North Pole, Alaska
Christmas is a series of compromises. It's everyone doing the best they can & praying - some to baby Jesus in a manger, others that the holiday will pass with their sanity intact. As you age, which the mirror confirms I am, times that were perfect in their imperfection float to the top. One of my brightest Christmas snapshots was in December of 2007 in Alaska.
A group I loved performing with, Chicago City Limits, was sent to Fairbanks for a once in a lifetime trip with people that made me laugh like few others. We did good shows. We met wonderful people. We chartered a plane and flew to the arctic circle. We floated in hot sulphur springs. We went to the North Pole.
It wasn't THE North Pole. It's a tourist destination with a Christmas theme. There was a beautifully rendered team of reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh made of crisp blue ice worthy of Queen Elsa before she even existed. Their shiny perfection ruined by a child hanging off of Vixen's antlers. No big deal. A minimum wage elf repaired it within minutes.
The Mr. and Mrs. Claus of my imagination were there in a QVC version of the workshop. The garland was plastic. Most of the items featured were sold somewhere in the store. Mrs. Claus thought we were out of town hipsters making fun of something she loved. She relaxed as it became clear we thought this place was great. She sat down on her afghan covered throne - in reality an out of season rattan rocker.
I called my mom from the mug aisle trying my best to capture all the adventures we'd been having. Words failed me; so I just summed it up by saying, "I'm so happy Mom. I love my life and I just wanted you to know." I didn't know it that night, but that was one of the final Christmas memories I'd make with her. She was gone 4 months later.
I treasure the mug I bought that night. I treasure the picture of my friends. And more than anything I'm thankful that there are no roaming charges when calling Wisconsin from the North Pole - as long as it's the one in Alaska.