And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Well, Christmas, of course. It was a very nice Christmas, with most of my kids here, and my granddaughter here. We had the usual flinging of Christmas wrapping paper toward the honorary holder of the garbage bag, we had the usual reactions to presents, we had an hors d’oeuvres bar for lunch, which included such delicacies as pizza rolls, mozzarella sticks, and onion rings, we played Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Switch. All was merry and bright.

Around it, though, we planned several events that didn’t quite make it without a hitch.

I have always loved seeing Christmas lights. When Olivia was born, we started a tradition of going to the drive-thru Christmas light display held at a local hotel. My big kids were with their father on Christmas Eve, and this little event helped take the sting off of my kids’ absence. Plus, it gave a new tradition for my new husband, new baby, and me. We’ve gone every year (the “baby” is 23 years old now) and so this was planned as usual.

But I also added a trip to see the light display at the Milwaukee County Zoo. We went last year, and it was wonderful. My middle son, Andy, who is a zoo fanatic, also loves Christmas lights. So on the 22nd, we planned our return trip.

What we didn’t plan was my getting sick again on the 21st, this time with the Norovirus. My poor stomach was not enthused in any way about going to see the lights and the animals. Then my son was suddenly scheduled to work. And it poured that evening. Not snow. Rain.

And so that trip was scratched. But we’re planning on trying again this Saturday.

Also planned was a trip on the 23rd to Lake Geneva, to board a two-level cruise boat and see the Christmas lights all around Lake Geneva. Besides the lights, we would also see Santa, and so we brought along Grandgirl Maya Mae. In the morning, I considered backing out, as I was still recovering from the Norovirus, but in the end, I decided to go. The five of us, Michael, me, Andy, Olivia, and Maya, piled into my car.

On the way there, as I watched sudden moist clouds hit my windshield, I said, “Is that fog?” In the next minute, that was answered as we drove into fog as thick as peanut butter, as Yukon Cornelius says on the classic Christmas show, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The rest of the drive was white knuckles for me, as I could barely see the dividing lines on the road. I drove right past the gathering place for the cruise, got us lost in the middle of nowhere where we couldn’t even see the intersections. Finally, through the miracle of GPS, we found our way back, parked the car, rode a shuttle bus to the dock, and then proceeded to have the most amazing time. The lights, with an eerie glow, thanks to the fog, were beautiful. When Santa, on the shore, called out the names of good boys and girls from his list, Maya Mae was the first child he listed.

She’s been very good.

But then we all noticed the boat wasn’t moving. The captain came over the intercom and said, “Well, we should be back to the dock by now, but we can’t find the dock. We’ll play some more Christmas music while we attempt to find our way.”

Olivia, being Olivia, immediately cried out, “We’re lost at sea!”

Um, no.

Eventually, we found our way back to land. But the ride home was also white-knuckled, and I got us lost again.

On Christmas Eve, Michael, Olivia, and I went on our traditional trip to the light show behind the local hotel. We were joined by Andy. The lights seemed brighter than ever this year, and the trip was delightful.

On Christmas Day, in the evening, Michael, Andy, Olivia and I planned to go to a new Christmas light show in the area, called Enchant Christmas Milwaukee. This time, as we ventured out, it was not only foggy, but pouring again. On the freeway, I managed by following the car in front of me, and we somehow found our way via the GPS. But when we got there – and “there” was a huge place, we could see lights everywhere – there were no guides leading cars to parking spaces. I’d paid for parking, so I wasn’t too worried…until I saw that the signs that were set up as guideposts had fallen over flat on the road, and turned so that the arrows went every which way. Twice, I circled around and never found where I was supposed to park. With the last trip, I found myself on the exit. So that’s what I did.

Tally: 4 trips. The zoo, the lake cruise, the Christmas Eve light show at the local hotel, and Enchant Christmas.

Final result: 2 trips, the zoo and Enchant Christmas, never happened. One while it was literally right in front of us. 2 trips taken were wonderful.

So which of these were my Moment?

None of them. My Moment happened on the shuttle bus to the lake cruise.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve met Grandgirl Maya Mae on Zoom every night at 8:30. We read a book together. We’ve gone through quite a few, and I love these moments with her. But recently, I noticed she seemed distracted during the visits. She usually was watching television while I read, and when I was done, she often didn’t seem to know what I’d been reading, and sometimes, she didn’t even notice that I stopped.

So I suggested that maybe she didn’t want to do the nightly visits anymore. Or at least, not so often.

She agreed.

One of the hardest lessons in being a parent is learning to let go. Realizing that while your children are still a huge part of your life, you are no longer a huge part of theirs. And that’s just the way of things.

So apparently, I now have to learn that this is true of grandchildren too.

Typically, when I see Grandgirl Maya Mae, she gravitates to her aunt, Olivia, and the two of them have a wonderful relationship. So I expected, on this Christmas boat trip, that she would be glued to Olivia’s side.

When I unstuck my fingers from the steering wheel of my car, I led my family over to the shuttle bus and I was the first to climb on. I chose a seat, and across the aisle from me, Olivia slid into a seat as well. Then came Grandgirl Maya Mae. She looked at the two of us…and then she turned to me.

“Can I sit with you, Grandma?” she asked.

I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

After she sat down, I hugged her and said, “I am so happy to see you, Maya Mae! I’ve missed you!”

“I’ve missed you too,” she said.

Moment made. I experienced a whole different kind of Christmas lights.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Happy holidays. Joyous days. Peaceful nights.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.


Difficult to see because of the fog, but this is the boat, all lit up with Christmas lights.
Grandgirl Maya Mae on the Christmas boat.
Olivia and Andy, posing at the Christmas light drive-thru display behind a local hotel.
Driving through the light tunnel at the drive-thru Christmas display.

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