I'm sitting at an airport on the small Caribbean island of Bonaire as I type this. Wiping the sweat from my forehead before it hits the keyboard, swatting at mosquitos and dabbing Calamine lotion to the dozens of swollen lumps on my body where my hand wasn't fast enough with the swat. I swear, the mosquitos on this island are big enough to violate a chicken.
Given this present moment, a tomorrow filled with skiing, wrapping gifts and clearing the driveway of snow seems illogical at best. But as I've often said in these moments (usually to the poor saps who call places like Missouri and North Dakota home), I'm leaving one vacation and going right into another.
Granted, I have to swap my scuba gear for skis, my bathing suit for a hardy winter coat and the ocean for a sea of fluffy white powder. But when you live in Park City, the vacation state-of-mind never really ends, even when a vacation does.
I wonder if the people who live and work on this island, who live here for the laid-back lifestyle, the natural beauty and the recreation feel the same way about Bonaire as I do Park City — it's a permanent vacation and we're insanely lucky to call it home.
When I duck out for a few turns in the middle of the day, it always amazes me the people who come from all over the country — the world even — for a week or two in the greatest snow on Earth. They'll drop $10,000 on the ski vacation of a lifetime and absolutely marvel how I can just pop out for a few runs over lunch.
I've never really understood that awe.
I say "I'm learning" because this is actually my first Christmas here. All 38 of my previous Christmases I've spent with my family, usually in Nebraska. It's the first time I've never been with my parents and sisters to open gifts, eat cinnamon rolls, watch "A Christmas Story" and laze around in our pjs all day. It's actually a little sad for me, but not nearly as sad as it appears to be for my mother.
This is the woman who still makes my sisters and me bake cookies to set out for Santa and leave carrots for the reindeer. She still makes all of us sleep over on Christmas Eve, so we can all be together in the morning. She and my dad still awake first and make us sit at the top of the stairs (where we still squirm with excitement) as they marvel about what Santa left each of us. "Ooh, look what he brought for Amy," they'll exclaim within earshot, but out of sight. And after about 10 minutes of this annual torture, they allow us to come down to the tree and begin the morning. My mom still dips the bottom of my dad's boots in flour, and "walks" them across the floor, from the fireplace to the tree, to leave footprints from Santa. Every year, we have the exact same Christmas dinner: Turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, Watergate salad and pumpkin pie for dessert.
You might say she's one for tradition.
And this year, I'm capsizing all of these traditions by not showing up to participate in them. An act of betrayal that might just bump me out of the family will.
My mom tearfully accepted the news I was staying in Park City this year for a variety of reasons: Christmas is on a Wednesday meaning more time off work, they were all out here just a few weeks ago for Thanksgiving, tickets were pricey, I spent my travel money in Bonaire (and on Calamine lotion) it's hard finding dog sitters this time of year, and most of all — they live in Nebraska.
There are thousands of extra people in town this week, because Park City is an amazing place to spend the holidays. And I'm looking forward to experiencing that for myself, for the first time. Merry Christmas!
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.