Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Home for the Holidays

This is my first holiday season living full time in Florida. After being born in the Windy City and living there all four decades of my life, I wondered if I would be lonely for my hometown. We're returning in January to see our family and friends, but my worries were piqued by Christmas song propaganda: "I'll Be Home For Christmas," "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays," and other such cheery tunes. No matter how much I love Florida, I wondered...would the holiday season bring a sense of melancholy? I remember the (brief) sense of sadness when we loaded the pets into Canyonero last January and set off on our 1200 mile trek to Celebration. Would it possibly resuface in stereotypical holiday style?

Amazingly, I don't feel one whit of homesickness! I love Christmas in Florida, with festive activities around every corner. The Osborne lights at Disney World, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, the nightly soap-snow downtown, the Christmas show at Dixie Stamplede, the Ice display at the Gaylord Palms...those are just a few small examples of holiday activities in the Celebration area. How can I feel homesick when there is so much to do?

If I do feel a nagging bit of longing for my northern roots, it can easily be salved through the power of the internet. For example, one of my yearly Chicago traditions was listening to radio stattion WLIT, which plays 24 hours of Christmas music non-stop throughout the holiday season.

I don't know if there is an equivalent station in Orlando, but my husband pointed out that I don't need to find one. I can stream WLIT on my laptop, and not only am I serenaded by Christmas carols, but I can also revel in "local" commercials and news items about Mayor Daley's power struggles and multi-car pileups on the Dan Ryan to help me feel at home.

The shivery weather forecasts remind me of just how lucky I am. I was a bit miffed this morning to wake up to gray, rainy skies and a temperature of 70. In Chicago, it's 18 arctic degrees, and it will drop into the single digits overnight before rising to a blazing heat wave of 22 by the weekend. Better yet, tomorrow they're expecting an inch of snow. Ugh! I'll take 70 degrees any day, even if it's damp and murky.

So far, I've enjoyed the music selection today, although Shakin' Stevens and Elton John have been conspicuously absent from the mix. They haven't played "Mary's Boy Child" either...I know that the Little River Band version is obscure, but Harry Belafonte is a classic. Oh well, at least they tossed in "Do They Know It's Christmas," and they're played John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" three times already.

One thing I've never understood is why WLIT plays "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music" as a Christmas song. Huh?! Sure, it has a few references to things like silver-white winters, sleigh rides, warm woolen mittens, and brown paper packages tied up with string, but that's really a stretch. Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, and bright copper kettles just don't put me in a holiday mood. Worse yet, the dog bites and bee stings are downright depressing.

Today, I discovered another bit of Chicago nostalgia online that not only transports me geographically but also sends me on a journey back in time. Windy City Baby Boomers grew up with Frasier Thomas and Garfield Goose on WGN-Channel 9 and spent their noontime watching Bozo the Clown. At Christmas, their eyes were glued to the screen as some old friends returned to town: Suzy Snowflake and a trio of elves named Hardrock, Coco, and Joe. If you're not from Chicago, this probably means nothing to you. If you are, I'm willing to bet that strains of "Ole olady olday i oh" are dancing through your brain.

Suzy and the elves star in two scratchy black-and-white shorts. Their primative stop-motion animation makes Rudolph look like Pixar by comparison. Worse yet, the slanty-eye Santa with his tongue sticking out is the stuff of nightmares! But when you're a starry-eyed tot, caught up in the magic of the Christmas season, these cute little dittys becomes a beloved part of your holiday. Like clockwork, you can count on them to return year after year.

I think that Hardrock, Coco, Joe, and Suzy might have taken a hiatus during my teenage years and on into my twenties. Fraiser and Garfield had left the air, but I heard that the Christmas shorts were occasionally resurrected on the Bozo show. I was too busy getting on with life to spare much attention to old childhood "friends."

Now, through the magic of the internet, I can immerse myself back in nostalgic memories. If you're a fellow Chicagoan who would like to see those Christmas clips again, click here view them on WGN's website. You'll have to sit through a commercial first, but don't'll get to see the whole song.

There's an irony in watching Suzy Snowflake dance across a white powdered landscape while palm trees sway outside my window. As a kid and young adult, shivering my way through frigid Chicago winters, I never imagined that someday I'd be basking in balmy December sunshine next door to Mickey Mouse. I spent many pre-Christmas weeks at Disney World, and it always broke my heart to head back to the wintery north. How I wished I could stay forever!

It's no wonder that I don't feel in Celebration, I am home.

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