One of the reasons I love going to the gym pool (apart from the endorphin boost) is the company of people who share my hatred for winter and the holiday season. In the Jacuzzi this morning – Black Friday – my companions grumbled about the pointlessness of Thanksgiving, the insanity of Black Friday, followed by the craziness of the next few weeks leading to Christmas. And like spoiled, entitled kids we whined about the absurdly pitch black darkness descending on us at 5:00 P.M. and the chilly nights, that required us to turn on our central heating. We’d just swum in a deliciously heated pool and were relaxing in the Jacuzzi under a cloudless sky. The air temperature was mild, almost spring-like. Yes, we can swim in an outdoor heated pool everyday, and yes, mild, sunny days are the norm here in the winter. We, Southern Californians, expect this, in the same way people in the tropics expect hot, humid weather.
Our Thanksgiving Day this year was low key in an appealing sort of way. Our friend, Olivia, came over midafternoon. We had martinis and played Scrabble. Later, we went over to our friends, Premi and Sri, for the big meal. I roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash. Daryl made pumpkin pie. Olivia prepared greens in her Southern (but vegan) way. Premi made soya kebabs in a spicy, tomato sauce. A truly satisfying meal. The wine, a Syrah from Paso Robles was excellent – smooth, full bodied, and slightly fruity. Sri’s mom from India and a few other relatives joined us. After dinner we watched a video of Premi’s and Sri’s wedding, which was very well put together by Sri’s brother in law. It was as good as a nontraditionalist would want of a Thanksgiving. Mellow, pleasant, and a shared gratefulness for caring friends and warmth and shelter.
I can’t believe 2011 is almost over. Wow, sure feels like I’m on a high speed train. A third of the school year over already. This year I’ve had the easiest start to the school year ever. I have an adorable class of eight year olds. On the first day of school I asked them what they knew about me. I expected them to say, “You’re from Africa. You’re a writer.” That sort of thing. But what did they say? “You’re the best teacher. You’re smart. You’re funny.” I looked at them suspiciously, they had only just met me (!),but their faces were dead serious. Flattery was clearly an unknown concept to them. I knew right away I was going to love these kids.
In two weeks we’ll be boarding a plane to South Africa. Christmas holidays in the southern hemisphere is like a concentrated dosage of Prozac. Looking forward to seeing Mum who has had a tough year dealing with health issues. We’ll be landing on her birthday. It’ll be the first time since I left South Africa that I’ll be celebrating my mother’s birthday with her.
Normally I would be dreading the upcoming weeks – colder, shorter days, taking us into the depths of winter. But the anticipation of another tropical Christmas (we’ll be on the coast north of Durban) keeps me on a high.