The photo above shows me spending one Christmas/Yuletide away from home, but nonetheless with all our cats! It was taken in 1994, on one of several occasions when we were staying at the Cypress Inn in Carmel, California, along with all three cats. The cat shown is our eldest, Nikki, who was hanging out with Mary and me at the hotel bar. The bartender eventually served Nikki a saucer of milk, as shown below!
The reason that we were able to have our cats stay with us in the hotel was because the Cypress Inn is owned by movie star Doris Day, who has been a life-long benefactor to animals. Pets are thus welcome to stay at the Cypress Inn, and, for several Christmases, Mary and I transported our three cats with us to stay at the inn for a few days.
At this time of year, I’m often asked whether I’ll be spending the holiday “at home”, or “going away”. I’ve enjoyed both alternatives in the past, but then of course that brings up the question of where “home” actually is. If my “home” is where I was born, then in fact I spend every Christmas away from it, and have done for decades.
Nonetheless, recent events have made me realize that I shouldn’t necessarily take it for granted that I’ll always have the luxury of being able to spend the holidays in my home.
My First Independent Christmas, in a Rebuilt City
As I mentioned in a previous post, the first time that I lived in any location away from my birth home in Scarborough was to attend university in Coventry, in the West Midlands of England.
Until then, I’d always been a child who was very nervous about the idea of living away from my parents, even for a short time. I was extremely distressed when it was suggested that, due to the difficulties that my mother was facing with my invalid father and grandmother, the local Social Services felt that I might need to be moved into a care home, but, later the same year, I did indeed find myself living independently for the first time.
When that day came, I quickly came to wonder what I’d been so worried about. I loved living independently, and was very excited about my new freedom and the possibilities that it seemed to offer.
Of course, I suppose that the desire of children to be close to their parents is an evolutionary adaptation. Children who preferred to wander away from their parents’ protection would be less likely to survive than those who stayed close, so an instinctive desire to remain with parents has been selected. Nonetheless, there comes a day when every well-adjusted child must make the decision to leave home and live independently.
In December 1978, I found myself wandering around the streets of Coventry, doing my Christmas shopping. The photo below shows my view of the “Upper Precinct” shopping centre in Coventry, suitably decorated for the holiday.
Coventry is of course internationally famous because its city centre was almost completely destroyed during the Blitz bombing of 1940. On one night in November, 1940, some 4300 homes were destroyed in Coventry.
By the time that I lived there, most of the city had been rebuilt. The Precinct shopping centre above was part of the redevelopment, although the spire of Coventry Cathedral in the background is medieval, and survived the bombing. (The remainder of the cathedral is a ruin, with the modern replacement cathedral alongside.)
I lived in Coventry for only about one year, then returned to Scarborough, where I ended up working at an engineering company for nearly two years.
Nonetheless, that first taste of life “away from home” set wheels in motion for me. I finally realized that there was a whole wide world out there, beyond the limited horizons of life in a small Northern town, and I couldn’t wait to begin exploring it!
Don’t Take “Home” for Granted
I mentioned above the mass destruction of homes in Coventry many decades ago, something which I hoped I’d never have to experience during my lifetime.
However, the events in Sonoma County during the past few months have been a painful reminder that we can’t necessarily take it for granted that we will have a home in which to remain. Tragically, even now, some who lost their homes to the fires here nearly three months ago are still living in hotels, as described in an article in today’s Press Democrat newspaper. It’s a Christmas away from home for them, but not one that they wanted.
It seems appropriate that those of us who are lucky enough still to have homes to stay in should try to make the most of them this holiday season.
Whatever your reason for celebrating this season, we hope you manage to have an enjoyable time, wherever you stay.