As a native South Floridian, I have never known a snowy or even cold Christmas-New Year's combo and every year I get more and more okay with that. In the winter, A1A, the beach road in Fort Lauderdale, is decorated with shells and starfish formed from Christmas lights. There's a giant penguin with a surfboard welcoming visitors to Fort Lauderdale Beach. I turn down Oakland Park Boulevard and breeze along with the windows down, blasting The Pointer Sisters' "Jump! (For My Love)" on the radio. The ability to do this is one of the things I miss most about South Florida, but I appreciate them so much more when I'm here.
But there are other things, of course.
Driving in JS's SUV to and from the Dadeland Mall while singing "Hotline Bling" and "All I Want For Christmas is You" at the top of our lungs. Waking up in her guestroom at 6am and looking at the view of Miami. Trying to take pictures of her dog that she calls a "lap giraffe" but failing because he doesn't stop moving. Sitting on the beach with her and wearing our big sunglasses, listening to her say things like "God help me if I see another sonogram on Facebook. Congratulations, you're giving birth to a fucking squirrel."
How JL's apartment, decorated in Jim Morrison posters and Grateful Dead wall hangings, always smells vaguely of weed. How she makes her mother's fudge every Christmas, occasionally throwing in walnuts or peppermint sticks. Drinking white sangria at the utterly epic I-Pic movie theatre and eating buffalo chicken springrolls while watching Sisters. How, even after 23 years of friendship, she still remembers things I've said even when I don't remember saying them.
When my mother makes potato latkes when I am home in December even if Hanukkah has passed. How every year I try to flip them at the right time but often end up burning myself with oil, taking them out before they're done or after they've been too done. Flipping them onto paper towels to sop up the oil so my mother has a chance to eat some herself. Watching my dad crunch into the ones that are especially crispy because those are his favorites. Doing all of this at a time like Christmas, a time when in the past we might also be out for Chinese food and a movie.
Sitting at the dinner table with my family for a meal, cutting into things I can't afford to eat in New York like steak and baked potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts. Laughing at my dad's jokes, complimenting my mother's cooking, and really meaning both of those things when I do them. How my dad always leaves a cup full of the diet soda he hasn't finished on the table when he clears his place. How my mother instructs me where everything goes in the refrigerator when we're done eating.
Tending bar on New Year's Eve, leaving out my tip jar imprinted with my alma mater for guests. I will make my dad either a piña colada or a white Russian because he's not a big drinker and only likes things that taste like dessert and are topped with whipped cream. My mother will have a Cosmopolitan in what she refers to as "my glass," her oversized martini glass spun through with turquoise. "Use the Grey Goose Orange," she'll say, "and make it VERY. COLD." And champagne. Lots of champagne. Preferably Taittinger, but Veuve Cliquot or Perrier-Jouet will do, to be drunk only by she and I from the glasses from my grandmother Evelyn's set, the short ones rimmed with gold leaf. Everyone else gets regular champagne flutes.
Sitting out by the pool in my bathing suit and reading the back issues of New York Magazine I haven't gotten to yet. Coming inside when it gets too hot and lying around the house wrapped in a towel, still in my bathing suit, then going back outside later only to repeat the process all over again until it's dark outside.
Staying up way too late with my mom watching movies on Turner Classic Movies. Going out to dinner with my dad and talking about marijuana reform, his past life in the Bronx, and "whether or not I'm seeing any men."
Brunch on Sunday morning where my mother will make something a little more complicated than cereal, like French toast or Ebelskivers. Sitting there at the table in my pajamas with my parents, looking out at ponytail palm tree in the driveway my parents have nicknamed "Maxx II," after "Maxx I" was replaced a few years ago.
Trying to turn correctly out of the curved driveway but having to instead attempt it two or three times, rolling over the grass and maybe even hitting the house before I do it correctly. Not getting it right until the day before I leave, rolling my eyes at myself at how terrible a driver I am. Being proud of myself for never hitting the mailbox, chiding myself for hitting the neighbors' bushes covered in Christmas lights.
Doing my laundry in my parents' washer and dryer and not having to pay for it. Wearing clean jeans on the plane home after folding everything else neatly in my suitcase. Making my bed, or doing my best to do it, before I leave so my mother doesn't have to reach too much. Kissing my parents goodbye, saying "Bye Maw, Bye Paw," before I head into the airport and come back to New York.