I love the Christmas season; the lights, the hustle and bustle, the excitement, the smells of Christmas spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, the Christmas trees, and yes, even the Christmas music. I love egg nog, I love the cozy, dark nights snuggled up to keep the cold away, I love the classic Christmas movies and all the wonderful things that come with this time of year.
But the last couple of Christmases have been a little derailed. On December 1st 2017, after 3 negative pregnancy tests, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up some egg nog. I called Chris on my way home and told him to be ready to go pick up some rum after I got home so we could get drunk on egg nog and listen to Christmas music all night. But I was still a week “late” so I figured I’d take another pregnancy test before we left to put my mind at ease. I figured it was the stress of the possibility that was disrupting my cycle. But as I washed my hands and turned back toward the pregnancy test that was sitting on the edge of the tub I saw a very distinct little pink line that would put an end to our rum and egg nog plans for the night and change our lives forever.
I walked out of the bathroom with one hand over my mouth and the other holding the pregnancy test outstretched toward Chris. He rolled his eyes, thinking I was pulling his leg, and snatched the test from me with a smirk on his face. It’s rather rare to witness the sudden genuine drop of someone’s jaw and the widening of their eyes as panic surges through them. Had I not been experiencing that same emotion I probably would have found it much more amusing.
We sat on the couch in silence for around 10 minutes before Chris finally piped up: “well, there goes my hunting room then.”
That Christmas the pregnancy hit me so hard that I spent the entire day just as I did most others that winter; sleeping all afternoon, then waking for dinner before my eyes got so heavy that I was out cold for the night by 8pm. It wasn’t much fun for either of us.
Christmas 2018 was mildly better, but much more stressful. We had recently endured the most stressful and scary spell of our lives after I lost my visa, job and health insurance while 8 months pregnant (see my previous post …And When it Doesn’t). Immediately following that debacle, we had found a house to rent in Lawrenceville, GA which was far from ideal but at that time it was what we needed – a roof over our heads. Unfortunately, shortly after we moved in in late September I began getting rather under the weather and it wasn’t until Chris took some boxes down to the basement that we discovered water and black mold all over the entire 1200 sq ft basement. This was particularly distressing with our 2 month old baby breathing in that air. We informed the management company, Progress Residential, who told us we’d have to move out while they were remediating. This meant digging into what little savings we had to pay for somewhere to go, but the management company had agreed to reimburse us.
So we moved out into an AirBnB place. Then a few days turned into a week, which turned into 2. Before we knew it we had blown every last penny of our savings and were dangling by a financial thread before they finally completed the work and we moved back into the house in November. What followed was a rather long and incredibly frustrating struggle with the management company as they withheld our reimbursement and threatened eviction if we refused to sign a document saying that we couldn’t sue them for anything related to the damp or mold issues. My refusal was borne out of an unwillingness to be strong-armed into signing away any possibility to recover in case our infant son developed any health issues related to the exposure, and the fact that we had no health insurance. But eventually we had no choice but to sign for fear of being evicted – which was the most pressing issue.
By the time Christmas came around we didn’t have a penny to our name as the “reimbursement” came in the form of a rent credit so we still had no money in the bank. Lean as it was, we still managed to enjoy each other’s company and I cooked some very mediocre turkey breasts. But the whole season was overshadowed by the dark cloud of being stuck in a house that I still didn’t feel comfortable in and being tied to a management company that was crooked and underhanded, not to mention the extreme financial turmoil.
So this year we finally have earned a good Christmas. But living in a camper makes some of the aspects of a traditional Christmas rather difficult. A tree, for example, is a little difficult to have when you’re in such a tight space. While I’ve seen other folks that manage to pull this off, it just wasn’t an option for us in our rig with a toddler who loves to grab, climb and chew. We also had no decorations in the rig which made me a little sad at times because I do love Christmas decorations.
You can also go ahead and cross “traditional turkey dinner” off the list, as the oven in our rig (and most rigs) is marginally bigger than a shoe box. Plus, for two of us it seemed like overkill and a royal headache of dirty dishes in a tiny kitchen.
But a Christmas without those things made me a little blue, so I thought outside the box a little bit and searched around for something fun to do in the local area. A few years ago, when I first arrived in the states, I had been to a conference at Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa, just a few miles down the road from Vogel at Young Harris, GA. I remembered how beautifully they had decorated the place for Christmas, the huge stone fireplace, and the incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Veranda. So I had a look on their website and found that, as luck would have it, they did a Christmas Day buffet for $52.95 per adult and $10.95 for Junior so I called and booked the last available table for 3:20pm on Christmas Day.
Christmas morning I awoke, as always, at the crack of dawn and far too excited for someone my age. I shook Chris awake who was displeased at this and told me to go back to sleep until the baby wakes up. So I laid there impatiently staring at the clock until I decided that Junior needed to get up anyway or else he wouldn’t nap.
After Junior and I dragged Chris out of bed we FaceTimed with our families and opened our presents (technology sure is a wonderful thing for stuff like that when you live far away from everyone). Chris then cooked us a scrumptious breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon before Junior went down for his afternoon nap. I took this opportunity to see to my hosting duties and gave the bathrooms a good clean.
Unfortunately Junior didn’t nap long as he was fighting off a cold that he had picked up from one of the kids at his new daycare. So with a rather cranky baby we set off for Brasstown Valley for our Christmas Dinner.
The hotel is nestled in the valley just below Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest peak. The resort boasts an impressive 523 acres, stables, a championship golf course, a pool and spa, and unbeatable scenery. The lodge, where the main dining room is situated, is very grand with soaring ceilings, an incredible stone fireplace, and large windows that look out onto the veranda and the mountains beyond. The whole lodge is tastefully constructed to resemble a grand cabin in the woods, with sawn log bannisters, exposed beams, and exposed stonework throughout the building.
The Christmas tree in the main lobby and bar area is about 20 feet high, lavishly decorated, and excites the inner child with a hand crafted wooden rocking horse, a giant nutcracker, a giant wooden Choo-choo train, and other antique toys that contribute to the overall magic and make for another beautiful backdrop for family photos.
Despite me talking the place up for the last week, Chris was still pretty impressed once we arrived. We made our way to the dining room and got settled at our table before tucking into the delectable buffet.
Buffet, for me, is a word that conjures images of greasy sub-par food that is even less appealing because it has been sat under hot lamps for hours. This, on the other hand, couldn’t be further from that image. On offer was a full Christmas carvery of roast turkey or beef, stuffing, gravy and all the trimmings. There was also a salad bar with actual fresh salad greens like rocket and arugula – no iceberg lettuce in sight. There were pasta salads, green beans roasted in cranberry sauce, roasted potatoes, and a seafood bar with peel and eat jumbo shrimp, seafood salad, and fresh oysters on the half shell.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to sit and savor the gluttonous offerings for too long, and didn’t even get a peek at the whole separate room they had for desserts, for our wee lad’s health was deteriorating into a full-blown cold and he was getting so fussy that we just couldn’t sit and let him ruin everyone else’s meal anymore. We still got a pretty decent fill, however, so we took the chance at some fresh air on the balcony just in time for sunset.
The warm glow from the setting sun radiated across the mountains on the horizon and at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit (about 20 Celsius) with the gentle tickle of a warm breeze, it was a very romantic end to a pretty wonderful day. We took a walk down to the sunset veranda, and chatted about what a dream it’d be to come back without Junior and spend New Years Eve here. We stopped to snap some pictures and really take in the sunset before finally heading back to the truck to go home.
That night we got Junior into bed and retired to the campfire with wine to reflect on the day and relax. We had planned to play a new National Parks Trivia game that I had gotten for Chris, but the sound of a sick baby awoken with a fever beckoned us back into the camper for a night of snuggles on the couch and temperature readings every few minutes.
Despite the damper on the day with Junior being under the weather, it has still been the best Christmas we’ve had together yet and there was much to be thankful for; some kind of financial stability, a great marriage, a beautiful place to live in a glorious mountain setting, and one beautiful little boy. Christmas 2019 was definitely one to remember.