Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunbathing in a winter wonderland

“What that guy doin’?” my son Evan asked as the flight attendant put on a yellow life vest and pretended to inflate it.

“He just has to show us a few things before we can go fly in the sky,” I explained. 

“Want that guy done so airplane take off,” Evan said.  A keen student of the human condition, Evan had quickly picked up on the importance of griping about the minor inconveniences of air travel.

Thirty minutes later, as Evan played peek-a-boo with his mom across the aisle, I pointed out the window and said, “Look, Evan, we’re above the clouds now!”

I couldn’t wait to see his little eyes take in this brand new sight, his sense of wonder taking flight as the heavens spread out before him.  Evan looked out the window for a moment, saw the sun glinting off the countless miles of puffy clouds beyond the airplane’s wing, then pointed at the little TV on the seat back in front of him and said, “Wanna watch Dora.”

If he’d cared to look, Evan could have had a perfect view out the window.  He sat perched in the car seat that I’d lugged from the airport parking lot to his seat on the plane, which was as easy as dragging a recliner for about two miles, stopping once to wedge it through an X-ray machine.

When we left our house that morning, it was 40 degrees and drizzly, perhaps the least pleasant type of weather that doesn’t require FEMA to assist afterwards.  When we landed in Fort Myers, Florida, it was 72 degrees and sunny.  Sometimes, it’s tough to remember why living in the Northeast seemed like such a good idea.

We were travelling to Florida for the wedding of Kara’s cousin, Lori, at the beach.  Before we left, as I packed my sandals and bathing suit, I realized that the Northeast did have at least one major thing going for it: The promise that you’ll never have to take your shirt off in public for at least five months after Thanksgiving.  This is quite a benefit, since vast swaths of my body have recently become indistinguishable in many important ways from pecan pie filling.

I’m not the only person to recognize this benefit.  When he could pick anywhere in the world to live, why would Santa choose the North Pole over Naples?  So he’d never have to take off his big red suit in front of anyone, that’s why.  Around Christmastime, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get to keep your bowl full of jelly under wraps unless you live in a frozen wasteland.

“Kwissmas lights!” Evan said as we drove around Naples in the evening with the windows down, admiring the palm trees wrapped in lights.  The scene was beautiful, but not right.  Christmas is supposed to be a holiday that distracts you from the misery of winter.  When a warm breeze is caressing your skin, good tidings and cheer just feel like overkill. 

Also, what do you get your dad for Christmas when the weather never gets cold enough for him to need a sweater?  No thanks.  You can keep your seventy-degree Decembers, Florida.  I’ll be whistling as I chip the ice off my windshield at the mall, Dad’s sweater in my shopping bag, the evidence of my Thanksgiving indiscretions safely tucked beneath seventeen layers of down and Gore-Tex.

We’re hopping back on a plane tomorrow to come home, and as much as we enjoyed the perfect weather and the beautiful wedding, we’ll be glad to get back to our little piece of frozen wasteland.  If we stayed here any longer, we just might start to think that the most wonderful time of the year doesn’t have to involve bodily fluids frozen to our faces. 

You can put Mike Todd into his upright and locked position at

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