Saturday, December 17, 2005

Small Town Christmas

(Advance apology: I'm making this post from my laptop, which had almost all the keys ripped off a couple of years ago when Short Stuff was 2, and the M and W keys never went back on right. So, I will try to proofread, but if there is a missing M or W, love me anyway.)

Ahhhhhh... family time. Much needed, much wanted, much appreciated. It's funny how I tend to let things get more and more hectic, partially so that I won't have to think as much about some of what's going on in my life, that when I finally slow down, I can't decide if I'm going to cry, enjoy my weekend, or just fall asleep.

This part of Alabama is beautiful-- foothills, little winding creeks, and crisp, cold weather. We're visiting my mother-in-law and her family, and getting to visit also with Daddy-O's little sister, who is my age and a single mom of a little guy about the same age as Sassy Pants. It is nice. It is peaceful.

This morning, MIL asked if I wanted us to try to go to the Christmas parade. My mind went a little something like this: "Parade? Ack! Sitting outside in too-cold weather, trying to wrangle my children and keep them from running into the street, while watching one crappy small-town papier-mache'd float after another stroll along, cheesy beauty queens, and a guy with a cheap Satan Santa costume wave out of obligation... Sounds positively frightful." Call me a grinch-- I don't care. I'm really just a homebody, most of the time. But in spite of the humbug happening in my head, what came out of my mouth was, "Wow. That would be nice."

We rushed to get everyone ready in time, and sprinted out the door 20 minutes before parade time. "Mom," said Funky Monkey. "I don't want to go to some stupid parade. I'd rather just stay here and play." "Nonsense," I said in my most enthusiastic game-show-host voice. "This is going to be fun!" He didn't seem convinced. I leaned in a little closer, so that nobody else would hear me. "Listen, kid, I don't want to go to this parade either. But, it's going to be fine, we're going to have a good time, and Grandma is excited to be taking us. If I can stuff it and smile, you can, too." Now, realizing we're on the same team, he smiled and nodded. Our little secret, you know. He kind of likes the idea of us being in cahoots-- us being in it together and all. Camaraderie. Cool. Especially if you're 9, and your younger brother and sister are not in on the secret.

We arrived at the parade site just before the start time, and were shuffled by the local police into a parking zone near where a bunch of horses and riders were gearing up for the big hoopty-doo. So, I hopped from the car, toting both of my cameras, and we settled in along the route. Chelsea, Alabama, has a population of around 3,000 people. I'd estimate that about 400 of them were lined up along the route near us. Another 400 or so of them were actually in the parade. For all my grumbling, it turned out to be so much fun! For starters, any parade in which candy, stuffed animals, footballs, beach balls, green tea, and bead necklaces are thrown at you without any expectation of nudity is A-okay in my book. Some of the kids on the floats were so carried away, that they sadistically pelted the onlookers with candy, so much so that all would duck and scream when the floats came by. One float had a little boy on it who was gleefully and repetitively shouting, "We celebrate Hanukkah! Wheeeeeeeeeee!" while flinging candy violently at the onlookers. He seemed so happy and full of joy, I almost didn't mind when the dum dum lollipop he had fired at me like a spear almost took my eye out.

And then the float for the local Curves gym worked its' way up the road. I could see that they were flinging larger-than-candy objects off the float like frisbees. Could it be...? Is it really...? My heart raced with anticipation. I shot out of the crowd, tripping over roadside piles of leaves and knocking down small children, determined to claim mine... And then I saw it being sailed toward me, and I flew through the air with the kind of slow-mo agility seen in The Matrix, and caught it in my hand as I landed on the ground. A banana flavored Moon Pie. Ahhhhhhhh, the Deep South. Hallelujah and praise Alabama. I love Moon Pies. :-) Now, whether or not a weight-loss gym tossing Moon Pies into a crowd of sugar-crazed individuals constitutes a breach of ethics-- who knows. As for me and my Moon Pie, we don't care.

Shortly thereafter came the float for a local native tribe... As they drove by, I yelled out a heart-felt "Happy Holidays!" A lady on the float yelled something back that I didn't understand. Seeing my look of confusion, she added, "It means 'Merry Christmas' in Cherokee!"

After the parade, we came back to the house to rest for a while before opening presents.Three things about presents:
1) Whoever it is that designed the humongous Hot Wheels thingy that Short Stuff got from Grandma should be praised for his or her genius and creativity, shortly before being shot for creating anything that requires the painstaking assembly of 321 small parts and stickers;
2)Cabbage Patch Dolls still smell exactly like they did when we were kids, and my sister-in-law and I took turns sniffing "Nancey Tiffany" until my daughter, disturbed by the fact that we'd rather smell her new doll than play with it, forbade us from doll-play for the night;
and 3) A remote-control helicopter that really flies will put the kind of smile on a 9 year old's face that hasn't been there for a very long time.

The kids played with the presents until dinnertime, and then just as we were about to sit down for dumplings, greens, and sweet potatoes, we hear a ridiculously loud siren from outside. My husband and I, conditioned to think of sirens as a bad thing, hid under the coffee table. My MIL and SIL jumped to their feet and shouted, "SANTA!" We grabbed the children, threw on their coats, and ran into the front yard. Driving up and down the streets, at 6:30 pm in the evening, in the dark, a big, red fire truck was toting the fat red dude through neighborhoods, tossing even more candy to children. Up and down the street, children, in various states of dress and/or pajama goodness, stood in their front yards shouting and celebrating.

We came back in, ate tasty home-cooked vittles, and started a fire in the fireplace. The children were asleep almost immediately, and the grownups were mellow and satisfied.

Getting away for a bit has done me good already, and I still have a couple more days to go. Family time is a luxury I fight to maintain when back home in the daily grind; here, away from work and chores, it is my life... a good life. I tend to be one to let the worries of my mind and heart surround me, turning them over and over until I'm not sure I can escape the anxiety. Today has been different. Today has been good. It is starting to feel like Christmas.

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