Saturday, December 23, 2006

Our Little Christmas Tradition

The kiddo left for his dad's house on Friday morning and won't be back until midday on Christmas, so on Thursday I took him to the Hotel Del Coronado for a couple of hours as sort of our new Christmas tradition. This is the second time we've done this, and it was really, really nice. :-) The kiddo fell asleep on the 20-mile drive there, but awoke in good spirits when we arrived on Coronado Island (which is really on a peninsula). We found a good parking spot on the street (FREE!); after bundling up the kiddo, we were ready to set out on our walk to the hotel. Along the way, we stopped at a burger joint for a cheap bite -- not necessarily part of the celebration, but we'd wound up there last year and decided to revisit it this year. I reminded my son that the previous year I'd told him about the giant tree we were going to see, and he'd mistakenly thought the tiny tree at the burger place was the object of our search. We both found that oh-so-silly now that the kiddo is almost six, after all, and much more astute than he was last year. Ahem.

We then crossed the street toward the hotel and oohed and aahed at the gigantic Christmas tree in the lobby. It was decorated in a "Winter Wonderland" theme -- all sparkly snowflakes and words like "Wish" in glittery script -- and the kiddo couldn't resist touching the ornaments as I pretended not to notice. Searching for a comfy little spot where we could sit and open a couple of gifts, I spied a pair of armchairs separated by a little table. My son studied them and said dubiously, "Yeah, but they're kinda far apart." I told him I could sit in one chair and he could sit on my lap, and his face brightened. He "helped" me open my gift from him, which was a pretty picture frame with his school photo in it. Then he opened his gift from me. He was a little bit underwhelmed by the sticker book about the human body (he's always asking questions about the subject), although he was gracious about it, meaning he kept quiet and made polite noises. However, he reeeeally liked the other book, also on the body, with tabs to move all the body parts, and 3-D glasses, which he carried around for the next two hours, even in the bathroom. (Don't ask.)

He was eager to move on, so we visited the little gazebo in the courtyard, then made our way downstairs to watch the ice skaters. Every year the hotel sets up an ice rink on the back lawn overlooking the beach, and it's novel and lovely. I checked the prices: $20 for adults and $15 for kids under ten, with a $5 skate rental for everyone. If we ever want to skate there, it would cost $45!! Yikes. Next time maybe. The kiddo did want to skate, although he doesn't know how, so I think I'll take him to the rink near our house sometime to teach him. We studied the skaters until the kiddo was hungry again, then we walked a few steps further to the beach (I am inordinately tickled that we could walk from an ice rink to a beach) and sat on a retaining wall so he could eat part of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I'd brought for him. Two extremely bold seagulls stealthily crept closer and closer to us, so I assumed seagull control duty and the kiddo ate in peace.

Afterward, he really wanted to climb on some rocks, but they're a jagged bunch that had been dumped there long ago as a barrier of sorts, and I was very concerned that he'd slip or get splashed by a rogue wave. I really wanted to avoid the latter, since he'd just gotten over being sick and the air was a little chilly, so instead of climbing, we strolled along the sand and picked up a couple of shells. The kiddo drew our faces in the sand -- his with straight hair and mine with curly hair -- then added a heart and a plus sign and his dad's face and looked at me for approval. I admired his artwork and told him we do indeed love Daddy. Ah yes. He chased a seagull for a while and tuckered himself out. By then it was almost 5:00, so we took one more look at the ice skaters as the kiddo sang along with "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" being piped over the speakers, then retraced our steps and stole a little rest in "our" armchairs.

The kiddo insisted he didn't need to sit down (although I was glad for the chance to just sit inside where it was warm), so he practiced his attack-hug technique, which mainly consists of his standing a few feet away from me and pretending he's not up to something, then getting a running start and slamming into me for a hug. After I'd had enough love, I decided it was time to head back to the car. Along the way, we stopped back at the burger joint for a shake, then continued through the neighborhood, admiring all the homes with Christmas lights as the kiddo slipped his hand into mine. He pronounced the Victorians with no lights (not even porch lights) "scary," but loved the ones that were decorated because they looked homey and "magical," and I agreed with him, of course.

During our whole visit, I was very aware that two sides of myself were sort of in conflict. One side wanted to remind me of all the things that were "wrong" with our outing (we'd started late, my gray roots need some work, my bank account is severely anemic, I had some editing work I "should've" been doing, etc.). I sometimes get carried away with the idea of a "perfect" Christmas, or a "perfect" life, and I have to remind myself that what is is perfect just as it is. Know what I mean? The other side of me was calmly focused on just being in the moment and creating a sweet memory for my son, because really, he'll remember these experiences and those will probably be colored by my energy somewhat, and I want him to be able to look back on our holiday times someday and remember how special they were. I'm happy to say I think we're achieving that.

Happy holidays, everyone! :-)