About four years ago our entire family took a huge whiz-bang vacation together to DisneyWorld. We had so much fun we decided to plan one of these Whiz Bang trips every few years. But, of course it’s not cheap to take six people somewhere worthy of Whiz Bang status. Then, a year ago, Elizabeth got a huge bonus at work that was totally worthy of the Whiz Bang label. She works for an oil and gas tycoon and these things happen in their world. And his generosity makes her generous. She decided to underwrite another cool vacation. She told Sarah that we could either go back to Disney World or take a Disney Cruise. Sarah picked the cruise. That's what watching a lot of The Suite Life will do to a kid.
We were off and running. The bonus was just what the word implies: extra money. It could be spent guilt-free any way Elizabeth wanted to spend it. And she wanted to take a cool vacation and take her nieces. And their mother. And their grandparents.
It’s surprisingly easy to get used to the idea of a week of total materialism, indulgence and decadence.
We made a paper chain of dates until we left. The chain had almost 300 links in it when we started it and hung it on the perimeter of Elizabeth’s office at home. It stretched and overlapped all four walls. Last week, the chain barely covered one window’s width. It’s getting close. We have waited so long that it’s hard to believe that it’s almost here.
And we’ve had so much fun anticipating the trip that we’ve already decided to plan another cool vacation as soon as we get home. We will have to foot the bill for this one ourselves, so the sooner we start saving our money, the better.
In the meantime we needed to become Cruise-worthy vacationers. Our daughters especially worried about Beaven and me. Sarah and Essie would need new clothes because they are growing fast. But Beaven and I need new clothes simply because we dress like total nerds from the 80’s. This cruise would include a couple of fancy restaurant meals and there would be the inevitable comparison with 5,000 fellow travelers whose fashion habits extend beyond bush hogs and chicken coops.
Elizabeth sent around a very diplomatic email that said, in effect, that she didn’t want to take over and boss us around but she had the money budgeted and would be happy to buy us some new things if we were open to the gesture. It set just the right tone. And formed the basis for a totally materialistic event to exchange gifts with each other. We would all have gifts large and small to celebrate the coming vacation and exchange them with each other.
What we needed was a designated time to lay out all this booty. An event like Christmas but not really. Our family has invented our own holidays before and with great success.
For about 15 years we had an annual event we called Family Day. It was birthed as a result of trying to cram two Christmases into one day because both of our parents lived in the same town and both expected to see us in their living rooms on Christmas Day. Beaven got so frustrated by trying to make everyone happy that he requested a day that could be just us. We decided to invent our own holiday.
The beauty of inventing your own holiday is that you can do whatever you please. We picked New Years Eve because we’re not big party animals or football fans but still had the time off work.
We rented a cabin at Daingerfield State Park every year after that. I would pack a new jigsaw puzzle and a box of chocolates and all our favorite foods. We would sometimes make it until midnight but a few years Elizabeth was the only one awake at midnight. I told you what party animals we are. If I was still awake at midnight I would go outside and check in with God. It was a state park out in the woods. I could see every star God ever made.
The first morning of the New Year I would always put a turkey in the oven then take a hike around the lake. We’d spend the day eating and putting the puzzle together. The girls’ Christmas presents would still be new and kept them occupied while Beaven and I napped or read.
It was always the best weekend of the year. The only reason we stopped was because we built our own weekend cabin and could come out here anytime we wanted. You might say every day is Family Day for us now.
So, since we are so good at inventing our own holidays, Cruisemas was the next logical step.
It was kind of nice to have a holiday that didn’t have any baggage attached; that had nothing to do with religion so we didn’t have to worry about offending anyone or living up to anyone else’s standards. A nice new holiday without any expectations for us to fall short of. And it was conceived and conducted with an unabashed atmosphere of materialism. It was a holiday for the PURPOSE of buying stuff. We didn’t have to pretend we were honoring the Baby Jesus in any way.
Please don't take any offense, Baby Jesus. You lived as a human. Surely you can understand the yearning for a new pair of sandals.
But so many decisions had to be made! What kind of cuisine? Because my theory is that if you don’t have special food how can it be a special day? We chose hotdogs from our favorite butcher in downtown Dallas and tropical punch to drink. Then we had to come up with a playlist of Cruisemas music—I found some calypso and steel drums on iTunes. Then added some Bob Marley and the Beach Boys. And a tree!! If you have gifts you gotta have a tree. Elizabeth decorated both the living and the dining room with patio lights.
If Essie looks a little strange that's because she is wearing a grass skirt on her head.
The gifts included paper emery boards so you can do your nails on the plane (they took up my metal nail file one time at security and what good is a plane ride if not to do your nails? I just don’t know what these people are thinking sometimes.) We all got new sunglasses and Beaven got a new jacket to wear the night we eat at the fancy and highly restricted restaurant on board. The girls got new shorts and sundresses.
Emily and Essie broke out in a wild Calypso dance that I recorded but she won’t allow me to show you here. We roasted corn to go with the hot dogs. It was sheer happiness.
We have just planned the guts out of this trip. We make D Day look like an impromptu walk on the beach. We have issued an edict to start pouring the hand sanitizer. No one is allowed to catch a cold, break a leg or require surgery until we get home. Knowing what a sense of humor God has it will be interesting to see what happens next.
The internet police warn me to not say exactly when we are going on this vacation since all the criminals who read my blog can come steal our stuff while we’re gone. As if anyone wanted my stuff. After reading our pathetic taste in posessions they might come by and drop stuff off for us.
My plan is to write and program a post that will magically appear while I’m on the beach somewhere. If I am clever enough you’ll never miss me. I’ll have a full report when we get home.