Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thanksgiving Past and Christmas Future

Wasn't it just Halloween? How did Thanksgiving slip past me already? Can Christmas really be just three weeks away? 'Round about October, I think that God grabs His universal remote and plants His finger firmly down on the "fast forward button," and now here we are in the midst of the holiday season already.

It was a lovely Florida Thanksgiving; people often ask if I miss my family now that I am 1200 miles away, but in all honesty I can't say that I do. My parents passed away a long, long time ago. I have an older brother and sister, but my aunts and uncles are all gone, too, and we were never close with any cousins. I do keep in touch with my siblings, nephews, and nieces via the magic of free long distance on our cell phones, and because of the regular contact, I don't feel a compelling need to see them face to face at the holidays.

Yes, it would be nice to see them, but let's look at this realistically: Late November in Florida rarely means temperatures below the 70s or 60s. A Chicago winter can mean anything from tolerable 50s to bone-chilling single digits, and a snowstorm can blow in at any time. Which would you choose? Any family worth its salt should understand when a member prefers to stay among sunshine and palm trees instead of returning to a bleak winter wasteland.

In Florida, a majority of our friends and neighbors are in the same situation. They bailed from other parts of the country, leaving family behind, and they have no big compulsion to head back. I suspect that for many it's more than just the weather. Let's face it: Most of us don't hail from the Brady Bunch. The typical American household makes the "Married With Children" gang or the Simpsons look like a bastion of mental health. Who really wants to return to the dysfunctional family melee, especially when you have a geographic excuse to fall back on?

Thus, on Thanksgiving and Christmas, you will find many "families of choice" forming. Imagine if you could choose your own family members. Moving a thousand or so miles from home gives you a pseudo-opportunity to do so.

I prefer surrounding myself with people who put the "fun" in dysfunctional, and my Celebration social group reflects that. Here is our Thanksgiving "family portrait":

Don't we make a lovely group?! Christmas Day will be spent with friends, too, but on Christmas Eve I just had to continue the tradition that we started in 2005 and work in a dose of Disney World. I'd rather smear steak juice on my body and step into a pit of rabid wolverines than go near the theme parks on a holiday. But the resorts have plenty of wonderful dining options, so I called 407-WDW-DINE to see if there were any reservations still available.

I always wait until the eleventh hour to call for holiday reservations, so my choices are usually quite limited. Last year I lucked out and managed to get into Ohana at the virtually last minute on December 24th, but usually I can tell that the reservation agent is choking down chuckles at my insensible optimism. Still, my holiday procrastination can lead to discovery of some wonderful new restaurants. For example, calling on Valentine's Day afternoon was the way in which I discovered Ragland Road at Downtown Disney, which is now one of my favorite eateries at WDW.

For Christmas Eve, the only viable options when I called this week were California Grill and Flying Fish Cafe. I've eaten at both, although not for many years. It was a difficult choice, but I opted for California Grill because the available reservation time should allow us to see the "Wishes" fireworks right around the time that we are finishing our meal. I can't imagine a better way to spend December 24th than an exquisite fine dining experience, capped with a spectacular fireworks display before we head back to Celebration to get ready for the 11 p.m. candlelight service at Community Presbyterian Church.

I'm already prepared for a potential letdown on Christmas Day itself. How can it ever top last year, when we shared a meal of "Christmas Story"-esque Chinese food with friends and discovered a long, black hair in the Mongolian beef? And, more to the point, would I even want to top hairy Chinese food? Some legends are best left untouched. Instead, I will take the 2006 meal at face value and enjoy it on its own terms.

We've already made our annual pilgrimmage to see the Osborn lights, the Candlelight Processional, and the special ground-shaking Christmas version of Illuminations. Next up is a Disney cruise with our next-door neighbors (yes, Celebration really is a neighborly, close-knit town...in just three years, Gee Gee and Paw Paw have gone from being an intriguing presence on the "Sold" sign next door to Duloc Manor to our pseudo-parents...I just can't wait to show them all the wonders of the Disney Magic). By the time we get home from that, we'll be in the Christmas home stretch.

It's shaping up to be another lovely holiday season in Florida. I don't miss Chicago at all, particularly since it recently got battered by an early snowstorm and plunged into a single-digit deep freeze. I suppose that I do have one regret, though, but it's a generic one: The holiday season is just too darned short! I wish that God would switch from fast forward to slow motion because there is way too much to do and so little of that precious commodity called time.

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1 comment:

Two4Disney said...

Barb - you've given us a fabulous idea except we chose FF since we see/hear the MK fireworks every night from home all too well. :) We'll also then go to a late night service. Thanks for the idea and happy holidays!