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Winter wonderland of family and friends

Posted on January 9, 2014 by Taber Times

Another holiday season has come and gone and with it many fond memories  as we finished off 2013 and made our way into 2014. Good family and friends all around in which, once again, there will be my little off-kilter observations on the human condition.

FLIGHTS AFANCY: My struggle with air travel has been well documented in every trip I’ve taken. Huge delays from weather conditions or mechanical problems, lost luggage, fellow passenger hygiene problems or the infamous ‘leaner’ on cramped planes for my six-foot-two  frame.

I thought my flight curse was finally over as I embarked on my fights from Great Falls, Montana to Newark to visit family in Allentown, Pennsylvania for Christmas. My flights there were an absolute dream with Delta, spacious planes, cordial fellow passengers, and not only were flights on time — they were early.

But, I knew it was too good to be true coming back. Flight 3399 from Newark to St. Paul, there was the toddler from hell. Having to wake up at 3 a.m. to catch the 6:20 a.m. flight, I needed my sleep on the plane and the toddler behind my 17B seat was ensuring I wasn’t going to get it. Constant chair kicking to go with slight interment hair pulling was on the agenda in which my over-the-shoulder-Seinfeld-stare to the parents seemed to not be registering. I get it, kids are going to be kids, it’s the laissez-faire parenting that bothers me. Given my grumpiness at the time, where I had literally been awake since 1 a.m. factoring in the time change back home, I wanted to inform the toddler that there was no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny and that he indeed was adopted…..and proceed to stuff him in the overhead compartment.

FAMILY TIES: Judging by the play time I got in with my nephew Trystan and niece Mattea, I think I’d be a pretty good dad. On second thought — who knows. It’s quite easy to be the ‘fun uncle’ of sword fights, hide-and-seek, tag, and ogre piggy-back rides when you don’t have to deal with the two pouting with each other sharing toys, making them healthy food, and helping form their value system so that they are not appearing on an episode of COPS in their early 20s. I could imagine me serving them Lucky Charms with milk that expired two days ago or half-and-half (close enough, we’re out of milk), being mean enough to leave them a lump of coal if they’ve been bad during the holidays and instilling in them a Peter Pan complex because I still don’t think I’ve grown up totally. My sister and brother-in-law have raised some good kids and I was blessed to get the spoils of the non-pressure play time.

NEW YORK NEW YORK: Is this a sign my tastes are getting more refined? Being the fan of bathroom humour, Will Ferrell and graphic T-shirts into my 40s, I must admit when I heard I was going to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall for a Christmas special with family, I wasn’t really turning cartwhells. I’ve never been a musical type of a guy, but with the last two Lethbridge Musical Theatre productions and the Rockettes, I’m literally changing my tune. Seeing the Rockefeller Tree, Central Park, decked-out storefronts, the rich history of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, maybe I’m getting more refined. But given one of my favourite Christmas gifts was Ron Burgandy’s book “Let Me off at the Top” I don’t think I will ever truly be refined.

FOODIE: Food is big in my family and this trip was no different. Along with the regular rye-and-cokes with my dad, the turkey dinner was large enough for two days worth of leftovers for seven people. Christmas Eve we got to enjoy the tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian tradition thanks to some gracious next-door neighbours of my sisters. And if you can’t appreciate that, I’ll make you sleep with the fishes. Then we got to enjoy the Hibachi Room of a Japanese restaurant where we got to see cook Jackie weave his culinary skills with flying utensils along with liberal servings of saki.

Given the collateral damage it has caused to my waist line, part of the draw is how food brings people together in fellowship and conversation. It helped form closer bonds at Christmas, with the food spread for New Year’s Eve at the Simmons household and Japanese New Years with gracious hosts in the Miyanagas. It truly is serving food for the belly and the soul at the same time as people come together in fellowship.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: We as Canadians get mad at Americans who tell us we use the word ‘eh’ too much or have a funny way of saying ‘about.’ But maybe there is some truth to it as I heard the Jewish Mannhattanite say ‘it was like buttah’ while attending Radio City Music Hall and another guy that looked like he was straight out of the Bronx with Adidas jumpsuit in tow saying he was ‘gonna stomp that goofy-looking Guido’ with as stereotypical of an accent as you can get. I guess stereotypes start for a reason when something is encountered with some frequency eh?

PERSPECTIVE: Remember those days when you were a teen or in your early 20s and your mother wanted a public sign of affection like holding their hand, a kiss and a hug or doing the funky chicken at a wedding and you shrugged it off because it wasn’t cool or you’d look like a dork? Creeping into middle age, those days are long gone for me. There was the extra hug before leaving for the airport, holding hands strolling through Central Park and goofy santa hats in family photos. It takes some longer to realize their blessings than others, and I probably fit into that group. You can get caught up in your first-world problems of thinking you don’t have enough money, work stresses, small-town gossip etc. etc. but it really comes down to the most basic things. Did I have a Norman Rockwell-esque childhood? No? But who did? But when push came to shove I knew I had family, extended family and friends who cared about me. I’ve got a little spending cash in my pocket, some great friends and family and my relative health (trying to work off the beer belly aside). If I can’t be thankful for that, what exactly am I supposed to be thankful for?

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