Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Christmas Day, Florence
Sure enough, the old guy came and our tiny tree was overwhelmed with colorful packages. Given that Santa had to get through customs (he apparently is not an EU citizen), he could not bring too many gifts on this special day. But not to fret – there would be more gifts waiting in Spain when the Three Kings arrived on Jan 5 (more on that later). The kids didn’t seem to mind and were thrilled to play with their dragons, dolls and “neo-shifters”. At about mid-day, I decided to head out with Lou (Suzanne’s mom) for Christmas Mass at Santa Maria Novella, one of the prettiest churches in Florence. Lou’s only request was that we not walk too far, as her knees were bothering her. I told her not to worry, it was just a few blocks up the street. Now which street was that again? Venturing out without a map was NOT one of my finest decisions. We headed out in the general direction of the church, but a funny thing about streets in Italy – they don’t exactly run parallel. Some 20-odd blocks later and a lot of complaining from Lou, we started to hear church bells, but still could not see the church. When we finally found it, we were on the wrong side and had to walk 3 blocks further before we finally made it to the entrance. Sitting next to Lou, the church felt suddenly quite cold, and no amount of Hail Mary’s could warm things up. On the bright side, it was really beautiful church and we had the unique opportunity to view it fully lit up during mass. When mass ended, the guards came out to make sure we didn’t mingle too long or take pictures. We headed back home, this time on the right street. On learning that it really was only 4 blocks from the house, Lou swung her hand and hit me hard across the arm, causing my camera to fly into the street. She told me in the true Italian spirit of Christmas, she was saving a wack for my other arm! We returned home for a great Italian spread – risotto, proscuitto, strachino cheese, fresh bread, spaghetti with pomodora sauce, wine, olives, etc. and had a wonderful family feast. After relaxing in the apartment and taking the kids out to a plaza to play with their toys, we went out late that evening for a great Christmas dinner. The kids even got a small glass of champagne to celebrate and finished off the evening with huge scoops of fresh gelato and lightly fermented apple juice. Although thoroughly full at this point, Suzanne, Lou and I could not resist the homemade Italian almond cookies and poached pears in red wine with chocolate. Heaven!