Last weekend, sort of on a whim, we gathered the boys into the car and drove through teeth-grinding Los Angeles traffic down to the marina where we keep our boat. There was a parade. People decorate their boats with holiday lights and lots of other things and motor them in a long loop through the channel, over and over again. A radio station lends an announcement booth, vendors sell crappy Chinese-made light-up toys, people get bundled up and bring hot chocolate and blankets, and it’s a lovely way to get into the holiday spirit.
In years past we have invited other friends and their families to join us. We would host a little gathering on our own boat, then walk down to the end of the marina to watch the parade together. The outing got more meaningful and fun as we all started to have children.
This year, of course, I’m not as proactive as I normally am, and so we didn’t even think about going to the boat parade until the last – literally, the last – minute. The boat has been disheveled for months as Stewart makes repairs to it in preparation to move it from Marina del Rey to Ventura (a 2-day sail for those of you unfamiliar with our area). It’s not the most comfy place to snuggle and hang out, but it is the location of many wonderful memories. The evening was clear, the water was still, and the air was crisp but not too cold.
As we stood at the fence separating land from sea, I looked at my family watching the boats. The lights reflected on the boys’ faces. Stewart seemed so happy. Indeed, when he is sailing our boat is the happiest I ever see him. At that moment I realized what I was feeling.
Two seconds later I felt ashamed. How dare I be happy? But of course, I know that is not the answer, and not actually a valid feeling that will dictate the way I live the rest of my life. Everything is bittersweet now.
Still, I hold on to that moment when I get down, like right now. It’s Lisa’s birthday, and I made Christmas cookies with the kids tonight. Those are two occasions that I have celebrated with her for several years. I would like to think that she was with me tonight, but it wasn’t the same.