First Christmas Away—Klaudia Keller
First Christmas Away
Cylvia sat at the bar directly within eyeshot of Gate 28 in the Boeing
Corridor at the airport. She had arrived early in anticipation of leaving
the country for the first time ever and was having an eggnog spiced with the
bartenders suggestion of 151 proof rum. A bite to eat, a couple of drinks and
then a sleeping pill just prior to boarding the plane for the long flight south to
Central America. The planning was deliciously in the details.
Last year at this moment she was hosting the Christmas Eve party, as she had
every year for her family neighbors and friends. The house was decorated the
same as her mother had decorated it, she and her husband and young family
had grown up in this house, buying it from her siblings shortly after both of their
parents had passed away.
Each year her mother had put up the same holiday decorations, always
the“angel hair” on the mantel which was a wispy like dreamy soft cream fiber
that flowing across it. The amber votive candles would nestle in the softness,
glowing around the alabaster sculpted Madonna. Her mother had decorated the
tree each year with red and gold ornaments, tied only with red grosgrain ribbon.
She did the same. Everything was just the same year after year, the tree in the
same place with the same star topper, the wreaths both on the inside and
outside of both the front and back doors.
For Christ’s sake she used the same God damned three tiered poinsettia
dessert tray with the same GD holiday treats of fudge and peanut brittle.
Even the recipes were her mother’s. Enough !!
Ever since her 50th birthday, she truly didn’t feel the obligation to make this
whole Christmas facade work for everyone but her. She was the one cooking,
decorating, shopping like it was a chore, making payments to credit cards well
into the new year.
She announced to her friends and family last year that they should take a video
of the festivities on this, the last Christmas eve at her house. She would be
traveling next year at this time.
She investigated numerous websites but when she received the big glossy
magazine like brochure from The Rode Across bike company, she poured over
it. There was something about receiving it via snail mail, the hand addressed
dusty aqua and coral envelope, good looking logo, cute muscular tour guides &
van drivers. The pictures were amazing! The healthy riders having a glass of
wine at a goat cheese farm road side. Toucans in trees as the bike riders passed
the lush jungle. Poolside at the four star hotels with spas and impressive
menus. Not only were the beaches vast but the ride would take them to both
the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This was it, Costa Rica, the tour ending and
beginning in San Jose. She thought maybe she would take an extra week there
after the trip and after seeing the plane fare dip a bit she booked her first
Christmas away . Ever
She didn’t think her family believed her about being gone for the holidays until
she began taking Spanish lessons in February from Jorge.
In April she joined a cross fit gym to train for the trip and ended up joining a bike
club that had all sorts of local trips.
Cylvia worked up to a five day tour of the San Juan Islands that included riding
from Seattle to the Annacortes ferry. She logged over 270 miles and was
in the best shape ever as the summer drew to a close and to
just to keep in shape she was back to the gym. She counted down the days,
feeling a freedom she had never known at this time of year.
Finally the day had come, Christmas Eve, at the airport bar, she
ordered a chicken caesar salad, which was quite good served with crusty
Grand Central bakery bread and she ordered a glass of dry white wine.
She really had planned everything perfectly.
Just as she finished the last bit of bread the speaker mumbled much too loudly
“Flight 2223 to San Jose now boarding first class passengers and ”
parents with small children”. There were the usual frenzied people with
wrapped presents bursting out of their carry-ons, children were screaming for
sleep at this time of night.
She felt for the two sleeping pills in the side pocket of her purse and polished
them off with the last bit of her second glass of wine. She waited for the line to
dwindle and then ceremoniously strode down the gangway. Just one stop in
Dallas, refuel no need to deplane and then off to Central America.
Soon they were ready for takeoff as she settled into her seat over the wing.
She was solo in her row of three seats and when she asked the flight attendant
for a pillow and blanket both were quickly retrieved and delivered with a smile.
She felt the plane back away from the gate and roar for the impending take off
as the pilot came over the speaker talking about the maximum elevation, what
time we would land and what the weather was like in San Jose California.