen, three hours after we were finished (it was a long, champagne-filled brunch), we all went to Andrea’s house where a party bus was waiting for us to transport us around Pensacola in style. Can’t say I’ve ever gone on a bar tour at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon—in fact, a couple places weren’t even open yet when we arrived!

Party BusAndrea's BirthdayParty BusWe ended the long day downtown before having a relatively early night (10pm), then getting up to drive around Pensacola for a spell the following day. SVV spent nine months during his Navy training on the base there, but hadn’t been back since 1997. It was fun getting to see his former haunts, including the beach where he swam laps every day, and learning more about his Before (the life that didn’t include me).

Scott in PensacolaOn New Year’s Eve, we went to a house party with a pinata and a really cute Wheaten Terrier named Scout, then somehow arrived downtown with just 15 minutes to spare for Pensacola’s famed penguin pelican drop. (We laughed when SVV asked, “where’s that dang penguin?” It’s a pelican, SVV. We are in the tropics now, not the arctic of San Francisco.)

New Years in PensacolaNew Years in PensacolaNew Years in PensacolaNew Years in PensacolaAnd we rang in the new year the best way we knew how: with love, laughter, friendship, sparkly glasses and lots of champagne.

New Years in PensacolaNew Years in PensacolaNew Years in PensacolaNew Years in Pensacola


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