Christmas 2013: Fire, Cold and Spandex

Merry Christmas to all you who tune into Midlife Moments! I hope that you and your families and friends have a chance to celebrate this season of love no matter what your beliefs are or how you spend it.

It is Christmas morning in Pierre Part LA. The sun glitters on Belle River, the backdrop for the cormorants en masse that light on the water, dance in the sunshine and hold their wings out as if to exclaim to the world, “I am beautiful. Don’t you wish you looked like this?” We’ve eaten our biscuits with bacon drenched with cane syrup and are moving about freely with coffee cups in hand. Momma’s in the kitchen. Daddy’s practicing blogging, and I’m acting as an IT help desk when the need arises. The dogs are full but still waiting for food to drop. I’m sure their noses are a kaleidoscope of smells with all of the food covering the countertop. Fruit salad, sweet potato casserole, cranberry cheesecake, pork roast and chicken with shrimp and rice dressing awaits us after our relatives arrive.

I’ve learned a few things this Christmas that I’d like to share with you:

Being an expert is less about what you know and more about what others don’t know.

Daddy asked me to help him with his computer and to teach him how to blog. I’ve spent approximately 8 hours in the role of IT expert and help desk. My IT staff at work would laugh at the thought that me, who often falls apart in a mess of frustration with technology would be teaching someone else.

A designated driver can be dangerous too.

My sister excitedly asked me, “You don’t mind being the designated driver, do you?” as we were planning our departure for the Christmas Eve bonfires last night. “Of course,” I happily replied. Being the one that doesn’t drink anyway makes the selection very easy. Driving home in the darkness of River Road on an unknown road with very few road markings was quite confusing. More than once, I made a quick U-turn on a two lane road. I hit a really bad railroad crossing that almost tore the bottom end of the car apart. And, I had no idea where I was going since the inebriated didn’t bother to look up directions. Susan quipped that the police were going to stop us and, in irony, demand that the drunk people drive instead of me.

Leaving is a process.

Susan and Gary left this morning to go to their family holiday celebration. After they got to the end of Graveyard Island, we discovered she left her LSU cup. We called her, and they came right back. After they left, I was picking up their bed linens and found a beautiful diamond ring. I texted a pic of it to her, and she said she just realized it. Gary was getting mad. Back they came for the jewelry. While she was here we found her boots, Gary’s gloves and her scarf and hat.

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Expect to get lost if you don’t know where you are going.

We pulled a party of 9 together to go to the Christmas Eve bonfires in Lutcher. We were supposed to land at Susan’s friend’s friend’s house. We had some coonass directions that got us vaguely in the area. However, the party is 7 miles long, and the road was lined with wall to wall people. We tried to park next to the party, but when we told the gentleman Susan’s friend’s name, he told us it wasn’t the right house. So, we drove to another spot. They knew Susan’s friend but said her family was “down the road. Watch the levee. When the levee starts to turn, you’re there.” We told him the address we have but he said he knew the family. That wasn’t the address. So, off we went based on some guy’s knowledge of a family that we didn’t even know. We had three cars that were spread out trying to find a spot that was undefined and seemed to be a moving target. After a series of phone calls to my sister’s friend, we made it. Everybody needed a drink – or several – by the time we introduced ourselves to the strangers that later became friends.

Spandex is a privilege not a right. OR: Everybody needs a full-length mirror and a second opinion.

All I can say is I tried to coach my sister into getting a pic of this woman dressed in some candy cane tights walking down the side of the road. There was such a crowd that we couldn’t get a good shot. My friend Bryan asked on FB the other day if they made tights in any color than black, and I could have posted a pic of this to show him why black is a much better color. White tights with pink stripes should be reserved for thin women AND a skirt or dress should be worn over them. PERIOD.

Everything tastes better with cane syrup on it.

Just pour cane syrup on anything and try it.

Hot and cold can exist in the same plane.

My parents don’t have central heat. They live in a refurbished fish camp where they mostly spent summers initially. Now, they live there full-time, and they use space heaters to warm the place. With temps in the 30s this weekend, we go back and forth between turning the space heaters up and turning them off because it’s too damn hot. The temp inside swings from 50ish to 70ish in a matter of minutes. With hot flashes also an issue, I’ve been too hot and too cold a hundred times this last couple of days. At the bonfire, standing too close to the fire was too hot, but moving away a few inches plunged me into cold. Leaving the bonfires, I had on my parka for the outside event, and I drove home with heated seats in the car. All of a sudden in what seemed like one second, I was HOT. I had to get that coat off NOW. My sister said she could turn off the heated seats, but I didn’t want the seats turned off. The warm seats felt so good but the coat was like sitting in a sauna. I almost killed us all trying to strip off that parka while en route.

Trying something new can trump tradition.

Our friends Robbie and Jo Ann accompanied my sister and brother-in-law and my parents and me to the bonfires. The tradition of lighting the Christmas Eve bonfires was one that none of us had ever experienced. Robbie said as long as his mother was alive, doing something different than their traditional Christmas was out of the question. We met some new people, ate some different traditional Christmas Eve fare and experienced something entirely different. We stood at the top of the levee watching the hoards of people below – some on foot… some in cars … one group passed by in a party bus. This was THEIR normal. We talked and drank and watched the fires burn. The family next to us couldn’t get theirs lit, and they worked feverishly to get the flames started. Down the levee, you could see bonfire after bonfire blazing away amid shooting fireworks, kids sliding down the side of the levee on cardboard sleds, and blaring party music. It was fun. This tradition of the bonfires is one that is only celebrated in this 7ish mile stretch of the world. Out on the river, the riverboats and the ocean-going ships passed by watching from the other side. For a few hours, we were part of something truly special. Our friends discussed bringing their RV next year to give us a party base. We’ll see what next year brings.

For me, this is the first Christmas where I’m not already starting to think of the drive home to wherever home was at the time. I actually have a winter break this time. The hour drive – if I don’t get lost – will be short, and I’ll be home in time for an evening walk. It does have a different feel to it. The people I visited with this Christmas are not just people I may see once every few years. They could be people that are part of my everyday life now. I imagine as time goes on, there will be more things I learn about that. My sister said her friend Jackie said her family has been celebrating with the bonfires for as long as she has been alive – 52 years. Susan asked her if they did it before that. She had never thought about it. What was a new experience for us was an old tradition that sometimes bores her now. Most of us standing on the levee at our bonfire – L27 – were the newbies. We stood in the warmth of the fire and took in the scene through our bonfire virgin eyes. We discussed seeing the Christmas lights in Natchitoches next year. Maybe we’ll try something new again.

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