Thursday, 6 January 2011

Thoughts From the City of Palms

From: Times of Wayne County

After cruising behind a truck on route 75, it’s owner offering cures for “ugly pools” beside a PT Cruiser whose registration plate read “BOMB” beside a disabled symbol and a support our troops magnet, we arrive at Fort Myers, Florida. The start of our day as far removed from this city of palms as you can imagine - waddling out to my sister in law’s baggage laden jeep under the midnight blue skies of pre dawn, wind wafting snow drifts, tinkling at my in-law’s haunting wind chimes.

Escaping the north eastern storms leaving most of the troupe trapped in NYC we arrived in Tampa. Route 275 is a bridge fetishist’s heaven. First an almost bridge, more of a barely raised highway, teetering at water’s level giving an uncanny sense of literally driving on the turquoise sea. Onwards to a modern take on a suspension undulating steeply skyward as if we were headed straight into the clouds. Sea stretching out luminous in the morning sun on either side of us. A man dressed in a gator costume (who knew they were so smiley?) waves towards the traffic as we approach civilisation, luring them towards Alli Gator’s bar and grille. I hope he’s not on the menu. Onwards past signs for Arcadia I fail to convince husband (still 5am dopey eyed) to stop in at St Petersburg for a Russian tea. He just rolls his eyes heavenward and overtakes a huge RV home on wheels trailing a mini cooper behind, whilst I point out McGregor’s Baptist church across the way whose services can be caught online 24 hours.

We unpack our Christmas gifts, doing our best impressions of weebles on account of the holiday over-feed. I took a master class at my sister in law’s a few days before Christmas eve, as she and her mother churned out cookies in industrial quantities. Boy was sugar dusted and chocolate coated, tasted everything, generally insisting on being second fiddle to whomsoever would hire him for the job. Underestimate not my nerves having been put in charge of a new cookie recipe. It involved a little more than melting chocolate in the microwave and then mixing peanuts into it so I was understandably cautious.

Highlight of yuletide Walworth-style was warbling alongside the sopranos during the Christmas eve service. I even offered to read, and volunteered for a passage about Mary. No surprise at the little lump in my throat, when, getting to the juicy bit, I look up at the congregation and spy our boy draped over husband, sound asleep in daddy’s arm cocoon, proud grandpa beside. Moments later the lights are dimmed, the candles lit and the crowd line the walls. The organist fading out his accompaniment so that the sanctuary hums only with the voices’ dulcet version of Silent Night. Husband and boy are motionless at their pew. Tender and mild up until husband whips out the iphone to record the moment for posterity. I swallow a tear or three, send a prayer out to my family, those on earth and departed. When the pastor wishes everyone a merry Christmas we stand, candle light flickering on our faces, hesitant to blow them out or leave.

In response to boy’s hopeful scrawl, Santa did find a cape (reversible!), indispensable to rookie superheroes. Even the hot wheels track from Uncle Craig, which, when presented in its box boy declared impractical for travel, made it to the sunshine state. Dad and I make house and ready ourselves to ring in the new year. Floridian style.

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