Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Holidays Are Over. Phew!

Well, it sure was a busy holiday month for me. If I was complaining about my boring life before, I have gone into hiding this weekend to take a break from the holidays. We were very lucky to get several batches of guests visiting us on several occasions for the past month or so. The Diplomat’s sister and her family came for a blitz Thanksgiving visit, and her twin 10-year old girls entertained Son while they themselves obsessed over Fat Cat and his maddening sloth.
Then I spent two weeks getting ready for Christmas. I decided that the best time to buys a Christmas tree was in the middle of the first snowfall in Washington, and much to chagrin of a VERY unenthusiastic Diplomat, we set out on a mission to find ourselves said tree. I had noticed a place close by which claimed to sell trees and we headed there only to discover 4 sad small trees standing lonely in a parking lot. Elated, the Diplomat announced that they all looked great and we should buy one immediately and then go home and do nothing. I protested loudly and unfazed, took my grudging party to a more-distant Home Depot, which was selling many resplendent, ridiculously cheap trees. With the Diplomat standing steeped in obvious and deep boredom, Son and I pranced around in the falling snow, unfurling tree after tree to find the right one. We did and then spent the next 3 days decorating it. Well, it was more like me decorating it, Son hanging one ball and then breaking another and then wandering off to play with dinosaurs and the Diplomat murmuring that all looked very nice whenever he would pass by. In the meantime, I cruised the stores for days for various gifts, then spent several days wrapping them and then some more mailing some of the gifts to India, Bulgaria and Bangladesh. I also actively avoided the several boxes in the Diplomat’s closet that were clearly delivered for me by Santa Amazon and Santa Sephora. I was SO ready for that Christmas, you have no idea!
Then for Christmas we had a visit from our fabulous British friends, whom we met in Bangladesh (she works for the British Foreign Service) but now live in Jamaica (welcome to the Foreign Service life and its complexities). We had a manic Christmas Eve, where I cooked a traditional Bulgarian vegan dinner and we also had our lovely friends M&M and their two kids over (it is magical just how much noise 4 children can make together, even when they watch a movie). Then we went out the next two nights – we managed to find a lovely college student, daughter of a fellow FSO, who agreed to babysit on Christmas and the following day. Even though we clearly overdid it (the poor thing texted me around 1.30 am on the second night we went out to check whether we were alright. We were. We were dancing, drinking colorful drinks with many things in them and completely oblivious to the time), she agreed to babysit for us again!
When they left on the 27th, we spent a night with the Diplomat’s fantastic cousin and his wife, who live in Oregon but had come to visit their parents in the area. We happen to love them – they are doctors, and nothing fazes them out. We spent another boozy night with them, and then on the 28th the Diplomat and Son and I piled ourselves up somehow in the car and took off for NYC where other friends (whom we know from their own stint in Dhaka) had graciously agreed to give us their apartment while they gallivant in Argentina for the holidays. We arrived in NYC around 7 pm and headed straight to see yet another set of friends who had just arrived from Bangladesh (man, this Bangladesh connection just never stops!??). Finally, around 8.30 pm, we crawled into the apartment, put the child to bed and collapsed ourselves.
The next 3 nights are a bit of a blur to me. I know that we paid a pile of cash to the babysitter (a fabulous Tibetan lady recommended by the friends whose apartment we were invading, who sighed and said that yes, she would come on New Year’s Eve) so that we can go and eat and drink and spend even more money around Manhattan. We even managed to see Brook Shields in one of the restaurants! We went out for lunches, drinks, dinners, some more drinks, shopping, ice-skating in Central Park (a sure highlight for Son who skated for the first time in his life, and after falling give or take 87 times, concluded that he could skate very well), coffees and teas and finally it was time for New Year’s Eve. Well, that was going to be a night well spent.
I was determined to party the night away and it was shaping up to be that way. We were going to have dinner with a couple of friends, and then go dancing with another bunch of friends. As it happens in all crappy movies, everyone canceled mere hours before we were supposed to go. Undaunted and with grim determination, I slathered on a whole bunch of makeup, put on a skimpy dress (a GREAT choice in the 30F weather) and the Diplomat and I dove into the bright NYC night. We had a wonderful date! After randomly walking into a phenomenal restaurant in the West Village (Blue Ribbon), and having drinks at the Orient Express bar (it has a Portuguese bar tender, who overheard us speaking Portuguese, something we do when we have one too many, and asked whether we were Brazilian – whaaaaaat??), we ended up at Sounds of Brazil, aka SOBs where we danced until, I think, 2.30 am to the sounds of funky Brooklyn brass band. Then we took pity on the babysitter and headed home. You try to get a cab in Manhattan at 3 am on New Year’s eve. After 20 min in the streets, competing with dozens of other desperate taxi-aficionados, and slowly sliding into hypothermia, I think the Diplomat sort of threw himself in front of a cab which was clearly headed home. The bleary-eyed cab driver took one long at my bare legs and took pity on us. We were in bed by 3.30 am. Happy New Year.
The next day we drove back to Washington. You’d think that after all that, we’d just quietly go home. Not us for there is no rest for the wicked. We first stopped to see our lovely friends in Jersey City, the original Bulgarian-Indian couple, who had just had their first baby and were more or less locked inside their apartment. After fortifying ourselves with massively strong Indian tea and fabulous Bulgarian apple pasty, and Son pooped in their resplendent master bathroom, we set back on the road. Next we stopped to see one of the Diplomat’s 47 first cousins (or 43, or 38; the number of his first cousins varies constantly every time the Diplomat mentions them – they either die and resurrect themselves all the time, or he has no idea what he is talking about). He and his wife live in exciting Metuchen, and on that particular day, they themselves were hosting for the holidays his own brother, his wife and daughter (who live in Canada). The ladies of the house had cooked up a massive Indian lunch for us, which was so good that I was the last person to leave the table. It was embarrassing, really.
I have always enjoyed Christmas in their house. Albeit faithful Hindus, they put up a Christmas tree every year to the delight of their two your daughters. Gifts are exchanged and Santa is respected. Puzzled by the obvious religious discrepancy, I was told by the Cousin’s wonderfully progressive wife Mrs. H, that this was a Hindu Christmas tree. It is quite possible that she was joking. Then it turned out that she even organized a group of little Indian kids who went around their housing development caroling for the unsuspecting neighbors. I was speechless. Welcome to the melting pot.
After we managed to get ourselves out of the food coma around 4 pm, we got back on the road and an hour later arrived in Princeton, the last stop on our insane itinerary, for a brief visit to a couple of our oldest friends. As if we hadn’t eaten anything so far, we shamelessly attacked the amazing cheeses and champagne they offered us. What is WRONG with me? 8 pounds more, that’s what…

Finally, at 10 pm, we wobbled in home. It is official – the holidays are over. Hallelujah. 

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