My late husband John loved Christmas, and when we got together in our twenties in the 1970s, I was thrilled to celebrate it with him. Being Jewish, I celebrated Hanukkah, but Christmas always seemed like so much more fun. Our first Christmas, we lived on XL, a rickety, romantic 1903 Fire Island ferryboat in Long Island Sound. On Christmas Eve, we sat on the floor in front of the Franklin stove, our only source of heat in a New England winter, wrapped in a blanket to keep warm, mesmerized by the blinking blue lights of our Christmas tree flashing on the aluminum foil insulation we had tacked up, and along with the wind and the waves, it felt magical. It was also really hard for John, because our falling in love meant that he left two small children, and though we saw them earlier on Christmas Eve, they spent Christmas morning with their mom. It's a reminder to me about how holidays can be both beautiful and painful, and how over the years, new meanings can arise. Though John is gone, I'm now living near my daughter and her family, and those two little grandsons have sure added to my own pleasure around the holidays.
If you want to learn more about my three-year sailing adventure with my husband and young daughter when we left everything behind to follow John's lifelong dream and sail away, go here to find Holding Fast: A Memoir of Sailing, Love, and Loss.