Our first three or four years of marriage was a typical Christmas with a tree, outdoor lights, and a big dinner with family.
Then, Susie’s parents moved to Florida.
After that, things changed.
Every year for the next 27 years, we traveled to some part of Florida (her parents moved around a lot), and spent two weeks.
Early in that time period, we had a tiny Chevette.
We packed it with clothes, presents and food, and headed south.
Susie was happy.
She only got to see her family once a year.
I was not so happy.
For two weeks, I was in charge of fixing three meals a day for 12 or 14 people.
Once a week, both weeks we were there, I visited the local store and stocked up on lobster, crab, crawdad and all the other typical Christmastime meal fixings.
I then prepared a huge seafood dinner for the family. (The ladies actually fixed a typical meal for Christmas Day.) Other than cooking, I had nothing to do for 14 days.
One Christmas morning, I opened a present from Susie.
It was a new underwater metal detector.
I tried to act like I cared about what everyone else was doing for the next couple hours.
I finally grabbed the new detector and headed out the door.
They lived in a neighborhood on a small lake. It had a tiny beach just two blocks from their house.
Susie got her detector out of our car and followed me.
While we were in central Florida, it was still late December and chilly outside.
I waded into the water in jeans and tennis shoes and started detecting.
After a couple hours, I was getting cold.
We returned home and checked out our finds.
Susie had a handful of coins, several toy cars, and a large silver belt buckle from the dry sand.
I finished with four gold rings, one silver ring, a handful of kid’s rings, 120 some coins, toys, tools, and trash from under the water.
All the time I was hunting, I was watching for snakes and alligators.
Not a normal Christmas morning.
At the end of our visit, we packed the car with more stuff than we brought with us and headed home.
During this time, Angi, our daughter, broke out with chicken pox.
I had never had them before. (My brother had them, my nephew had them when I was babysitting him.) I still have never had them.
A 24 hour ride with a sick youngster is not fun.
After a quarter century of Christmas in Florida, Susie’s dad passed away and our Christmas tradition in the south ended.
Her mom moved back to Anderson, and a new tradition started.
Every year since then, we have had the family to our house for Christmas dinner.
The largest Norbest turkey we could find at Marsh (now Needler’s) was on the table with all the usual side dishes.
I always fixed enough desserts for the neighborhood.
There is always plenty of leftovers to send home with everyone.
The family is getting smaller.
Every year I say it’s too much trouble for us old people to fix everything for every holiday and someone else has to do it, or we can just got to a restaurant together.
I can’t see either of those things happening in the near future.
Gift giving has also changed over the past 50 years.
When we first got married, we bought each other a lot of gifts and opened them together.
When Angi came along, we bought a few gifts for each other, and a bunch of stuff for the kid. (We called her “Girl Kid”.)
When she got married and had our only grandchild (Boy Kid), Angi got some presents and Benjamin got a lot.
Eighteen years later, it’s still that way.
I assume that tradition will remain the same until he gets married and has little ones.
Then, the presents will go to them.
Rich Creason is an award-winning outdoors and travel writer whose work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications for 40 years. Born in Anderson, he is a graduate of Markleville High School. He lives in South Madison County with his wife, Susie. He may be contacted at [email protected].