When toddlers attack

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

We had a low-key New Year's Eve at the home of our neighbors.  We brought grapes to eat at midnight, following the Spanish custom of eating one grape for each peal of the belltower at Madrid's Puerta del Sol.  I cued up the ceremony on Spanish television to coincide with midnight California time.  New Year's Day was quiet too -- but on the way home from lunch at our favorite Chinese place, my mom started begging us to take her to the L.A. Equestrian Center near Griffith Park, where the equine guests of the Rose Parade stay the night before.  I was nursing a slight hangover and really wanted to go home to nap, but I figured indulging was good practice for what lies ahead.  My mother is obsessed with horses.

By day, he pulls the Wells Fargo stagecoach.  By night, he's Crispín, Mexican wrestler

This morning, we're sitting watching the Rose Parade.

My parents never took me to the Rose Parade, in spite of living close enough to the parade route to, if I ran outside really quickly, see the planes flying in formation over the crowds.  Not that I was ever in the crowd.

"What?  It helps keep my weight down..."
"Great, add that to your pile of grievances," says my mom.  "Why don't you ever remember the SWEET things?"  Well, I do, but frankly, the sweet things don't elicit a wrist-to-the-forehead dramatic outburst from her, so they're just not as much fun.  Most fun:  just bring up smoking.  For fans of the show "Mad Men," my parents were like Don and Betty Draper, minus the bitterness and the high level of marital angst.  The show features Betty and her early-to-mid-1960s suburban housewife friends waddling in, hugely pregnant, for a visit in each other's kitchens, smoking and drinking up a storm.  I was born in '64, the year the U.S. Surgeon General released the famous report linking smoking with... well, death.  So I ask: "Mom, didn't it occur to you that maybe it was a bad idea to smoke and drink while you were pregnant?"  Response:  "WHAT?  WHAT?  WE DIDN'T KNOW!!  Tear my HEART out!  FLOG me!  STONE me!  WE DIDN'T KNOW!!"  Not only is this an exact quote, she'll say something like this anytime I raise the subject.  So, c'mon, mentioning the time she crafted a tour of Southern California Spanish missions, the Queen Mary, Lion Country Safari and the San Diego Zoo for my spring break just doesn't compare.  Fortunately, she quit about 20 years ago.

A horseback-riding birthday party for a dozen nine-year-olds?  ¡Olé!
 She also introduced me to horses.  When she was growing up, she kept hers in back of the house, living at the edge of what was then the developed part of Los Angeles -- to the south, Hollywood; to the north, groves of orange and walnut trees.  We still live in the same block, but needless to say, L.A. swapped its orange groves for cheap post-war tract homes as it pushed up against the mountains and out towards the desert, and having a horse in what's now the middle of the city is out of the question.  But we live about three miles from Griffith Park with its bridle trails and boarding stables, and that's where she made sure I spent a good part of my childhood, taking riding lessons (which I loved) and shoveling the stall of the psychotic mare she bought when I was in the fourth grade (which I hated).

So no.  No camping out at the Rose Parade.  No joining the crowds lining Sunset Boulevard for the Hollywood Christmas Parade.  And you know what?  Now that I'm a grown-up and think about the crowds and the parking and the money and the frayed nerves, I don't blame her (shhh, don't tell her!).

But this morning, as we were watching the parade, Adrián said "this is something we'll have to do with the kids."  "What, sit and watch on TV?" I asked with apprehension.  "No," he said.  "I mean, go watch in person."


We'll close with a thematic video courtesy of Mark at Our Simple Lives (I left out the part about being put out to roast in the sun... but my mom never shared her cocktails, damnit):