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The Idle American
"All I Want for Christmas..."
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 • Posted December 12, 2012

Like most of the great ideas at our house, my wife birthed it—treating kids and grandkids to a short cruise in lieu of gifts for Christmas. The affirming vote was unanimous. Beholding the wide-eyed wonderment of a half-dozen grandchildren, ages 5-11, taking on first-time experiences was priceless. Initially a “bucket list” item, it now is a gift we’d like to re-open again—at least for as long as loved ones want to go.

Like much of life, the outing is memorable for a few big things and a multitude of small ones. (The youngsters were transfixed by Galveston’s massive Mardi Gras arch stretching across Ship’s Mechanic Row, in front of the historic Tremont House hotel. Erected initially to signal the beginning of Mardi Gras, it is now lighted nightly throughout the year. Galveston’s 102nd such event—the largest in Texas—is scheduled Feb. 1-12, 2013, with more than a quarter-million visitors expected.)

Inside the hotel, children’s eyes locked on the gingerbread replica of the storied Tremont House….


The trip was not without trauma, however brief. Addison, a kindergartner, was on the edge of panic when her first loose tooth wobbled, more “out than in.” Surrounding dinner guests cheered when her dad gently removed it, turning tears into a big smile seconds later.

Strains of “All I Want for Christmas” erupted—lyrics were changed, of course, to “one front tooth.”

Tooth fairy questions abounded, with Carnival personnel assuring her that the fluttering fairies always are welcome on board. There was no shortage of well-wishers wanting to supply coins, and they had to get her a bigger pillow….


Meal times were most special—for more than the obvious reasons. We found ourselves stealing peeks at the children who had migrated to “their table,” adjacent to ours.

Ben and Jonah inhaled cheeseburgers and shrimp cocktail at almost every meal. (Jonah expressed amazement that they can “give us all of this for free!”) Most of the “grands” passed on fancy dishes, opting for burgers, pizzas and grilled cheese sandwiches instead. Fruit Loops—not eggs benedict—was their breakfast choice. (An exception was youngest grandson Kedren, who ordered mostly adult dishes, including “alligator fritters.”)

Juliana, always with EpiPen nearby to counter nut allergy reactions, was most impressed that the waitperson always guided her toward “safe” menu choices, and always knew her name….


They went different directions during Carnival Triumph’s daylong docking in Cozumel. Some snorkeled in the crystal-clear waters; others “kissed”—and rode—dolphins.

All three grandgirls returned to the ship with braids in hair. (Eliminate braiding in Cozumel, and the tourist trade tumbles.)

One granddaughter said her “braider” has “the fastest fingers in the West”, then asked: “Are we still in the West?”…


Our final night on ship, we gathered on the outdoor pool deck to watch the Dallas Cowboys eke out a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. A giant full moon loomed large above the giant screen.

The ship bobbed gently, and the screen sometimes blotted out the moon.

“How do they make the moon bounce like that?” Kedren wanted to know….


The children, marveling at the courteous conduct of crew members, were in awe of their dedication to supporting spouses and children “back home.”

Such teaching moments about human kindness abounded.

Cell phones were abandoned; “eye to eye” contact was common. Questions were freely expressed and warmly answered….


Upon debarkation, we drove around Galveston one last time—for this visit, anyway. Few cities abound in more history, and no cruise port more warrants tying on a few more days, fore or aft.

It was a beautiful December day. The sun-splashed beach seemed to beg—as the children put it—“for just one more hour.” We caved. Brittin got to build her sandcastle, and to utter a classic twist-of-tongue: “I got toes between my sand.” Other “grands” swam in the surf—albeit a bit nippy— doable for them and unthinkable for us.

The children also wanted another look at the huge Sam Houston statue, adjacent to I-45 near Huntsville….


Such a family outing provides bonding at its best.

Memories are locked in, relationships strengthened, understanding heightened and curiosities satisfied.

Maybe this should be a “barrel list” item, always rotating back to the top….


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site:

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