December 25, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Merry Christmas

Today, I've spent my Christmas catching up on my sleep and relaxing. I woke up after 10:00, lazed around the apartment for a few hours and then took a long nap. I'm going to go catch a showing of "Return of the King" a little bit later, and then hit the sack early. About as uneventful a day as one could imagine. But as overworked as I've been lately, that's just fine with me. For my column today, I thought I'd reflect a bit on some of the past Christmases I've enjoyed (or not enjoyed).

The first Christmas I ever spent away from home was twenty years ago, when I traveled to Honduras as a foreign exchange student. I experienced many "firsts" during that year-long adventure, including the first time I've celebrated the holiday on Christmas Eve (as seemingly most of the rest of the world celebrates it) instead of Christmas Day. The extended members of my host family got together for a hearty meal and gift exchange, after which we all stayed up well past midnight talking, singing and enjoying each other's company. After the others finally went to bed, I stayed out most of the night with some of the other guys in the neighborhood, who had found a bottle of potent aguardiente. As a result, I spent part of Christmas morning on my knees in the bathroom, but had a good time nonetheless. I spent Christmas Day with a hangover, watching the premiere of the "Star Wars" sequel "Return of the Jedi." (As I write this, I am struck by the coincidence of spending two Christmases twenty years apart watching the third film of a trilogy with nearly identical titles.)

Four years later, I enlisted in the Navy, and didn't spend another Christmas at home with family until I finished my tour of duty after another four years. My first Navy Christmas was also my first white Christmas, as I passed the holiday with a bunch of other fools who had ended up in boot camp in Great Lakes during the heart of winter. Icy winds off Lake Michigan brought the temperature down to -60 on some days, keeping us inside for much of the eight-week indoctrination. My recollection of boot camp is hazy (perhaps with reason), but I seem to recall that I spent Christmas Day in the hospital with chicken pox. Whether my illness fell before, during or after the holiday, however, one thing I do remember is that Christmas was like all other boot camp days, except that we might have had a few hours of private time to write letters or read.

My last Christmas in the Navy found me on an aircraft carrier bound for the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield (soon to become Operation Desert Storm). Alcohol is forbidden on U.S. Navy ships, but one of my shipmates had managed to smuggle a bottle of vodka onboard. On the evening of Christmas Day, a small group of us sat around a table, drinking and playing cards. For those few short hours, we felt like a group of buddies back home, sitting around and enjoying Christmas cheer, instead of sailors bound for war somewhere in the western Pacific, hundreds of miles from the nearest land.

Since then, my Christmases have become more "normal," at least in the sense that I get time to visit with family every year. However, some of my siblings have their own families now, so we celebrate the holiday as a family several days before December 25 nowadays to give the others the opportunity to have their own family Christmas on the 25th. So I have now become one of those millions of single adults who spend Christmas Day alone, without anyone to celebrate with. I've become used to it now, so I don't seek sympathy by the admission. Instead, I want to illustrate the fact that the holiday holds little magic for me now. It's just another day. But for all of you who may read this, I hope the spirit of Christmas touched you and yours, and that Santa Claus brought you lots of goodies. Merry Christmas!


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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December Columns:

12/31: Happy New Year
12/29: Return of the Oscar King
12/28: The Year in Travel
12/26: Trial by Piranha
12/25: Merry Christmas
12/22: Red Squares
12/21: Havasu Falls
12/20: Last Will & Testament
12/19: Bah Humbug
12/16: Newsworthy
12/15: The "Strick" Dialogues
12/14: Animal-Animal
12/12: Old Memories
12/7: Letters to the Editor
12/5: Greed Strike
12/4: Another Day at the Office
12/3: The "Back" in Quarterback
12/1: Sixty-Four
Previous months in The Archive

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