Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
There isn’t a more beautiful setting in the world for Christmas than Aspen. The streets are white, lights shine on tree branches beneath tufts of snow, clouds hang low over the mountains, leaving to the imagination their majestic height. Storefronts are decorated, shoppers stroll on the mall, and skiers tote their boards. There is something about passing lighted restaurant windows and seeing dressed up people inside; a fire behind and wine glasses in front of them.
The idea of winter is still fresh. Fall is not yet a memory sentimental enough to make us tired of snow, and the first rays of spring haven’t arrived to fill us with dread of how long it is until they come in earnest. This is winter at its best.
Yet, by the time you read this, happiness for me will be all of this Aspen beauty in my rear-view mirror and the wide open plains of West Texas over my hood. It is our turn to spend Christmas with my wife’s parents, and I’m glad to be hitting the trail.
No, it’s not like that. Sure, it would be easy enough to say I’m happy to be getting away from the madness that is also The Holidays in Aspen – the crowds in City Market, the impossibility of parking, the traffic, suspect tourist driving skills, fur coats, Paparazzi, decadent parties, and show-offs. I’m not trying to escape this stuff, though.
All the craziness can get to you if you are surprised by it or believe it will last forever. I know the annual tourist migration pattern so neither of these applies. On the alternating Christmases we spend here, I love the chaos. I immerse myself by cautious wading, knowing that relief is as close as my snowy doorstep and whatever holiday tradition my wife and kids are carrying on inside.
I’d miss all of this terribly except that we are taking the best part of Christmas with us. It’s not the presents stuffed into the carrier on top of the car. It’s not the Neville Brothers Christmas CD. It’s not even the Harry Potter book on tape that we’re going to listen to when our voices get hoarse from back-seat territorial wars and caroling during the 14-hour journey.
What we are going to have is an unbroken garland of time to spend with each other. There’ll be no work, no school, or any of the usual things we have to do at home when we have nothing else to do.
I’m sure you think that I’m building this up, making myself believe that Santa Clause will somehow deliver me from a week of eggnog imbibing and renewed addiction to ESPN. It isn’t so. I honestly can’t wait!
To give you an idea of how special this trip is to us, there was a time when each of our young children wanted to live there when they grew up. Truly! They wouldn’t admit that now, but I doubt they would heartily deny it either.
They don’t see that oil town in the middle of nowhere like you or I do. It’s not a flat, dry place surrounded by so much mesquite brush and wind that you can’t help wonder what people there do for fun.
To my kids this time of year, it’s that magical city you start to look for about 30 miles out when you see its glow on the horizon as you and night approach it from different angles. It’s the first sighting of its tallest building rimmed with the traditional green lights. It’s the thought of Grammy’s spaghetti waiting on the table. What else would she dare serve for our first meal there?
It’s not an action-packed adventure. The only thing scheduled is mass on Christmas Eve. We play a little golf when we feel like it, both miniature and the regular frustrating kind. We rub shoulders with the crowds in the stores hoping to find the perfect, life-changing, five-dollar limit stocking stuffers for each other. We go to a bunch of movies, a simple pleasure we never have time for at home. And, we always seem to be talking about, preparing for, eating or cleaning up dinner. Man, I like dinner!
Yes, Midland is a special place. Long ago I gave up making fun of it and trying to argue that is doesn’t have anything to do with who my wife is. It does, and she’s great. That’s enough for me and the kids.
It would seem fitting that the in-laws are from outlaw country, but they are great, too. Of course they love Susan and the grandkids, but I think they love me, too. And, if that wasn’t remarkable then there wouldn’t be any of the old stereotypes about typical in-law relationships. Yes, we have our petty in-law badgering going on, but the truth is, since we’ve figured each other out over the years, I think we all get a little bit of a kick out of it.
Then there’s Santa Clause. He’s not how I pictured when I was a kid, but he covers the entire planet spreading joy and goodwill on Christmas Eve just the same. If you don’t believe that, you need to open your eyes, ears and hearts a little wider. He somehow finds us down there as easily as he does in Aspen. I’ll be dipped if I know how he lands that sleigh on the dry roofs down there, though. Go ahead, call me simple. I believe!
The thing I’ll miss most about Christmas in Aspen is all of the family we have here. But, when you are blessed with a large family, you get the privilege of having to spread yourself thin to be with everyone. Don’t worry, we’ll be home for New Year’s.
And, that’s how it works. Christmas isn’t about where you spend it. It’s about how you spend it. Just ask the dirt poor family who spent the first one in a manger in Bethlehem. You have to hand it to them. They started quite a tradition.
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“Since the COVID pandemic began, personal touch and hugs have been absent within society. Sharing joyful and sorrowful moments have forced us all to lose connection with each other. Being deprived of touch and affection is definitely causing social, emotional and mental health concerns,” writes Judson Haims.