What I thought would be one of the worst Christmases in my life turned out to be one of my most favorite. Six months ago, I would never have believed it.
My daughter spent her first two years after college working for non-profit organizations. As is customary, the pay was not great but she got grant money to further her education. She is a wayfarer at heart, a world traveler, so it was not surprising that she wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. She looked at several different universities but settled on the University of Edinburgh. It seemed like we talked about it for over a year. Then, in March, she was officially accepted into the Urban Strategies and Design program. She and her husband were really going to be moving to Scotland.
At the beginning of the year, their August departure seemed such a long way off. But, as time has a way of doing, it flew by. Before we knew it, we were saying tearful goodbyes at the airport on a summer afternoon.
I did not look forward to being separated from my youngest for over a year. I was especially sad about missing her at Christmas. In one of my more Scrooge-like moods, I vowed to not even decorate for Christmas. What good would it do if she was not home to enjoy it. I quickly nixed that thought. After all, did I not celebrate Christmas before I had children?
My husband and I talked about visiting them once or twice during their tenure in Scotland. They said they would welcome visitors, a chance to see familiar faces. Shortly after they left, we made plans to visit right before Christmas.
At the time, we thought our daughter would still be in class, so we prepared ourselves for the possibility of seeing her in the evenings, when she was free. That is one of the reasons why we booked our travel home on Christmas Eve, so we would at least have one full day with her.
A couple of weeks before our trip, we learned that her last project for the semester was due before we arrived. Whoo Hoo! We would be able to spend much more time with our daughter and son-in-law than we originally thought.
So, one hundred and eighteen days after we bid them a tearful goodbye in a Florida airport, we embraced them with joy in the Edinburgh Airport. Four thousand miles erased just like that.
For the next ten days, we enjoyed “living” with our daughter and son-in-law in Edinburgh, Scotland, packing in a season of celebrating in those days. We rode buses, trains and little black taxicabs. We walked up and down hills, nearly sixty miles in ten days. Our daughter and son-in-law took us to their favorite restaurants and shops. We did our Christmas shopping at the Christmas Markets, souvenir shops and popular retail stores. We toured museums, cathedrals and a castle. The beautiful Christmas lights and decorations entranced us.
I enjoyed the simple things like grocery shopping, running errands and baking with my girl. My husband and I stayed in an apartment on the same street as our daughter for the last half of our trip, which was convenient and enjoyable. Eating porridge and toast and drinking tea at our little table every morning will always be a fond memory.
Our girl showed us around the university — her classroom building, the library, where her graduation ceremony will be held. Now I have a mental picture of her surroundings. I don’t have to rely on my imagination when she tells me about her walk to class or the grocery store or about their trip to the botanical gardens. Can anyone else with children living far away relate?
We packed so much into ten days. I think the only thing “Christmasy” I did not do was see The Nutcracker. It did my soul good to spend time with my daughter in person. Modern technology is great and FaceTime has been my friend, but there is just something special about physically being with someone you love. By the time the morning of Christmas Eve arrived, I was ready to go home. I hated to say goodbye again but my heart was full and I knew the memories of our visit to Scotland would be with me. Besides, another special person was picking us up from the airport — our son!
The time spent with my daughter and son-in-law in Scotland filled me enough so I could fully enjoy coming home to the rest of my family; parents, brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew and of course, my boy. They even joined us via Skype for our Christmas festivities, including our infamous family Christmas photo.
Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year.
May it be a year filled with hope, promise and maybe even a little travel.