First Christmas in Portland

December 23, 2014

We’re gearing up for our first Christmas in Portland. Although we’ve lived here three full years, this is actually our fourth Christmas since we moved at the end of October in 2011. And Santa has yet to visit us out here – hahaha.

Why? Because we’ve been heading back to the Philadelphia area to do our Christmasing since the big move.  Adjusting to the holidays has been like pulling off a Band-Aid verrrrrrrry slowly for us. The first year we lived here, we literally found a house, settled, and moved into it on December 15, flew home December 16 and stayed back East for three weeks. The year after that, we skinnied it down to about two / two and a half weeks. Last year, we traveled East for Thanksgiving AND Christmas.

Yea. This endeavor is best summed up by that picture above. It’s what we’ve come to call Christmas in a Box. As in our Clark family Christmas literally packed up in boxes – riding the UPS sleigh back and forth across the country. As in Santa would do some shopping here in Portland, some online shopping with direct shipping to the East Coast, and then Mom and Dad (i.e. me and Kenny) would pack it all back up into these handy-dandy Home Depot moving boxes and ship all the Christmas goodies back to our home in Oregon.

Unfortunately, this whole endeavor was not sponsored by Home Depot as those boxes might have you believe. And last year, we spent about $1,200 on shipping. Nope. That’s not a mistake. That’s an actual expense. And one that was parallel to our plane tickets. Needless to say the shipping costs more than cancelled out any frugal shopping we’d done. We’d spend so much money with UPS that’d we’d joke with family and friends that they should buy stock, because we were certainly doing our part to keep profits up. Haha.

Yes, I know how crazy that looks. And sounds. Because it is.

But, you see, when you make a significant life change like moving across the country, it’s hard – really, really hard – to adjust life-long traditions and reset expectations. Not only our own traditions and expectations, but also those of our entire immediate and extended family. So, if you’re like us, you’re more than happy to make the investment – and have the Christmas you’ve always had.

We worked hard to preserve the Christmas we knew as a family in Philadelphia for as long as we could. Going to church in familiar places on Christmas Eve. Spending quality time with loved ones. Visiting house after house sharing Christmas cheer (and by that, I mean wine. Lots of wine.). And we are incredibly grateful we had the means to do so, and that our families worked hard to make our extended visit comfortable. It helped make the transition of our move a little easier for everyone involved – mostly Kenny and me, but also our family and friends. It allowed us all to preserve our very favorite time of year exactly as we’d come to love it – together. It made our hearts – if not our savings account – happy.

Sadly, at some point, practicality trumps your heart, right?

We realized our kids are getting older and that we were missing the joy of having them wake up in their own house on Christmas morning. We’d never watched them come down our own steps here in Portland excitedly peeking around the corner to see if Santa, had indeed, filled a few of their wishes. We’ve never celebrated Christmas Mass in our own parish. (I should couch that we’ve not even been Chreasters since we’ve moved to Portland, but I definitely have Catholic guilt and would like to turn that ship around in 2015. Even still, Mass during the Christmas season has always been my favorite.) (Oh, and if you’re not Catholic, and potentially not a Philadelphia-area Catholic,  a Chreaster is someone who only goes to church on Christmas and Easter. Not sure if this is a Philadelphia term or something more widely used? Christmas + Easter = Chreaster. It’s not necessarily a complimentary term – hahaha.) We’ve never really spent the time doing the whole Christmas thing in the place we now call home – and, to be honest, have done various levels of (not) decorating over the past few years depending on how much time we’d be spending in Portland. Last year, we didn’t even get a tree, and the kids like to remind me of that every so often. Haha.

Basically, we’ve never really spent enough time in our new home town to establish our own holiday traditions or memories.

Does that matter? Well, I am not sure yet. A few days out, and I am sensing the Portland Clarks may be a little sad we aren’t home with our families. We’re feeling nostalgic. For sure. At the same time, being here with just the four of us and nothing to do is kinda nice. Kenny and I have both had a particularly busy year with work travel, so it’s actually pretty special to have quiet time together, planning our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – no real agenda to drive. It’s one of those things where you know you made the best choice, but your heart can’t reconcile it completely. There’s a little Christmas Past shaped hole, but it’s surrounded by the goodness, warmth, and our very closest loved ones. Just not as many as we’re used to having around.


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