Christmas is different when you grow older and your children leave home. Both my parents and John's have passed over to the spirit world; our children are grown and residing anywhere from 200 to 1000 miles distant, and opportunities to spend time with our grandchildren are few and far between. Everyone is busy with their lives and they don't get home to visit often.
Holiday time with no children in the house is much too quiet. Normally, we both have to work on Christmas Eve, so there isn't time for travel to distant places for family celebrations. This year we were blessed in that John's boss opted to close their store on Christmas Eve. The law firm where I work was open a half-day on Christmas Eve, but we were given the option of taking either that day or New Year's Eve off with pay. Thus we were able to arrange a three-day weekend getaway for Christmas!
As I noted in my previous post, we decided to go to the Gaylord Texan Resort Hotel in Grapevine, Texas near Dallas. It's huge, and decked out to the max in holiday finery. I suggested that we invite John's daughter Carol, her husband Daniel, and their eleven-year-old daughter Noa (who live in closest proximity to us) to join us for the weekend, since they are also usually on their own without family for Christmas. This turned out to be great fun for all of us!
Heading to the Gaylord from two different directions, with no set time for arrival (this was a vacation and scheduled time was to be avoided so we could all relax), both families arrived on the resort grounds within ten minutes of each other, much to our surprise! This made it easy to get rooms that were just a few doors from each other which they could not promise when we made our reservations a few weeks earlier. The rooms were huge, and very nicely appointed. (I'd be very happy to move in permanently! :-)
Although the Gaylord Texan is a huge facility with hundreds of rooms and a capacity crowd of Christmas guests, their services were amazingly well coordinated and staff were available everywhere, willing and eager to be of assistance. No one seemed harried or unhappy, they had even hired additional seasonal staff to assist with the massive job of valet parking, bellhop service, etc. Lines moved quickly, and events went off smoothly. We couldn't have been more pleased!
One of the Gaylord's holiday features each year is a large ice sculpture display, held in large tents that are maintained at 6-9 degrees with the help of massive AC units in order to keep the sculptures in perfect form for the weeks of the show. Ice carvers are brought in from China to execute the sculptures, and since the show is sponsored by Dreamworks, this year's theme was the Madagascar movie. We were told to wear our coats and warm footwear, and to bring our own hats and gloves. They provided insulated parkas for everyone, from the smallest child to the largest adult... and we all looked "very cute" in our ice show attire (refer to photo above)! We actually managed to stay reasonably warm, with only our exposed faces getting the full effect of the frigid air. They even thoughtfully provided Kleenex tissue dispensers at the end for those soon to be dripping noses as we warmed up. :-)
The final display at the ice show was an entire nativity scene carved out of ice, left clear and uncolored. The figures were larger than life size and looked very much like they were made of fine crystal, and various figures/groups were illuminated with lights during the short narration of the Christmas story. We were delighted that in this very public venue they chose to present the true meaning of Christmas in all it's beauty and majesty. Thousands of people view the display during the holiday season... awesome!
In addition to the ice sculptures, there were ice slides, indoor snow tubing with real snow runs, gingerbread house and cookie decorating, three large atriums adorned with Christmas decorations and lighting, and "sit and enjoy" balconies, tables and chairs, and benches everywhere to savor steaming mugs of gourmet coffee, hot chocolate, or more powerful beverages. It was like living in Christmas City central!
We also played board games, spent lots of time visiting, enjoyed wonderful meals, and even room service breakfast on Christmas morning at Noa's request. :-) We didn't do a big gift exchange, opting to let our gifts to each other be the memories we made together. Noa chose a beautiful carved angel statue at the Ice show gift store that we bought for her, and she had decorated the covers of "Thankfulness Journal" notebooks for each of us to use each day during the coming year, as she and her parents do.
Noa is an amazing pre-teen who has been raised with equal amounts of love and discipline in a strong Christian environment. She is a gentle spirit, bright, funny, and well-mannered... and a total joy to be around. Her presence made Christmas for us!
We talked with each of our other children on the phone, and although they were greatly missed, they were close in heart. Someday, somehow, we will manage to get everyone in one spot together, God willing!
Our family, like so many in today's world, is an assemblage of his kids and mine, half-sisters/brothers and step-sisters/brothers, and some that aren't actually related by blood but are bonded by love that runs far deeper than genetics. Each has their own personality and life style, as do we, and I feel so very blessed that in marrying John I gained three wonderful and caring daughters, two great son-in-laws, and six amazing grandkids. Next May we are anticipating the arrival of our first-great grandson... very exciting!
Along with immediate family members, we each have sisters that we love and friends that we cherish, and then there is my blog family... and it could honestly be said that you awesome folks know far more about me than any of the above, outside of my beloved Papa Bear... who knows it all and STILL loves me! :-)
As Christmas drew to a close, and we covered the long miles across West Texas back to our own little house in the country and our furkids so happy to have us home again, I could only reflect once again on how very incredibly blessed I am. Family... however you define it, bring meaning and fullness to our lives. Be they kin, inlaws, or outlaws, it just wouldn't be the same without them! Life is an experience to be shared!
Thank you all for being members of my family... I treasure each of you, your friendship and the thoughts you share more than you will ever know!
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season too, and that you made good memories to cherish in the months and years to come. With the new year just around the corner, I urge you to start your own daily thankfulness journal. It doesn't have to be fancy, formal, or long-winded. A simple numbered list will do... either on your computer or in a notebook, or even a nice blank journal purchased just for that purpose. Think of all the blessings you will have counted by then end of 2013!
This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday
where the prompt this week is "family".