Several years ago I had the opportunity to spend Christmas with a family in Aberdeen, Scotland. I was attending a school in England and one of the students there was Scottish; she invited several of us up to meet her family and spend the holiday with them. It is my most memorable Christmas.
I had never been away from my parents on a holiday except for Easter, my sophomore year of high school. But being away for Christmas and being so far away had a great affect on me. We left England by train; it was an all day trip on crowded trains. There were three of us all together with are dirty clothes and clean clothes, pretty much everything we possessed at that school. We were going to be gone for three weeks. I am a proponent for train travel except during the holiday season and in a different country. The UK has way more trains than we do, but they aren’t always on time. I think they try to make up for the tardiness by having more trains.
There are a few distinct memories that I have from that vacation. The first is arriving in Aberdeen. By the time we arrived it was dark and late. Snow had been falling most of the day, despite the busyness of the train station there was a quiet calm as big fat snowflakes fell to the ground. We were driven home by my friend’s father and given a brief tour of their home. Then we sat down in front of their coal stove and my friend made us hot white chocolate cocoa with pastel colored marshmallows. I have never been able to find the same hot chocolate mix here in the States.
The second distinct memory is from Christmas day. We were gathered around a Charlie Brown Style Christmas tree opening presents. I remembered the sadness on my other friends face. She had never spent Christmas without her family either. I was doing well; I missed my family and was enjoying the experience until I opened a Christmas present from a friend back home. She included an animatronic spotted dog that sang “Blue Christmas”. The tail would wag and the head would shake causing the bells on its fake reindeer ears and during the song it would start boohooing. It was funny and sad and annoying at the same time. I still have the dog, but not the friend who gave it to me.
The third memory is going for a hike a few days after Christmas. It was a seven mile hike around one of the Lochs in the Highlands. Even though there was a steep incline on the whole hike it was still exhausting. However the best part of the entire day was almost getting run down by Prince Charles. The surrounding area was both a national park and land owned by the royal family. There was a house near the Loch that we ate lunch outside of on the front steps. As we left the home and were making our way along the road back to the road a string of Range Rovers were came towards us before we realized it. We had to jump to the side of the road and as we looked Prince Charles and his wife smiled and waved at us. It all happened so fast we couldn’t snap a picture.
I am not sure what experiences this Christmas will bring but I doubt they will top the memories of that time in Scotland.