Christmas is just around the corner, and “island-style” holiday preparations are being made all around me. I’m also nearing the one-year anniversary of my big move here in February, and I’ve been reflecting back on this past year in sunny southwest Florida. I’ve never been happier, and my kids are doing really well. We are all making adjustments and thriving, but the holidays are proving an unfamiliar challenge to me and my newly relocated family.
This time last year, my brothers and I were digging our cars out from under several feet of snow daily, and I was packing for my trip to visit my mother in Goodland. We would be here for the holidays, and I remember thinking, “How will I get into the Christmas spirit without snow?” It’s just the way I was raised, and in turn how I raised my kids. White Christmas’s were one of the only perks to living in such inclement weather.
Knowing howI would feel about an 82-degree Christmas day, my mother went to great lengths to make the season bright for us. We had a beautiful tree, and the whole house was decorated just like when I was a child. Opening presents and enjoying our family dinner on a bright, warm day did feel a bit odd at the time, but it’s now one of my most treasured holiday memories.
With just a few weeks left until Dec. 25, I’ve been ridiculously busy with two jobs, two kids and the whole new lifestyle joining karate has immersed me in. My overflowing schedule has become a very convenient excuse when asked why I haven’t even begun to decorate — something I usually do immediately following Thanksgiving.
But to be honest, I’ve found myself dreading the whole process, and I can’t help but wonder if my attitude is a direct result of the dramatic climate change. Feeling like a mean old Grinch, I recently beganasking people who relocated from up north, like me, but have been here much longer, as to how they get into the holiday spirit. Everyone has been pretty much unanimous in reminding me of how lucky I am to live in paradise while my Ohio friends are freezing, and they assure me, given enough time, I will adjust.
And they’re right. Walking around Goodland, I’m beginning to see decorations and yuletide preparations. Some of my Goodland friends are in the early stages of planning a Christmas golf cart decorating contest and parade for later this month, and making holiday crafts and cookies are in my very near future. All this has jumpstarted my determination to force myself into the Christmas spirit.
So far, I’ve attended the tree lighting on Marco Island and a few other holiday events. In that, I’ve found that the beauty and joy I was missing is as present as ever, even under the hot sun and palm trees.I guess in all my effort to quickly acclimate and blend in to a new place, I forgot to change my mind’s perspective on the little things.
I know that am lucky to be here. I’m blessed with two jobs that I love, and my family is spending the holidays together for the first time in years. We may not have an extravagant white Christmas, but it can still be wonderful with a little more effort on my part. So, I will be breaking out the bins of holiday cheer and decorating the house this week.
I’ve always loved Christmas, and I’m resolute in my quest to make it a merry one — with or without snow.
Melinda Gray studied journalism and political science at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Before relocating, she wrote for The Vindicator and The Jambar in Youngstown, and is currently a contributing writer for an emergency preparedness website. Melinda now lives in Goodland with her two children. She can be contacted at email@example.com or 239-896-0426