Christmas was quite different this year. To begin with, Dudley and I became landlubbers for a few days, but in different cities. We rented a car for a one-way drop-off at the Orlando airport on December 22, and kissed goodbye at my gate as I headed to Baltimore, while he flew to Atlanta to be with his family and daughter (Kat flew in from San Francisco). This blog entry is about my visit to MD/PA. Perhaps he’ll take a break from boat work someday to write up some of his experiences (don’t hold your breath).
Jean-Luc (JL) picked me up at BWI airport after retrieving our stack of mail from Annapolis. Gotta love responsible sons! Our first stop was our storage unit to pick up my Ugg boots—my feet had been yearning for those comfy coverings, and I was certain the weather would eventually get cold enough to justify wearing them. Additionally, I had to retrieve several boxes of tax records before we continued our drive to meet Philippe and my sister’s family that evening at my parents’ house in Mechanicsburg PA for our annual Christmas celebration.
Tax records? Yes, after 40 years of filing taxes with no audits, the IRS decided to wait until we left Maryland to audit our 2013 business filings. Ugh. We asked the IRS for an extension, but were denied. Ugh again. So one of my delightful tasks over the holidays would be to find necessary documentation, scan, and send to our accountants. So I extended my time back in Baltimore to allow a few days of tax duties, which also allowed me to sprinkle in more visits with friends and family.
Early in the 10-day trip, it dawned on me that my sons and I are now nomads. We were travelers, wanderers, and drifters as we “came home” for the holidays, but not to any one home where we would gather on Christmas morning, or for any regular gathering for that matter. My sons had left behind (actually, I yanked it out from under them) their 18-year tradition of rushing down the stairs, knocking each other out of the way, competing to be the first one to see the gifts under the tree.
This traditional race had become a source of much laughter over the years, and the absence of a house left a hollow feeling in my chest. What had I done to them, to our family? When and where would I be able to see my sons? Would I have any quality time with them? Their grandparents’ home in PA could be a base, but it was too far away from familiar stomping grounds and JL’s seasonal job. Because we were each staying in different family and friends’ homes, how would we ever coordinate our schedules to be together? Did they even want to spend time with their Mom?
As it turned out, being a nomad is not so bad. In Philippe’s words, as he tried to comfort me when I expressed concern, “It’s actually fun Mom. Getting to visit with different friends and family over the holidays is pretty cool.”
And so he was right. I stayed six nights in PA with my parents, and three nights with friend Betsy in Ellicott City, MD, literally next door to the house I sold in September—yes the one with the 18-year tradition of stair racing. Oddly, it wasn’t that odd to sleep next door to where we used to live. I credit Betsy and her husband for that. I have always felt at home in their house, and they couldn’t have been sweeter or more accommodating as I flitted here and there.
Both sons stayed a couple of nights with the grandparents, but mostly they stayed at their various “homes away from home.” When not at Elon University, JL stays with a friend in Frederick MD and works at a restaurant in Ashburn VA. When Philippe visits MD, he splits time between friends in College Park and Ellicott City, the latter of whom have even given him a key to their house. And all of us have turned down requests from others who have offered to share their homes and beds to ease our nomadic reality. We are indeed loved.
Amazingly, the Christmas holiday was quite comfortable and joyous. I attended a candlelight service with Mom, Dad, and sister Joy at their church on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day included visits with the Duvall side of the family, beginning at Amy and Marty’s home, and both JL and Philippe were able to be there.
Afterwards, I visited with more Duvalls at Ron and Kathy’s house. Both homes were filled with much laughter and typical Duvall wit, enough to nourish my soul for a good long while.
Apparently, I fretted needlessly about not having a home base. I ended up spending lots of time with both my sons. I got to see Star Wars (The Force Awakens), with them and my nephews, which was a HUGE treat for me. JL joined me at Woodbrook Church for a Sunday service, and afterwards we enjoyed lunch at Bare Bones, watching the Ravens beat the Steelers. Later that same day, Philippe and I attended a concert at the Birchmere to see our friend and former guitar teacher, Dave Chappell, perform in a Hank Williams tribute.
It was impossible to know then that I would see my boys several more times as impromptu gatherings seemed to crystalize with ease. I guess I should thank the IRS for that, because none of the following would have occurred without the audit extending my visit. Who could have guessed that the IRS would provide this silver lining?! Ha!
The Keagles invited the three of us for dinner, which was a special gathering of lifelong friends.
Philippe accepted my offer to host a 26th birthday celebration for him and a few friends at Dave and Buster’s, to be continued the next day with lunch on Main Street with Terry, Tom and Betsy.
I squeezed in many visits in my ten days in MD and PA. I didn’t have time to see everyone I wanted to, and I neglected to take photos of a few friends who met me for lunch or coffee (including Anne, Karen, and Alex). But I did spend a delightful evening with sailing friends and mentors MaryMarie and Frank, who are on dry land for a bit longer. And Betsy joined me for a mani pedi at my favorite manicure shop.
And I must mention that it was truly enjoyable to spend so much time with my 83-year old parents, who are doing well in spite of some nagging medical issues. They rolled with the nomadic flow, accommodating the comings and goings of the grandsons, and me too. My Mom provided non-stop nourishment while my tech-savvy dad was able to help me with the scanning of tax documents with his equipment, which made my tasks so much easier. He also helped me install a new battery into Dudley’s van, my set of wheels during this visit.
I always seem to be able to relax and rest when I stay with my folks, as do my boys. We all joke that we just want to take naps when we are there. They really are amazing parents and grandparents, and we are so blessed to have them in our lives.
So as it turns out, being nomads, as Philippe said, is actually a lot of fun. Nomads are travellers, wanderers, and drifters, according to my dictionary. And that about sums up my life on the boat, and my visit “home” for the holidays. And I can guarantee that had we been in a traditional house, with the stair for the traditional race, we wouldn’t have experienced the diversity of people and experiences that graced us over Christmas. Honestly, I would not have spent so much time with my parents or my sons. In a traditional house, I would have assumed I would see my sons at some point, and I may have visited my folks for one night. But this Christmas, because we were nomads, we all worked hard to be sure we’d have quality time together and with others.
Thank you IRS, for giving me a reason to extend my stay and enjoy the abundant silver lining of your tax cloud. Whatever the audit outcome, I know it benefited me way more than the IRS.