Admittedly, I am a scrooge. I’m from Iowa, but have lived in Louisiana for about 20 years. While there are some fabulous people here that will always have a place in my heart, I have never really felt “at home.” Strangely enough, one of the most noticeable differences is sports-related, and I’m not even into sports. Imagine being transported to another plane of existence where everything is altered. That’s kind of the feeling- everyone is always so excited about sports teams that mean absolutely nothing to me. It’s like being in an alternate universe, then, when I return to Iowa, I’m back in the “real world.”
The food, on the other hand, is fantastic, except for sweet tea (ewww…). And aside from my horrific allergies, the weather is very temperate. However, the culture is vastly different- not only do I firmly believe that chivalry must work BOTH ways, but it’s a bit too “country” for my very UN-country self…lol. (After 20 years, I still REFUSE to say “ya’ll” or “fixin’,” just can’t do it!) At the same time, I know that when I leave here, I will miss it terribly.
The worst part about being here, though, is my entire family is still in Iowa. I get a bit jealous that Jerry gets to see his family almost every single day of the year, but I only get to see mine for a total of about seven days a year, eight if I’m really lucky! Even worse were the years I spent working as a retail manager. I was raised Catholic, so my family celebrated Christmas. Since Q4 is the biggest time of year in retail, I never got time off to celebrate the holidays. As a matter of fact, I had to work EXTRA. Yes, when you work in retail, you don’t get to spend time with your family. Instead, you have to bend over backward to ensure everyone ELSE has a fabulous holiday, while you yourself get crapped on. Please keep this in mind next time Sephora or Ulta is out of the product you want or they’re not helping you fast enough! 🙂
Two places I managed were closed on Christmas Day- that’s the only day of the year they closed. As the manager, I was required to be there the day before Christmas, and the day after. One place I worked was open 365 days a year, and I was required to work holidays. Therefore, I never got to see my family at all over the holidays for many years. When my dad died of cancer, it was the final straw.
After working as a Deputy Coroner, and finally getting to take off work for Christmas, things got a tiny bit better. I was on call and had to work for all the other holidays, but at least I got to go home when my family celebrated Christmas. Why is it just a tiny bit better instead of a lot better? Snow. Quite frequently, snow and ice put a damper on travel. Flying home, and back, is always very stressful. We never know if we’re going to get there, or back, on time. And Jerry can never get off work for more than a day or two, so everything is always very rushed. If there is a flight delay, then a whirlwind quick trip becomes even shorter.
Don’t EVEN get me started on the 2013-2014 holiday season, where I went back to Iowa three times in less than two months. Right after Christmas, my grandpa died; then my grandma died three weeks later, to the day. There was a big snowstorm in Atlanta when I was flying home from Grandma’s funeral, and I got stuck there overnight. With food poisoning. In a hotel where the heat wasn’t working. When I finally made it back to Louisiana, I found out they lost my luggage. Oh, how I loathe the process of air travel!
Despite my current scrooge status, I do have some very happy memories of the holidays. As a child, it was almost a magical time. Sure, presents were always fun, but I looked forward every year to seeing family. I remember going to Grandpa and Grandma Sexton’s house and playing with my cousins. Grandpa and Grandma built a huge house, with a finished basement that had several bedrooms in addition to the ones upstairs, so everybody stayed a couple days. When we all arrived, there would be chili and oyster soup waiting, along with all sorts of goodies- my favorite was Grandma’s “Candy Bar Cookies.” At night, we all walked to Midnight Mass, less than a block away, and got to stay up late. The next day, for Christmas dinner, Grandma made her famous ham balls along with every side dish imaginable. Many of my cousins and I believe, still today, that it’s not the holidays without those ham balls! (Now I’m getting hungry…lol)
The holidays at my Grandpa and Grandma Frerichs’ house were a bit more intimate. We only have one aunt and uncle, and no cousins, so my sister and I were always the center of attention, and spoiled rotten. Even better yet, we got to celebrate twice with Dad’s side of the family- once with just Grandpa, Grandma, Diane and Steve (our aunt and uncle), and us; and again with the extended family. We played BINGO, Wahoo, and did various craft projects. Someone always gave my grandpa a box of chocolates (which he shared with everyone), and a button-front shirt. He always acted surprised! Everyone pitched in with food, and it was all SO delicious.
One of my favorite things, though, was Christmas Eve. We did our own family Christmas (Dad, Mom, Gina, and I) on Christmas Eve. We would all get into the car and drive around to look at all the Christmas lights, while a neighbor would play “Santa” and go get the gifts Mom had hidden, and put them under our tree. After we opened gifts, we would box up all of our loot and take it to Grandpa and Grandma’s house to show them. Grandma always had treats waiting for us- sometimes it was even homemade ice cream topped with peaches she had canned! Now that Grandpa and Grandma Frerichs are gone, I am even more thankful for these experiences.
Although I get homesick and my heart aches around the holidays and special occasions, I’m lucky to have such great memories. I look forward to the day when we can move to a better climate that doesn’t wreak havoc on my sinuses and make me sick all the time. Maybe that move will even bring us a bit closer to home, and my normal plane of existence. In the meantime, I’ll sit back, sneeze, and enjoy as much crawfish and gumbo as I possibly can! 😉
*In order to protect my family’s privacy, some faces that can still be recognized have been blurred.