Friday, December 25, 2009

A Blustery Christmas Greeting

It's Christmas Day, and as I write this post from the dining room table of my parents' house, the snow continues to accumulate outside. The storm rolled in on Wednesday afternoon and has only grown more intense since then. I was supposed to fly to Miami at 6:00 this a.m. on my way to Rio, but the weather concurred with my initial gut feeling and decided that I'd stay put a few more days. Not to say that the snow itself prevented me from traveling; this is Minnesota we're talking about, where three feet of snow can fall and an hour later the plows have already cleared the streets and blocked in our driveway again, to my father's delight. I can only recall one actual snow day during the 18 years I lived here, which makes me feel a little robbed when comparing stories with friends from elsewhere, but anyway... It was truly my disdain for the chaos of delayed flights and last minute holiday travelers, as well as my mother's genuine love and enthusiasm for the Christmas morning tradition, that convinced me to postpone the trip until next week.

So there we were this morning, my father and I on couches opposite from one another, separated by an oriental rug that my mother insists on placing in the middle of the wall-to-wall carpeted room "to keep the carpet clean", as my mother happily passed us our stockings. Let me mention that she had made us swear that this year our presents to each other would be time spent together. My mother, whose relationship with technology in any form can be described as highly inimical at best, fought with her camera to record the moment in still images while my father threatened to throw the camera out the window if she took a picture of him and I clung to my coffee cup praying for patience. The scene was entirely familiar and made me happy to be home.

In the days leading up to Christmas I've had many truly Minnesotan experiences, which I've both enjoyed and which have reminded me just how much I've outgrown this strange little world. I'm surprised and suspicious of the seemingly friendly way in which people greet each other here (commonly referred to as "Minnesota-nice"); I question whether I've merely become jaded or whether the over-enthusiastic hi-how-are-yah's are false compensations for sub-zero temperatures that would drive any sane person to madness. I keep warm inside the house bundled in multiple sweaters, a scarf and hat, while my father, originally from New Mexico but who has spent the last 32 years in MN, clears the driveway with the snowblower for the fifth time in three days in a sweatsuit. In spinning class the instructors play random compilations of their favorite songs, which is fine because the routines they lead us through ultimately have no relation to the beat of the music being played. I mention this Minnesota-ism because I've taken indoor cycling classes in multiple US cities, Argentina, Brazil and Spain, and although perhaps I've been lucky, this is the only place where neither the instructors nor the students seem to mind or even notice if they're pedaling completely off beat. I regularly make inappropriate jokes about white people not having rhythm, as demonstrated by any attempt to gracefully dance salsa (and while yes, I'm seemingly as white as they come, my dance background excludes me from this category). Nevertheless, I've witnessed the aerobics and step classes here, and the instructors manage to lead choreographies that obey the beat of the song playing, so I'm puzzled as to why the spinning classes are such a disaster. Is it that the instructors are truly unable to count (and I could cite multiple examples to support this argument), or are they just lazy about making coherent routines to accompanying music mixes? Either way, Minnesota-nice guides our behavior and thus nobody complains or even makes suggestions for improvement.

Enough ranting; it's Christmas after all, and I'm lucky to have a few extra days in my homeland with two people that both test my sanity and endlessly remind me of how loved I am. I'll make the most of it, while avoiding as best I can any reason to go outside. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and unless the unheard-of happens and I'm inspired to write in the next couple days, my next post will be from a much, much warmer place. Boas festas!

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