My first memory of travel over the holidays was when I would fly home from college in Washington, DC to New York. I usually flew into Newark airport since the fares were so much cheaper than LaGuardia or JFK and it was an easier drive to upstate New York.
In a previous post I mentioned that my mother was very adverse to even leaving the house to see a relative on Christmas Day. But eventually she relented.
In 1983, Mom decided that we would spend Christmas in Florida where my brother was stationed in the Navy. So I flew from Washington, DC to Melbourne, Florida and met my mother. From the airport we drove in a rental car to meet up with my brother in Orlando.
Of course it was a very different Christmas but more so because of a freak cold snap in Florida. We had plans to go to Epcot Center and Disney World on Christmas Day - we wanted to see the Christmas Parade. So we headed over, bought our tickets, and got on the paddle boat to head over to one of the sections of the amusement park. At 23 degrees, I will never forget all the ice on the back of the boat near the paddle wheel, and the fact that we didn't have jackets!
Later that day they had to shut down Disney World for the day due to ruptured steam pipes that supplied heat to several buildings. We received a refund and luckily were able to return the next day.
As the years went by, I would fly home to New York from San Francisco each year or Mom would fly to see me and spend a week or two with her Uncle Greg in Santa Rosa.
For my 40th birthday, I flew to Las Vegas on December 25th for a few days - it was lots of fun and my first time there. I also realized that Christmas Day was one of the best days for flying - that was, of course, before everyone else was let in on the secret. Now, that day seems like any other air travel day.
After 2000 and her Alzheimer's Disease diagnosis, it became increasingly difficult for Mom to travel via airplane. Throw in post 9/11 air travel and it became a nightmare. Our last visit for Christmas was in 2003 when she flew in to spend a month with me in San Francisco. We had a great Christmas Eve with friends and then the next day, Christmas Day, we flew to Las Vegas for three nights. We saw lots of sights including Hoover Dam on the Nevada/Arizona border. It was rough trying to get Mom through airport security efficiently and making sure she knew what was going on. I know she doesn't remember it right now, but she always had a great time when we traveled.
These days I stay home in Chicago while all my friends and some family take off for Indiana, Michigan or other places in Illinois. To me Christmas has always meant being at home and not "only in my dreams" as the song goes. That's how I prefer it.
Photo: Hoover Dam, December 27, 2003