Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Christmas Time in Pensacola

Christmas in Pensacola starts just after Thanksgiving, for most people. I saw a very few decorations go up around Veteran’s Day (11 November) but very few. Most started going up around Thanksgiving. Because we are having some work continuing on our house, I couldn’t do the same decorations I did last year, so I did something new; my goal in the week before I left was to get SOME Christmas up, inside and out.

This year, AdventureMan is here, too, and it makes all the difference. Last year, he left for Kuwait just before Christmas, and I was so sad that it was hard to put a lot of effort into decorating. I did it, mostly because I am too proud not to. (No. I will not let adversity get me down!) But mostly, it takes a lot of energy to fight depression, so this year, I am appreciating just how good it is to have a ‘normal’ Christmas, i.e. my husband is on the same continent as me, in the same country, even the same state, same city, and same residence. It’s all good. 🙂

Our tree this year is smaller – and higher – that other years, and all the ornaments on it are unbreakable. Yes. Happy Baby, now Happy Toddler, will be coming by and I want to protect him – and the tree. Over the years we have collected so many wonderful ornaments that I have a lot to work with, and still manage to have a nice tree; the angel on the top is a traditional angel from Nurnberg, and we bought it the first year we were married. It’s nice to have her high on the top of the tree once more.

Under the tree, covering the table, is a special wool sefsari we bought when we lived in Tunisia, bright red with bands of gold trim. These were everywhere when we lived there, especially in the cold winters, but when we visited, I no longer saw them in any stores. Covering the tree stand, I have one of my smaller Damascus tablecloths; I treasure these coverings, and beads, Pensacola parade beads.

“Beads!” we shouted to Happy Toddler as we put them over his head.

“Beads!” the crowd shouted as the floats went by at the Pensacola Christmas Parade last night.

Last year, even as a Happy Baby, the parade was an enthralling event. What baby wouldn’t love a parade that starts with flashing lights, and motorcycles, and a loudly wailing, lights fashing FIRE TRUCK?? What Happy Toddler wouldn’t love the bands with the throbbing drums, and trumpets, and tubas, and trombones? And the dancing girls, and oh yes – the BEADS! Life is sweet at the Pensacola Christmas Parade.

The parade starts at 5:15 and we get there about 5:14. Here is what I love about Pensacola; you can get there at 5:14 and get a place to park only about 1/2 a block from the parade and be there when the spectacle begins. It is a laid back kind of parade, still a community parade, you see your friends there. It is sort of a Christmas parade, you see some Santas, and some reindeer, and snowmen, and there is usually at least one float with angels, but it is also sort of Mardi Gras, with all the Krewes (local social groups focused on Mardi Gras) on floats with their buds throwing beads, coins, toys and candy out into the waiting, dancing crowd.

Technically, I know this isn’t a great photo because you can’t even really tell what it is, but it is the beginning of the parade, and I love the motion of it all:

As it turned out, we were in a pretty good spot for catching beads, and we loaded down the Happy Toddler, put a few on each of us, and shared the bounty with some of the babies standing behind us. There were some people in front of us who caught a LOT of beads, and as soon as they caught them, they stashed them in a bag; they caught LOTS. Maybe they sell them back or something.

Last week, we took Happy Toddler to Boats on the Bayou, where boats decorated with Christmas lights gather near the bridge and then come parading to the park, and people gathered there sing Christmas Carols. Happy Toddler loves going to the park; the boats were interesting for about five seconds, and then he got to swing and play on the playground, which mattered a whole lot more to him:

It was just a really fun, community thing, and it was pretty, too.

Lunch at the Fish House, always a treat, and their tree is BLUE!

The Pensacola Christmas Parade attracts around 50,000 people every year. Imagine! It is so much fun. What I love about it is that there are so many floats, so many bands, so many civic heroes – you know how I feel about giving back to your community. These people are doing it. On one of the coldest nights of the year, they are on the Krewe floats throwing beads, they are patrolling behind the dog clubs, cleaning up, they are making sure the floats make the turn at Wright and Palafox, they are marching with bare legs in the cold, windy night – and it is so much fun.

Who would think that 50,000 people gathered in one place, competing for beads, would keep it all so civil? There is no place for ‘special people;’ we are all Pensacola citizens, there to enjoy a family evening, and it is just that, it is a great Pensacola evening, one of my favorite of the year.

Best of all was watching the Happy Toddler take it all in. The lights! The sirens! The beads, and the scrambling to catch them! The loud music, the pounding drums! It was all so much fun, and that fun was doubled watching him try to figure it all out. I can hardly wait ’till next year. 🙂

December 11, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Weather | , | 4 Comments

Leaving Seattle

It is so much easier now, now that I am not flying to Qatar or Kuwait or even Germany. I kept a storage locker in Seattle all those years, with boxes and mailing materials, with Christmas wrap, with winter sweaters and boots and coats for Decembers, and shamelessly sleeveless tops and dresses for summer that I couldn’t wear in the more conservative countries where I was living. I kept spare make-up, a back-up hairdryer, shampoos, paper towels, coffee filters, detergent – things I didn’t want to have to keep buying every time I flew into Seattle, which one year was six times.

My last day was always a mad dash to the storage locker to put away all the stuff that stayed behind, maybe mail one last box or two with exotic items like grainy organic cornmeal, quilting supplies, Tony Chachere Jambalaya Mix, or peppermint candies for Christmas cookies (yes, they got them in Kuwait and Qatar, but sometimes not until February) and then there was the rush to the airport, check in the rental car, and go through the drill at check-in.

Yes, I have a special visa, right there. No, you probably can’t read it; it’s largely in Arabic, but trust me, it’s the right visa. Yes, I like living there. Yes, you would be surprised how kind the people are! No, I don’t have any problems. Yes! We do have a church! No, Moslems don’t hate Christians! Not the ones I know!

Before the big downturn, I was usually trudging two big bags, packed to bursting, full of books and things I couldn’t get so easily. By the grace of God, I never lost a bag.

So, this time it is SO much easier. Because it is Christmas, I am still trudging two check-in bags, but they are not so heavy, and not packed to the bursting point. No hassles; I have my printed-out check in, all I have to do is turn in my baggage, piece of cake, woooo HOOOO!

And I have time! I don’t have to get up too early, I have a little time with Mom in the morning, and then I head out for a leisurely drive to the airport.

Uh oh!

This is what I see when I am inside my car:

It bites into my time, just a little, but I warm the car up, flick on the heat and blowers to clear the frost off the windows, and shortly I am driving along the mildly icy-frosty streets to the airport. I’ve missed the peak of rush hour, traffic is still zipping along, and I make the trip to the airport in no time, even glimpsed sunshine a moment or two.

Love flying through Memphis, perfect timing, I get there for dinner and get to grab a Memphis BBQ, oh yum. One of my favorite airports.

Home again, home again, it takes nearly a full day, and it feels so good to be home.

December 11, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Seattle, Travel | Leave a comment