One of my most favorite Christmases in recent memory had nothing to do with tradition.There was no Santa, no snow, no family. Instead, it was all about fun in the sun in Mexico with one of my best friends.
Before I share the story, I want to explain how it came about. Holiday times can be difficult for me since my family is so far away. And since I work for a newspaper (the news never takes a holiday, people!), I’m kind of beholden to how the calendar breaks.
I do try to get home as often as I can. But, much as I love my relatives, some years travel can become more of a chore than a blessing.
Take the year where I spent 14 hours just trying to get to my family in time for Christmas. The weather in the Midwest can be a bit tricky in December, to say the least. So, since there was a blizzard in the tri-state area of my birthplace, I had to fly first to Baltimore and then on to Las Vegas before I finally landed in Indiana, my intended destination. The plane didn’t arrive until well past midnight on a frozen Christmas Eve, which was technically Christmas morning.
Since I had to catch a flight back to the East End on December 26, that year I spent more time flying than I did with my loved ones. It was rough.
The following year I decided that I wasn’t going to put myself through the trauma. But I didn’t want to spend a depressing holiday all by my lonesome, so I jumped at the chance when my friend Courtney suggested a little mini getaway. We booked our tickets to Mexico—on a direct flight, thank goodness—and were on our way.
It was just what the doctor ordered. Instead of stressing out and getting stuck in the land of frozen tundra, I spent my vacation pool- and oceanside, sipping pina coladas and working on my tan.
Every day was basically the idyllic same. We’d get up around 6 a.m. (I know that’s ridiculously early for vacation, but working on deadline two days a week creates the tendency of making even the most reluctant person into an early riser), then we’d head down to the breakfast buffet. Of course, since it was so early, we usually ended up noshing on cold food because the steam tables hadn’t the time to do their jobs properly. We didn’t care, because after breakfast it was pool time.
Oh, how glorious it was to slather on the sunblock, drape ourselves across our chaise lounges and catch up on our reading—for pleasure only, not one book, nor a single email was read for work because the resort didn’t have wi-fi. Hallelujah!
Then, on the dot of 9:30 a.m., I would prance up to the bar to order our morning libations.
“Dos pina coladas, por favor,” I would say with a smile on my face, always the first customer of the day as the barman was setting up. He was happy to oblige, especially as my friend and I were two of the few who tipped the staff at that all-inclusive resort. A tip for those who travel to all-inclusives—always tip and you’ll always get the absolute best in return.
We walked up and down the beach after morning cocktails and before lunch. One day we enjoyed fruity beverages with a group of Japanese tourists at the swim-up bar. Another, we took a bus into the village and bought presents for our friends back home. And since I competitively played the sport for close to 15 years, some of my favorite times were spent playing beach volleyball with the local “A” players.
Christmas was the best day. We woke up and headed off to the beach for oceanside massages and mimosas. That night, we went to this funky little joint called “La Habichuela” where we enjoyed lobster dinners fit for queens and a fiery presentation of Mexico’s famous flaming coffee. It wasn’t chestnuts on an open fire; it was better!
Feliz Natividad. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. And cheers til next year.