The Christmas Headache

Thursday, 18 December 2014 / Day 1
Oh, that last month before my December trip to Phoenix to visit my son and his girlfriend was a stressful one! I had lots of work deadlines, primarily. But … Thanksgiving. And I had to do something about my health insurance. And it was the run-up to Christmas, for heavens’ sake! Presents to wrap, a housesitter (OK, really a catsitter) to break in, plans to make for after the holidays … and on and on. I was a little crazy/frantic.

And the big question: Would I take work with me? I needed to. I had a couple of hot deadlines. But I also was really worn out. Not thinking about work for ten days would be nice. In the end, I left it open. I always travel with my laptop, and it has work on it. So I could open a manuscript if I wanted to.

Somehow, the penultimate day arrived. Everything, astonishingly, was done—although by the time I headed downstairs to finish packing, it was 9:15 and I’d been nursing the Christmas headache for a couple hours. (So called because I’d been getting the headache almost daily for a couple weeks. What else could I attribute it to but holiday stress?)

I’d shipped the Christmas presents ahead, but I was bringing country ham and bacon for all the people I would visit and stay with, which I’d frozen and now packed in a thermal bag.

I’m always a little keyed up the night before a trip. I’m a bit of a worrier. This particular night my housesitter, the delightful Alex, was out later than he intended to be, and I couldn’t rest comfortably until he was in, which means, in the end, I had 2 hours of dozing until he arrived, and then another 2.5 hours of sleep until the alarm clock went off. Man, was I tired.

Friday, 19 December 2014 / Day 2
My flight was scheduled to leave at 7:10am, and we’re forty minutes away from the airport, so yes, I was up much earlier than I normally like to be. But Alex drove me in, which made departure easy.

Love that Early-Bird boarding pass with Southwest. I liked to be near the front and in this case I was on the aisle with someone who’d been preboarded—a beautiful, fashionably dressed (and slightly hard of hearing) ninety-two-year-old woman who split her time between family in Nashville and family in Phoenix. She was accompanied by her daughter, who was about my age, and we enjoyed a nice chat. Across the aisle were five separate unescorted minors traveling to see their noncustodial parents. They were so well-behaved, and gave me an insight I’d never had: my son, too, was an unescorted minor traveler twenty years ago.

We landed in Phoenix a little early. Jesse had been in school (he’s a teacher) all morning, but this was the last day before the holiday break, and he was able to get away in time to pick me up.

 I think I love the Phoenix scenery because it’s so different from what I’m used to. Those mountains!

I think I love the Phoenix scenery because it’s so different from what I’m used to. Those desert mountains!

Windows in this building are shuttered electronically—and programmed, I’m told, to spell out various messages.

Windows in this building are shuttered electronically—and programmed, I’m told, to spell out various messages.

We went first to Tempe to see our friend Pris. This is a great story, the sort of thing that just doesn’t happen in this day and time. When Jesse was about to move to Phoenix for grad school some years ago, he was having trouble finding an affordable place to live. Finally Kevin, the young man who’d been his campus guide—and was in the tuba studio of Sam Pilafian, where Jesse would also be studying—said, “Oh, just move in with me and my parents. My older brothers moved out and the house is kind of empty.”

Well, I’d been the mother of a boy for twenty-two years at that point, so naturally my reaction was … well, skeptical. “I think I need to talk to the mom first,” I said. And the next day, my phone rang, and it was Pris, and we talked for two hours at least and at the end of that time we’d bonded and Jesse was moving in and that was that. Pris is Jesse’s Arizona mom, and these lovely people are his Arizona family.

Nine years have passed, and we’ve remained close. When Pris heard I was coming to Phoenix, she called to offer me the use of her car and her second son’s condo (he and his wife were out of town for the holidays). This was a huge blessing; the financial life of a freelance editor can be, occasionally, rocky.

A threesome selfie: Jesse, Pris, me. So happy to be here!

A threesome selfie: Jesse, Pris, me. So happy to be here!

Kaci was just about to get out of school (she’s also a teacher), so Jesse and I headed back to their house in central Phoenix. We were all anxious for lunch—I’d had nothing but a Quest bar and a couple cups of coffee all day—and ended up at Gadzooks on Seventh Street, a place Jesse and Kaci enjoy. (As they should: the restaurant is owned and operated by and targeted at the millennial generation, as discussed in this article from AZCentral: “Phoenix eatery Gadzooks embodies how Millennials dine.” It’s very interesting, actually.)

It was a beautiful day—nice enough to sit outside. Gadzooks allows you to customize basic meals with fresh, interesting additions.

It was a beautiful day—nice enough to sit outside. Gadzooks allows you to customize basic meals with fresh, interesting additions.

We did a little Christmas shopping …

The First Draft Book Bar! Housed with a used bookstore—what a fabulous idea!

The First Draft Book Bar! Housed with a used bookstore—what a fabulous idea!

… and then went back to the house to relax. (It had been a long day for all of us.) We enjoyed all the teacher Christmas swag—lots of homemade edibles like chocolate-covered pretzels—and I met the two house cats, Penny and Max.

Kaci, Max, and Jesse

Kaci, Max, and Jesse. Don’t forget, you can click on any photo to enlarge it. The better to see you, Maxie!

I’ve never met a cat that didn’t love a suitcase. This is Penny.

I’ve never met a cat that didn’t love a suitcase. This is Penny.

And that was enough for one day.

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3 thoughts on “The Christmas Headache

  1. Pingback: Rethinking the Departure Madness | Wanderlustful

  2. Pingback: Let the Vacation Commence! Part 1 | Wanderlustful

  3. Pingback: An International Party … Soon! | Wanderlustful

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