11. Island Bliss

11. Island Bliss

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

Island Bliss

Time spent with family is worth every second.

~Author Unknown

As a single parent, I didn’t have the means to vacation with my three children. After I remarried, my two high-school-age daughters begged their stepdad to take them to an island for vacation. It was a big surprise when my husband agreed. What better time to go to a warm climate than during the Christmas holidays when both of my girls would be on winter break? My son Casey had just moved to California the prior summer to attend college. Even though he had planned to come home for the holidays, with a heavy heart I had to tell him not to come home because his stepdad and I were going to St. Maarten for Christmas… with the girls. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I didn’t feel like I could ask my husband to include my son. After all, these weren’t his kids and my son wasn’t even living with us.

My heart ached that the entire family wouldn’t be together during the holidays, or on our first real vacation. My son didn’t whine or carry on like I had expected, but that didn’t make me feel any better. I knew I’d need an extra large suitcase to help carry the guilt that I would lug around on this trip.

I faked my happiness as we boarded the plane. I knew the girls wanted their brother to be there too and I sensed they faked their excitement as well. But since they were going to an island, I surmised that it wasn’t all phony.

We arrived in lush St. Maarten, went through customs, and made our way through the open airport. As I looked at all the people gathered in the waiting area, I had to do a double take. I saw a young man who wore a black hoodie and stood about six feet tall. His hair was a little sparse on top, just like Casey’s. I knew my eyes had played a trick on me. My heart again felt the sting of not having him with us; seeing that young man was just one more reminder of the awful mother I was for not having the entire family together at Christmas.

We walked a little further, and I watched the girls as they looked to their left too. Jessica turned to me. “Doesn’t that guy over there look like Casey?”

“Yeah, I thought so too. Dresses like him and everything.”

Rita chimed in, “Yeah, he does.”

My husband walked ahead of us while the girls and I shuffled along as we continued to stare at the young man. I knew we were all silently wishing that Casey was there with us.

By now, we were only about three feet from this young man. Suddenly, and all at the same time, we realized that it was Casey! I looked over at my husband who had the cutest grin on his face. The girls and I rushed over to Casey, screaming, “It is you! Yay! You’re here!” We all hugged each other as the tears fell.

My husband had schemed all along to surprise us. He’d called and made the arrangements with Casey, purchased a ticket for him to come to St. Louis, where he had spent the night in our hometown. Then Casey flew out of the airport on a flight ahead of us so that he would be in St. Maarten when we arrived. My husband kept it a secret and didn’t tell any of us.

That evening as my husband and I snuggled, I wrapped my arms around him and said, “That was the sweetest and most special thing you could have ever done for me!”

It was my first real vacation with all of my children and not only was I surprised that my husband agreed to take us, but I was doubly surprised when he included my son.

On Christmas Day, we all gathered and as the kids opened their gifts, my heart sang. No one knew the pure joy I felt.

“Mom, we don’t have a present for you.”

“It’s okay. My gift is having all of us together.” And without a doubt, it was my best gift, ever!

~Lynn M. Obermoeller

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