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Christmas – Deployment Style

By Samantha Carroll

We love celebrating the holidays with our soldier when he is home. We enjoy decorating, shopping and attractions that are fairly local. And often times, our families will come to us.

When he deploys though, I usually pack up the motorized sleigh with presents, dogs and our daughter and cover the miles spanning both sets of grandparents. The year 2012 was no different. My husband left on December 15, so with 10 days until Christmas, my 4-year-old daughter and I used that time to keep busy and prep for the craziest road trip yet.

My daughter was finally old enough to know about presents and the holidays so I had to plan carefully with packing gifts, especially Santa gifts.

We were spending Christmas that year in Florida with my sister-in-law and her family. First, we drove to north Georgia to visit my family. I managed to dig through the back of the car and find the first round of gifts needed there. We dropped off our dog and pointed the sleigh south.

We stopped into my in-laws just long enough to pick up my brother-in-law, grab some frozen pizza and snacks for dinner and head on. That night, we did laundry, ate frozen ridiculousness and re-packed the car. The next morning I hustled my excited daughter and my sleepy brother-in-law into the car and we headed south. My niece has a Christmas birthday, so we headed straight, or so we thought, to the bowling alley for her party.

My GPS sent me one way, my brother-in-law’s sent me a another, and soon, I found myself on the side of the road in a not so savory area of town in tears, worried we would miss the whole party. Amidst my stress, I’d forgotten about the third GPS in our presence, housed in my husband’s car I was driving. Smack forehead here.

 The good ‘ol Lincoln GPS took us where we needed to go and I feverishly scrambled through the pile of presents in the trunk to extract the birthday gift. After the party, another trunk scrambling ensued, to smuggle Santa toys, gifts and a life sized Barbie, who somehow managed to stay hidden, into the garage with my brother-in-law’s help.

The next day we ate dinner at a restaurant on Disney Resort property which was wonderful and bittersweet at the same time (our family loves Disney). Later, the girls played and fought and the adults shopped and baked. On Christmas Eve, we had dinner with my brother-in-law’s parents.

It was a big family Christmas which, again, was both wonderful and bittersweet. There were presents, S’mores by the fire and tons of love. My daughter fell asleep on the ride home which was perfect for me to stop, leave her in the car with my sister-in-law and run into Walgreens to grab the very last My Little Pony electric toothbrush that was on the list.

By some miracle we managed to get two excited little girls to sleep so Santa could get to work. I struggled with life-sized Barbie, wrapping her in brown paper and putting an Army return address on it, so she would know it was sent from daddy in Afghanistan. A Skype call from my soldier, a Christmas night cap and I could check Santa’s job off the list.

The next morning was fantastic Christmas chaos. The girls had a blast opening gifts and they even noticed the baking soda boot prints we put on the floor “from Santa.” We packed up and we were off to the Gaylord Palms for a Christmas Ice extravaganza courtesy of my in-laws. Again, another beautiful experience with family that echoed the bittersweet theme to due to the absence of my husband. The next day brought a Mcdonald’s drive through breakfast and the long trip to drop off the brother-in-law, get the dog . . . .

I don’t know how many miles I drove that Christmas. I do know that as per usual, I packed as much action into the holiday as I could because that’s our coping mechanism when our soldier is away. I also know it was one of the craziest and most fun holidays we’ve had, simply because we put our heart and soul into making things fun in spite of the deployment. I find those tend to be some of our fine

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