Saturday, December 19, 2009

WARNING: ANother Christmas Letter. (that might seem boastful)

The year was 2005. A year in which we tested limits.

Testing the limits of courage and gravity.

You stand on a cliff. The windsock on the pole behind you fills and spins. You nod to the guy on your right, tuck your chin and run. You get maybe six steps before the ground falls away beneath you. You’re flying, or more precisely, hang gliding--in Tennessee, for your wedding anniversary. Yeah, after all this time, you’re jumping off a cliff for him and in twenty minutes, he’s going to do the same for you. Though some days you’d rather push him off the ledge.

Testing the limits of creativity.

You tell your friend you have an idea for your birthday party, and she says, “Oh I can do a Road Rally. I want to do a Road Rally. This will be fun.” So you let her. The only thing you say is that it has to end at the place where the fry cook sings like Elvis, white pantsuit and all. And even though you know the final destination you don’t cheat- unlike some people. The clues are tricky and there are too many rules for people trying to pour Cabo Wabo in tiny cups, but hush puppies and a scarf from The King make it all worthwhile.

You’re ten years old and your teacher passes out a play saying, “You’d make a great Hamlet, Boy C.” You read words you’ve never heard before but don’t stumble once. The teacher smiles. “Fantastic. Now just memorize these 17 pages, and hey, can your Mom make the props?”

You finish writing the second novel because you said you would and you really like it and hope that busy, elusive agent in New York will like it too. While you’re waiting you redecorate a bathroom and a laundry room, make a secret blog and start another novel- totally different, but just as good- no better. But really inside… you’re still waiting.

You take your Mom and Dad to the Fuqua Orchid Center and wonder if plants can be too sexy.

You dress your daughter as Dorothy because the new puppy looks like Toto, and your son becomes an old wizard because you always wanted to glue rubber pieces to someone’s face and besides, you’ll be at a costume party in his football uniform so you won’t be the one peeling the goop off later.

You go to a corn maze out in the boonies and let children lead you. It only sounds like a horror film, so you go back to town and take 7 broads to Netherworld, the creepiest haunted house yet, precluded by a visit to the same Mexican joint as last year, but this time you let the mariachi band buy you drinks.

You plan and execute an elaborate Murder Mystery party complete with shock-inducing box cutters and interrogation chair. It’s a raving success. Who knew everyone wanted to be an assassin?

Testing the limits of travel, internet bookings and the love of a perfectly poured Guinness.

You make it through security and try not to think of the nine hours you’ll be cramped in the metal tube they call an aircraft, or how many crying babies will be in your row. You hope the upgraded seats are large, the movie list is long and that the special dinners you ordered won’t suck as bad as the regular food. You hope you remembered all the cameras, passports and papers and above all you hope you don’t die. Because that would really ruin the first trip abroad for your kids.

You tube to the hotel in Notting Hill and take your children to Hyde Park. You ride a doubledecker bus, take pictures of Big Ben, shop for toys at Hambly’s and give the Brits four more reasons to hate Americans. You suck it up and pay the fee for The London Dungeon because that’s where sixth grade boys want to go. You think afterward that the urine stench in the rat room may have been real.

Friends invite you for dinner, show you the pub down the road and pour you into a black cab at the end of the evening. And even though you think London is fab, you get on a train heading north in the morning and when there are no seats, you stand by the bathroom for a long time until you figure £20 is not to much to ask for an upgrade to first class where you plan on drinking enough complimentary water and coffee to make the exchange worthwhile.

In Edinburgh, you think it’s funny when the kids suggest your husband may need anger management classes like the special boy in Girl P’s class who smacks his head against his desk at snack time. But you can see his point when the streets on the map fail to materialize and it’s starting to rain, and the pillowcase of laundry on your shoulder gets heavy. But you try to remember what you’re here for, so you look down on a Scottish village and breathe clean air and close your eyes and hear passersby speaking the brogue that you thought only existed in independent films on channel 301.

There are castles to sleep in and flights to Ireland. There are gnomes who move out from under mushrooms, call themselves Mick and open rooming houses on red brick roads in Cork. You’re living a fairy tale. You wonder how cold it gets in Wicklow County and what would happen if you trotted the rented horse past Druid’s Glen Golf Course, waved to your husband on the tenth hole and just kept going.

When you finally make it back to The States you crave burritos made from real tortillas and think that except for the lost luggage, the fire in the hotel, the evening puke episode, the Strawberry Quik faux pas in the tiny Scottish post office-and the “oops I screwed up the dates” booking that left you stranded in Dublin, every penny spent was worth it until the car’s transmission goes and the washing machine starts oozing a yellow-green liquid. And then all you can think about is the limits of your bank account, though you do have a fond recollection for the beer of Killarney.

Testing your physical limits.

You start the year with a big party at the neighbor’s. There’s food and karaoke and fireworks and pool and drinks with disgusting names and kissing and you think it doesn’t get any better than this, until they invite you to the VIP room at Wild Bill’s. There’s private bathrooms and zebra couches and your own bartender. After a few visits to him you’re convinced you’ve seen enough rodeo to know how to hold onto an electric spinning bull. You watch as the guy in the black hat flips the switch and your husband goes flying. The landing is less than graceful, but at least his groin is intact unlike the unlucky bastard before him. You sign the waiver and slip on Blackhat’s gloves, tipping him generously. You squeeze your knees and hold on tight and ride so long you gotta ask, “Can I be done now?”

You finally take the advice of your dentist and ask an oral surgeon to yank out your remaining wisdom… teeth. You know you didn’t ask him to cut your jawbone or slash your gums and you certainly never wanted that open hole to your sinuses, because mouthwash should never come out your nose.

Two months later you’re not injured in the slightest when hang gliding over a forest, even with the bellyslide landing, but you somehow manage to blow out your entire knee while country western line dancing. You never knew it was such a dangerous sport. Okay, you never knew it was a sport at all.

Testing the limits of friendship, and what Bunko does to the average mom.

You sit around with a bunch of women throwing dice and drinking wine and sooner or later it’s bound to happen. Someone will mention Senior Proms, or WMD’s or donut shops in Kansas. “Hey, that would be a good Bunko theme!” Before you know it women are prancing around in thrift store gowns and giving each other corsages- which is more fun than Irish Limerick night or the Tour de Lance homage, but definitely pales in comparison to the Pool Party Karaoke Speed Bunko Synchronized Swim Night.

But a person can overdose on dice and gossip, so you head to the mountains for a nice quiet retreat. You hobble through the woods with your high school pals, your bum knee in a brace, following the cute barefoot guy who knows fool’s gold when he sees it. You convince strangers to light a massive fire in the Presidential Suite and raid the closed bar for unfinished bottles of wine so you can stay up all night filling in twenty years of sordid details then falling asleep three to a bed. When it rains, you get massages and facials and when the sun shines you float in the private lake past million dollar mansions, because you can’t golf or play tennis or bike or waterski with a bum knee and a full glass of Chardonnay.

You play poker with the neighborhood guys, have sushi with friends that can afford it and put on the best golf tournament ever. You go to ball games and get good seats- the best seats being the stools at a sports bar on a cold, windy, rainy day when the tickets become coasters and no one minds the commercials, because the bathrooms are close.

You’ve made visits back home, vacationed with two families and they’re all still talking to you. You even earn a Thanksgiving invite, which is super- until they take you to Calhoun and hand you a shotgun.

Testing the limits of summer.

You sign the kids up for acting camp and swimming camp and please-do-whatever-they-tell-you-mommy-needs-a-break camp. You fly back home to Bville and see friends and swim in lakes and pick up a nephew, because two kids aren’t enough. You drive 7 hours to a house on a hurricane strewn beach in Florida with 3 kids fighting over who gets to hold the portable DVD player and when the yelling doesn’t stop the punishment is in passing all the gas stations with bathrooms. The next day you direct your friend to the wrong airport to pick up your husband who looks happy even though you’re late because he didn’t drive 7 hours in a car with 3 kids determined to spend their allowance at the Fireworks Warehouse.

You plan a Sponge Bob Birthday Party for 12 screaming second graders at the neighborhood pool, thinking this is the smartest thing yet, until you go to a housewarming party catered by a Mexican restaurant where waiters serve and clean up and there’s a big whirring margarita machine on the porch.

You take the kids to Helen and tubing down the Chattahoochie, just so you can sing the Hootchy Cootchy song and you never once think of Deliverance. “Í’m gonna make you squeal like a pig. Wheee.”

Testing the limits of your yard, or sod should never cover your water meter.

You have a thing about trimming. You don’t know when to stop. It’s a good thing you don’t cut hair. You approach yard work like a day at the gym. You don’t know your own strength when you pull so hard to start your blower that you rip the cord off, so you run the thing until your hand, then your whole arm goes numb. You run it until it sputters, knowing you can never start it again.

You wonder why the expensive newly-leveled front yard has gulches, rivers and ponds when it rains for three weeks. You don’t laugh when your wife says, “I’ve always wanted a pond, can we keep it? The goldfish would love it.” You have no idea that she will utter similar words about a fuzzy little bundle of puppy in another month and that you will miserably fail GQ’s “Are you Whipped?” Survey, but score just fine on the dress shirt test.

Testing the limits of parenting.

You think Backstage Mom is an easy job. You have no idea how long a dance recital really is until you’re stuck in a room with twenty nervous costumed little girls in full face paint and the toilet overflows.

You think only skuzzy kids from Snellville get head lice and only burly, sweaty men get athlete’s foot fungus until your adorable seven year old daughter comes home with both.

You give your son a Laser Tag Birthday Party, because every 11 year old should know how to dive and roll and answer sniper fire. You’re proud that he’s involved in every possible club elementary school has to offer, but when he moves onto middle school and starts football you wish his expectations were lower. You purchase the best equipment, though you really wanted a dishwasher or a Miata, and you’re glad for his increased physical activity, but there are only so many hits you can watch him take without moaning Not my baby and you don’t think any 11 year old should be 5’9”, 300 pounds and still be allowed to tackle your team’s 68 pound running back.

You wonder when they started teaching STD facts to eleven year olds and you worry that they have to.

There are times in your life when God will test your limits.

This is usually a time of great pain. It could result in the loss of a parent, a friendship, a tiny hamster named Mr. Nibbles or an evil finger-biting fish. You learn to embrace change and understand that endings can be wonderful beginnings, that each time an old limitation dies, your boundary line increases. You begin to think countries not counties. New not old. All not some. God knows no limits for you. You are His Gumby.

It’s your turn, now. Step out to the ledge and peer over. We've got your back.

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