Day 42 – Christmas Eve
After more than a month on the island it finally feels like we have time to enjoy it. We make plans to explore the island. Since arriving we’ve felt so busy trying to get our lives in order (new job, finding housing, getting a car, opening a bank account, and of course endless waiting for things to get done) we haven’t really explored Grand Cayman.
Our co-workers approve of our plan to stay on the island instead of going anywhere else for Christmas. “The holidays are when you can actually go to the beach,” Mila says. She reminds us that with the time off, we actually have a ten-day vacation on a tropical island.
But before we adventure, we have Christmas traditions first.
There are delicious baked goods and desserts to make, the house to decorate, and presents to wrap.
Natalie makes her famous candy-cane cookies. Hands slick with shortening and butter, we roll balls of dough into strips, twinning them together. It’s really not the holidays until we make candy-cane cookies. In the fridge, Oreo truffles chill in neat rows, milk and white chocolate forming a delicious candy shell.
Thanks to Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, we watch the New England Patriots methodically take apart the New York Jets on TV while the cookies bake. The Jets might have hoped for a Christmas miracle as they played, but Tom Brady and his offense don’t believe in being Santa Claus. It’s a cold and rainy day at home in New England. The warm smell of baking cookies fill our apartment. The place gets uncomfortably warm. Brady sits the entire fourth quarter. When the game is over, the score is 41-3.
After the game we decide to finally try the apartment pool. Maybe swimming will be a new holiday tradition, I think. Every day the pool looks inviting. In the daily 82-degree weather, the pool is an oasis of irresponsibility. “Ditch work and just go swimming,” it seems to say.
The pool is a liar.
I didn’t know frigid pools existed in tropical places. I jump in and the water clings to my skin like a sheen of oil. The chemicals feel wrong. Natalie is smarter, she puts her feet into the pool first and decides to go to the hot tub instead. The hot tub is warmer, but not by much. We stick our fingers into the jacuzzi jets and cause the tub to overflow from the extra pressure coming out of the remaining jets. We watch three little lizards crawl across the yellow painted walls of the apartment building.
Here’s the thing about Christmas dinner. It’s a time for friends and family, and generally lots of good holiday cheer. It’s also a time for cooking delicious food. So what happens if you don’t have friends and family around and you want holiday cheer?
You buy yourself prime rib and cook it.
We’re breaking from traditions here, and going into the turkeyless unknown. Butter, garlic, salt, rosemary, thyme slathered over the red meat. A bit of luck and a prayer that everything works out and you don’t ruin a beautiful piece of meat (Spoilers: we didn’t ruin the meat and wow).
We eat Christmas dinner and watch Christmas in Connecticut on TCM. Christmas Eve night is about watching holiday movies. Outside on the main road, a slow-moving Karaoke truck rolls down West Bay Road. Christmas carols blare out, and an off-key man tries to sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
I step out onto the balcony, and watch the palm trees sway in the light tropical breeze. Pool lights cast long shadows in the courtyard. Roosters crow at each other. On the other side of the pool behind a row of bushes and palm trees are the back doors of a restaurant and a bar. Christmas Eve there is a noisy affair, with the party getting louder as the night grows older. I make a judgement call. Santa is probably skipping their place.
Is this really Christmas in the Cayman Islands or is this a dream? Our lives have changed so much in five years. When we first got married we were small town people used to life in Idaho moving to the big city of Boston. Now we’re big city folks living in a small town in the Caribbean. We keep company with ex-pats, nearly all of the people we meet are foreigners. There are days I wonder why we did it, why we decided to blow up our lives in America to go on a foreign adventure. We had a life, we had a routine, weren’t we happy?
But at the end of the day is happiness more than a routine? We believed so, or we wouldn’t be here. We told ourselves that we’d be richer for the experience, and it was a chance of a lifetime. But at a family and friend heavy time of the year, in a place that’s so warm it doesn’t FEEL like Christmas, I hear my own regrets mingling with the cheers from the party outside.
Still, we crank up the TV while watching The Muppet Christmas Carol—The last Christmas movie before bed and an absolute necessity. We hold on to Christmas traditions as a lifeline to our former lives, a bridge of hope into our new lives.
Update : Britt and Kaitlin wanted the recipe for the prime rib. You can find it here.