On the lighter side of the Nonahood, this is a column about the humorous realities of life in Central Florida. We must choose to laugh and sweat rather than cry and sweat.
The Christmas holidays gently settle upon Floridians like drifts of pollen atop our cars. Or they did. Or will. I’m not sure, newspaper publishing calendars escape me.
When I was a child, my family drove down to Ft. Lauderdale sometime in the spring, or perhaps the winter, or possibly mid-summer, and we came upon a Christmas store. I had never seen a store look so sad, or hot – any store with an open door in Florida is pizza-oven-hot. Do not go in … unless you’re pizza.
Saint Nick waved his one remaining hand at traffic, ornaments yellowing in the sun. Reindeer peeked through dusty window panes hoping for a savior, not realizing he was behind them, wrapped in plastic and laying in a popsicle stick manger.
Seeing the store was open, my young stomach turned in despondency for the poor clerk. No one should sell incense candles in broiling humidity, or hawk shepherds that appear meticulously hand-carved but in actuality are mass produced somewhere in Chengdu province.
The image is burned, etched and itchy in my mind – a solitary clerk suffocating in a swamp of sandy knick-knacks, drying himself off with spun-glass angel hair.
In time, I’m sure the poor soul fell into the sheer chasm of festal incongruity, landing upon broken toys. What a way not to go. The valley of sorrow strewn with Legos.
Now, as an adult living in Florida with kids, alongside trying not to think about that store, I’ve attempted to help my family get into the Christmas spirit. “Ice skating” in downtown Orlando begged to be explored.
Perhaps we should have arrived earlier, because by the time we got there – ten seconds too late – the ice resembled a massive snow-cone that had been dropped onto a hot patch of asphalt. I furiously laced my skates and skipped onto a promising section of slush, glided for a second, only to “catch an edge” on a chunk of real ice that had refused to melt. Amazed at the little iceberg’s indefatigable spirit against the sun’s ultra-violent rays, I “splooshed” and had to swim for it. I never thought I’d type this, but ice skates aren’t made for swimming.
After the huge disappointment that was “ice skating,” the kids and I went and played in the “Snow Zone.” We valiantly attempted to form snowballs from feathery globs of soap, but all we managed to do was exterminate any and all germs from our hands. Which was good because we chose ice cream at the vendor rather than mouth-cindering-hot-chocolate or blood-boiling-hot-cider.
At this festive time of year, Floridians begin rubbing their hands together and making patently false assertions like, “Ah, phew, a cold front’s coming, I can feel it.” Clearly, they suffer heatstroke-induced delirium.
All around me, the world seems to be tipping itself on edge. I watch, through the heat-haze, as my neighbor makes his annual ladder-climb to set up lights and trim back palm fronds. Then, just now, taking a break from writing what you’re reading, I walked past someone sporting a Christmas sweater. As it jingled, she smiled stoically at me and mopped her brow.
Earlier this morning, I drove past a massive air-castle snowman, depressed and swaying in a sandy development lot. If blow-up snowmen could talk, I’m certain I would have heard him calling, “Help, I’m in a desert and there’s a fan in my butt. Oh, and Merry Christmas.”
In the quiet of my office, thinking about Christmas here in Florida, maybe it’s not so bad. I like Santa, I love gingerbread, I love thinking about God becoming one of us, and I like that all of this isn’t dependent on frozen precipitation, like so many irrelevant-to-Floridian-life Christmas songs indicate. A frostbite-free Christmas isn’t so bad. Besides, Jesus was born in the Hebrew-calendar equivalent of April, which is a nice time of year in Bethlehem. Albeit, if you aren’t stuck in a feeding trough with a sheep chewing on your toe and straw stuck up your nose.
Philip writes for Cru, a nonprofit organization located on Moss Park Road, close enough to the 7-Eleven off of Narcoossee to justify ditching work for a Slurpee. While he thinks he’s funny, he wisely never verbalizes his musings to his two ever-increasingly hostile pre-teens. His brain doesn’t seem to do the heavy lifting in the writing process – his sweaty fingers do. So, if you laugh, snort, chortle or guffaw, they deserve the credit … both of them.