Christmas let-down is in full swing here in Madrid. Re-entry is always hard, but particularly so after the holidays in the Land of Plenty. Winter is my least favorite season, the darkness and stormy weather coloring my mood. Gray, gray, and more gray. Combined with yet another house falling apart at the seams, the housekeeper Olivia from Bolivia who took her Reyes gifts (including that pink tutu featured in the last post) and ran, the children still home from school, and it makes for one grumpy princess. The house is a story for another day but for now, I will take you back in time to sunny-but-cold Florida to recreate the warmth and joy of those two weeks. Perhaps the glow from remembering it all will cure my grumps, something only a good electrician and a new stove top can do for certain at this point.
We arrived at Casa Hodge Podge, our cottage in my in-law’s gated community in North Florida, in the early morning hours of December 18. Purchased when leaving Brazil for China, Casa Hodge Podge served a variety of objectives: proximity to family, furniture storage for items we could not take to China, and an investment (we thought that property values in Florida had bottomed out but sadly, no). 2008 and 2009 did the market in. Whatever, it is a lovely little cottage. We, however, had never visited it, just seen photos.
A good purchase, it was comforting to see some of our things, which made it seem like home from the get-go. A pre-lit fake tree with Target trimmings, a wreath on the door, and pointsettias in Mexican pots and it was positively festive. A five minute walk from the grandparents’ house, our children traipsed back and forth during the day, ping ponging as suited them. The grands would come over with the dogs for coffee and Kringle (a delicious holiday pastry tradition). We would go over for a drink and dinner where I could spend hours gazing at Winnie’s Christmas tree; each time I find an ornament I hadn’t seen before. I cannot overstate what a lovely set up this was.
In between the Target runs and clothes shopping for the children who have grown six inches since summer, there were appointments with doctors. Mr. Understanding underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee. We all visited Dr. Skin/ Warrop, Mr. Understanding’s sister, dermatologist to the stars. Biopsies were taken, pre-cancerous growths frozen, cells hoovered and peeled. Good times. Then there was the morning spent getting H1N1 shots, courtesy of the state of Florida. Movies were seen: Blind Side* and Avatar. Chex Mix was made and consumed.
And then there was the Christmas turkey, featured above. Not to toot my own horn, but as you can see, this was the most successful of all my holiday turkeys (dare I say it’s because it’s American?). A Butterball from the the Super Target, this gem weighed in at twenty pounds and cost only $18. My SIL** married to El Guapo Pescador prepared the stuffing, much to her credit, using a dull knife from Ikea (hint to future house guests). Can I just say that it was delicious, to the collective relief of the whole family? I did not doubt myself but there were others ….
One of the nice things about being an aunt from afar is that, like grandparents, you can spoil your nieces and nephews. I may be a witch of a mother but I like to be a fairy godmother of an aunt. I unashamedly, blatantly vy for affection, hoarding good will for the future. When my daughters are complaining about me as they tug on their wedding dresses, I want their cousins to be right there, counteracting all my motherly mojo, as in, “Your mom’s not so bad! Remember that time she bought me that can of Flarp?! Remember how much fun that was?”
So just what is Flarp? Bear, my 11 year old niece and goddaughter, while cruising the post-Christmas aisles at Michael’s craft store seized upon a can of Flarp and begged her father to buy it for her. He said no. Now, normally, I would think he would be in my camp on this sort of thing, but not this time. As the item only cost 99 cents, and Bear was coming home with me, I thought, “Why not?” (In my defense, I will say I did not know what I was buying – but how can you pass up joy for such a low price, I ask you?). Thing 3 made the stealthy purchase and we got in the car for the 40 minute ride home.
Now, before I go into an explanation of Flarp, I must preface it by saying a few things. One, Mr. Understanding comes from a long line of Ivy League educated blue-bloods. His family, if they so chose, could be members of not only the Mayflower Society, but the DAR. On both sides. I do not hold it against them. Among other reasons, I married Mr. Understanding for his outstanding manners, directly instilled by his parents. Me, I come from a shorter line of public school educated, potato famine escaping immigrants. This should explain the discrepancy in our senses of humors: high brow vs. low brow. My family delights in black (the color itself) humor; scatalogical is okay too. Mr. Understanding’s family probably holds this against me, for diluting the gene pool, so to speak. Two, because my in-laws (and this includes the SIL and BIL) are so upstanding, two words are never uttered in their household. Both begin with the letter “F”. One rhymes with “dart” and the other with “duck”. This is to their eternal credit. Neither word exists in their collective vocabulary. Three, I was raised on the west coast. Things are a little …. looser there, shall we say. My father, Poppy, was something of a genius prankster and regaled us girls with stories of dead sharks in sheets, colored swimming pools, and other nonsense. Both “f” words were occasionally said in our household; there was no moratorium against the one rhyming with “dart”. I am writing this entire post at the risk of offending Mr. Understanding’s family but I hope they will be generous and laugh off anything that might be construed as inappropriate. I am just flattered they read this blog and apologize in advance for any perceived rudeness or long-windedness on my part. They know I love them.
Flarp, which looks like a seemingly harmless can of fluorescent colored Silly Putty, is a whole lot of FUN. It gives new meaning to the term “can of whoop ass”. Defined by urbandictionary.com as “noise putty”, the purchaser can create a veritable symphony (some might say cacophony) of tones, emulating the sound of sulfuric compound gases as they move through and out the lower GI tract, ranging from low and slow to high and squeaky when properly manipulated. Forty minutes in a mini-van with five children have never passed so quickly! And imagine the joy that was spread as the can was produced at my inlaws! There may even have been an involuntary smile or two. This I will leave to the good readers imagination.
Suddenly, it was time to pack the suitcases again. If you can believe, I forgot to buy peanut butter (sacrilege). But the Flarp was in there – and at that price you can’t not buy it for every child you know. Even Jesus would approve – “make a joyful noise unto the Lord”. Maybe I’ll open up my own can and get myself right out of my post-Christmas funk. You know where to get yours.
*Sandra deserves a gold statue for that role.
** if only she would name herself!