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Life’s a Beach by Shelley Murphy

By Shelley Murphy

Last month, I watched the movie Christmas with the Kranks—again. The comedy is based on John Grisham’s novel Skipping Christmas.

It’s the story of an empty-nester couple whose daughter takes a Peace Corps assignment in Peru during the holiday; alone, they decide to skip Christmas and take a Caribbean cruise.

The duo’s plan is thwarted when their daughter announces she’s returning home for the holiday and, thus, hijinks ensue.

Years ago, I asked my family if we, too, could skip Christmas and swap it for a tropical trip; their frosty stares chilled me to the bone.

The past two years, I’ve canceled vacations ranging from a European anniversary voyage to a San Diego getaway.

This year, I decided, if my family wouldn’t skip Christmas, then we would skip the New Year holiday hoopla.

I sought an escape from a sea of statistics surrounding a pandemic that won’t go away and the rhetoric enveloping an election that’s long been finalized.

It almost took a Christmas miracle to bring our trip to fruition. Twice, I rescheduled a total of 10 one-way flights, but I triumphed.

And, thanks to hours spent on the phone, I mastered singing along with the on-hold music—in Hawaiian, and I’m almost certain I can play the ukulele by ear.

Coordinating and planning our vacation left me little time to consider the many unexpected perks of skipping the New Year hype.

First, our itinerary provided impetus to pack away the Christmas decorations blanketing our home, vacuum up pine needles burrowed in carpets, and toss out boxes and bows littering the living room.

Later, once we arrived on the island, I vowed to avoid the television. I shunned the onslaught of advertisements for miracle weight-loss methods, expensive health food subscriptions, and bargain lifetime gym memberships.

Then, one morning while relaxing poolside, it dawned on me that no one had asked me to rattle off a list of resolutions for the New Year.

Likewise, I hadn’t been asked again and again about my celebratory plans for when the clock struck midnight.

Of course, our family observed New Year’s Eve. But we didn’t ring it in with glittery hats, paper noisemakers, or numbered balloons.

Instead, during dinner, we raised our glasses, toasted to 2022, and returned to planning the next day’s adventure.

On New Year’s Day, we didn’t stay inside glued to a television watching the annual parade or football games. Although, I admit my husband and boys did manage to watch a few bowl games on their phones and at an open-air pool bar.

I, on the other hand, ditched my phone and didn’t send sentimental text messages to friends wishing, “May 2022 be your best year yet!” My girlfriends know I wish them happiness and health all year long, not on one night of the year.

The closest we came to observing a Jan. 1 ritual was my boys’ version of the “polar bear plunge” as they jumped into the chilly waters of an unheated pool.

This year, when the calendar changed, I didn’t contemplate what 2022 may, or may not, hold for me and my family. Truthfully, most of our trip, I didn’t know the day or date—and it was bliss.

Choosing to put my head in the sand provided a pivotal and peaceful respite from the world. Yet, I knew upon returning, I’d find the reality of my 2022 calendar and the internet waiting.

Back home, I learned that according to a recent U.S. News & World Report poll, only 71% of Americans surveyed say they think 2022 will be more prosperous than 2021.

The dismal statistic didn’t sink my spirits. After ringing in 2022 on a tranquil island with the most important people in my life, my New Year is promising.

This January, I am hopeful, optimistic, and tan.

For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.

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