It’s the first day of winter, the longest nights of the year. It’s the pagan holiday whereby folks in a time before heaters and office jobs threw a party from sundown to sundown because, well why not? They were in for several cold months of rationing food and drinking to stay warm. It was such a major celebration that Christianity stole it and called it Jesus’ birthday. It was even the Mayan End of the World that I guess never happened.

Around the globe, regardless of faith or culture, December 21st is a big deal.

It’s also the date that Renée, four years ago, finally agreed to hop into a Volkswagen Bus with my then 8 year old son and I to live this life on the road. A lot has happened in that short span of time, including adding two more babies to the mix.

That first Christmas Eve, we got stranded in Colorado Springs with barely enough money for a hotel room (remember, this is Colorado where the only thing colder than the snow is how deep it is) and gas to get into New Mexico as soon as I could warm up and get the Bus running. We made a Charlie Brown Christmas tree out of a limb from an evergreen bush and a large ceramic ashtray as the base. It was a poor man’s holiday for sure, but we had A Christmas Story on television and a holiday work party’s worth of Jameson.

In the morning, Santa left a few small gifts under the tree for the boy and a miraculously running Bus in the parking lot for the Lady and I. We were a few hours from the warmth of New Mexico, but took a long scenic route through the Rockies anyway, a farewell Christmas drive through Colorado.

The year after we were crafting homemade decorations and hanging them, along with Mexican Fiesta style Christmas lights, in a beach house off the Oregon Coast. We were the only house lit up in town that Christmas, a little lone coastal getaway all to ourselves, our light shining like a red-nosed reindeer to guide ol’ St. Nick along.

We found ourselves in the Smokies the following two years, each time with more and more handmade ornaments from over the years. Christmas in Western North Carolina is snow capped mountain peaks even while the forest around our various homes at those times were still in autumnal bloom.

And now this, our fifth year celebrating the start of the winter season and the birthday of a fat man in a red suit who turned forty plates of cookies into milk and wine, we find ourselves once again on the Oregon Coast. I can’t say all of the state lines and flipped odometers and mountain cabins or beach bungalows, fancy RV parks or desert have changed me that much. I’m still a guy who’s traveling in search of answers to life and no closer really than when I began, but I am at least so happy to have done it with this woman, the mother of my babies and love of my life, for so long.