Presence > Presents
Route: Malasaña, Madrid, Spain
Why we went to Madrid … Two years ago Christmas morning, Rob and I hopped on a flight to NYC for a different kind of holiday. We booked a room overlooking Central Park for a long weekend stay, just the two of us. We had Chinese for dinner on Christmas night. We didn’t exchange gifts. We watched ice skaters at Rockefeller center with the massive Christmas tree backdrop and battled crowds on 5th Avenue for a glimpse at the spectacular decorations. The timing of our trip meant we didn’t have to miss some of our favorite family traditions like Christmas eve supper at the Farm or Christmas morning stockings in our pajamas. An added bonus. Though unconventional to some, the getaway was intentional and it was everything we hoped for, and more. You see, despite the much loved Christmas activities above, friends and family will tell you that I don’t like “the holidays.” But they’re only half right. The truth is, I’m not a big fan of Christmas presents. The rest of the holiday season, I adore. I wasn’t always this way. I know I liked Christmas presents as a kid. I remember sneaking into my parent’s closet to peek at what would be under the tree on Christmas morning, and helping my mom wrap gifts for my brothers. But I also remember my dad stressing over what to get my mom and both parents worrying more than usual about finances at the end of the year. While I am truly grateful for any gift I receive at any time, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less interested in the idea that it’s necessary to buy a bunch of presents for people and spend a ton of money at Christmastime because it’s just what you do. For me, the best presents are personal. I love to give gifts that are meaningful to the recipient. Something that reminds a friend of a shared experience or a memento from a faraway destination to show I was thinking of them. An item someone mentioned they’d like to acquire in passing, but forgot until they opened it. My in laws are master gift givers with an ability to pick up and retain hints about a need or want. And they always seem to deliver the goods – even if you forgot you ever said it! On the other hand, what I don’t love is the pressure that comes with the obligation to give gifts during Christmas because it’s how the collective “we” celebrate and show one another that we care. Our trip to New York was a small thing, but a big reminder to me that an experience is just as much a gift as anything you can hold in your hands. Two years later, I feel it’s even more important to show our impressionable teenage and our inquisitive toddler that they can choose between material things and grand adventures and it’s ok to go against the norm. So we went to Madrid. We still put out the Christmas decorations. We still got a tree. Hannah still took a photo with Santa. And we still exchanged gifts with extended family for who it’s an important part of their holiday season. But our family, chose to celebrate Christmas in a different way this year. We landed in Madrid Christmas eve and stayed through the New Year. Now, I’m not fooling myself to think that a European holiday is not a big gift. I’m very aware of how lucky we are to take such a trip and we emphasize to the girls that not everyone has the same opportunities so they will be thankful and humbled by the experience. But it’s a different kind of gift. Kylie didn’t go back to school showing off her new clothes or shoes. Hannah didn’t rack up a bunch of toys she’d grow tired of in a few weeks or months. The gift of travel is not a luxury I had growing up, but it’s an important part of who I am now and something I want our kids to experience and hopefully treasure as much as their dad and I do. This particular trip was meaningful to us on so many levels. Not only were we traveling internationally with both kids for the first time, but we also got to experience a new culture with extended family who joined us for the first week in Madrid. We decided to hire Flytographer to capture some of our time together because we realize what a wonderful gift we were all given to be able to do this. The photographs now, one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received.