WE SHALL NOT SPEAK OF ALLIGATORS ANYMORE!
Christmas Day Dec. 25, 2015
This is how Christmas Day in Fort Lauderdale, Florida ends. A silvery white full moon rises over the Hampton Inn - so lovely - (the moon, not the Inn) and the air is balmy, humid, thick - but at least a breeze moves through the cement and mustard yellow painted parking garage to ruffle our hair and say, "Hey! It may be 80 degrees, and the street lined with trash cans, homeless people and palm trees, but come on - It's Christmas in Florida!"
We spend Christmas in unusual places. Well, not highly unusual, like we've never been to the Amazon, (shopping yes, but not down a river in a canoe), or on top of Mount Everest, or even in a bungalow off a tiny island in the Caribbean. No, our "unusual" is due to a 6'5" green-haired-long-fingered-shaggy-looking creature that steals Christmas every year. He shows up in places like Detroit - where Christmas dinner (and this is the Honest-to-Goodness truth) was at a Japanese restaurant - yup, Benihana's was the only place open for dinner on Christmas Day. Or San Antonio, Texas and the festively lit river-walk with gondolas and a thousand and one places to eat. Or he shows up in Salt Lake City, Utah amidst sweet people, the Mormon Tabernacle100+ voice choir and dinosaur bones. Sometimes he shows up very near home, as last year in Orange County, California when he made an appearance and then sent his entourage to our house for a ginormous Who-feast.
He is bossy, and sometimes very exhausting - as in 4 show days followed by 3 show days followed by 8 hours on a bus, followed by another 6 hours on a bus and then nudged, hustled, coerced into a load-in of sets, a sound check and boom! yet another performance.
“What on earth is she talking about?” you ask. Obvious. Alligators. “Isn't that how she started this whole thing?” No, silly, not alligators, The Grinch. You know, the one who stole Christmas and has lured the mother and father into following their daughter around for the past 4 years - somewhat like the Wise men wandering around looking for the stable and not getting there until January.... but that's another story.
For any of our family or friends who receive the "novel" sporadically, you know that we have been Whoo-ish in our Christmas tradition the last 4 years, and celebrate in Hotel rooms. We bring Randolph (the top of a fake Christmas tree that fits into our suitcase), miniature ornaments, colored lights, push-pins, and red tinsel rope. I'm not sure what the maids think when they squeeze their way into our room, but it's decked out within an inch of its life... well, as much decor as you can cram into a room with 3 adults, 5 suitcases and 2 double beds.
But you know what? It works. Whether its cold and snowy and icy, or mildly blustery and wintery, or this year's hot, humid and a Hampton Inn, it's still Christmas because we're together. The three of us. Our tiny little family. We set up the tree, the lights, and hang our Christmas stockings on the wall with thumb-tacks while the mini i-Phone speakers play "When It Snows". We kick each other out of the room so we can wrap, ribbon and tag our presents under the baby tree. It’s weird, it’s odd, and it’s perfectly wonderful all at the same time.
One thing did change this year, however, and that was little Randolph got replaced by a real, live, genuine, fir tree! This was a treat to us courtesy of Chelsea Two Trees. Yes, that's Jimmy's Native American name for her because she and her roommate arrived in Fort Lauderdale and promptly went to a Christmas Tree lot to buy not one, but TWO trees. One for the room that Chelsea and her roommate share, and one for the room Jimmy and I would have. How thoughtful! How generous! How loving! However, the logistics of getting two trees from the Christmas Tree lot, into a car, sneaking past hotel security, trying to avoid video cameras of illegal tree transportation - while maneuvering elevators, parking garage doors that locked unexpectedly, and pine needles leaving a trail any 5 year old detective could find was quite a feat. They finally managed to install one tree in a corner of their room, but the second one had to live in a closet for a week until we arrived. Poor tree. I think it had a mini-breakdown living in a two foot closet, in the dark, for 7 days, cause when Chelsea finally released it from its hiding place, it's little branches shook nervously, and I swear it sighed a piny-scented "ahhh" and sang a husky chorus of “Free At Last”.
“Diane, what about the Alligators?” Oh yes! The Alligators! (Good name for a rock band). They have jaws that clamp tightly upon an object, and those jaws are so steel-trap-like-iron that anything caught in them pretty much stays there…forever…until…well, you get my drift. This is after all, a kids story site, so I don’t want to traumatize any wee ones, or freak out Chelsea anymore than she already is freaked out by these prehistoric, chomp-you-to-bits-if-they-catch-you scary looking creatures.
We had a lovely Christmas Eve with the Grinch family, went to a beautiful Christmas Eve service at a very welcoming Methodist church. We had some wonderful meals at places like The Royal Pig (I did NOT make that up), O-B (Nope, didn’t make that up either, though I did call it O-B-Wan-Kan-Obe) and Grill 66 for Christmas Day. I spent a day on the water taxis with my childhood girlfriend, and we of course saw several Grinch shows. And, we cried at the same parts we always cry; when tiny little Cindy-Lou-Who sings “Santa For A Day”, when the Grinch’s heart grows 3 sizes, when the Whoos sing even though there are no presents or trees or anything Christmasy left in town . . . and at the end, when Cindy Lou-Who thanks the Grinch for her Red Rocking Horse and tells him, “the only thing missing was YOU.” You would think after seeing this show for FOUR YEARS, and many performances we would be immune to these moments, hardened by the repeated viewings, numb to the nuances of the music and lyrics… but no, we blubber, we sniff, we look at each and our hands grip and hold on like we’re about to fall off the Titanic into icy water. We’re ridiculous, we know it, but it’s okay. That’s the good part of being together for 38 years… ridiculousness has become “normal”, and we just look at each other, pass the Kleenex, take a deep breath and go back-stage to find “the kid” and tell her how much we loved the show . . . again.
We were driving back from one of the shows and were talking about some of the cast and their trip to the Everglades. They had seen the stealthy alligators gliding silently through the swamps, looking for their prey, and saw how quickly they devoured whatever they caught . . . and that is when Chelsea shuddered, and begged us to stop talking about those man-eating monsters. We wanted to make this holiday a merry and happy one, a Christmas that would be cherished and not cause nightmares, so that is when we changed the subject, pulled into the mustard-yellow parking structure and promised her what all good parents promise their children at bedtime - WE SHALL NOT SPEAK OF ALLIGATORS ANY MORE!