The Holiday Diversion

Those of you who have seen the film “A Christmas Story” based on the writings of Jean Shepherd will have a pretty good idea of what I think of the holidays.  Those of us who have kids eventually find it inevitable that we become like the father in the film, stomping downstairs to conduct war on a broken boiler belching black smoke while our curses float out over Lake Michigan like a black cloud, to linger for decades.  Meanwhile, the kids wind up in a slight frenzy of positive stress as “the day” approaches.

In the past, we sought to bypass some of this railroad track by deliberately plonking ourselves in the woods for four nights just before Christmas.  For several years, our favorite retreat was a barely heated plastic yurt at Beverley Beach on the Oregon coast, where we could be guaranteed to have five days of horizontal rain direct from the Pacific Ocean as we had family time, explored the aquarium at Newport, looked at boats in the marina, and didn’t really think about xmas.  It worked on a lot of good levels.

This year we opted for a business apartment at a low rate in downtown Brussels, and for four days we wandered the old town and enjoyed the small shops, the remarkable comic strip museum, the surprisingly good and empty Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, and found out that Belgium wasn’t bad at chocolates, beer, waffles, and frites.  Manneken Pis wasn’t my daughter’s favorite statue, nor mine, but that’s how it goes.

It was a very special trip, and the kids brought home a TinTin and some other specialized comics from the shops we found.  The only downside is that it’s now early morning on Christmas Eve (the day on which my daughter Eve likes to be called Christmas Eve), and we have done nothing for the holiday at home.  No tree, no decorations, no food for a xmas meal, and London pretty much shuts down on Xmas day.

In fact, I’m not even sure if half of the kids’ gifts made it from Amazon while we were away, so I need to bicycle into work with a large, empty backpack to see if we’re going to be heros or cads come tomorrow morning.

So, it’s time to do something about it, after one more cup of java.  Maybe sometimes I wish the Bumpas hounds were next door, ready to charge in our home and shred Christmas for us (as in the movie), so maybe we could decelerate and have more family time…

However, I don’t have much time to moan.  The biggest success of the Belgium trip was the the kids broke in their new hiking boats (my real holiday present to them this year, given two weeks ago), so now I’m more confident about our return to the Lake District for some cold and perhaps snowy fell walking starting on Dec 27th.  It’s nice to have a holiday vacation, or two.

Happy new year.

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