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A Florida Christmas Story

Thursday, December 20, 2012

There’s something about Florida that brings out the diversity of Christmas. One highly decorated house around the corner from us on Skylark includes among its holiday lawn crew what I fear is a light-up blue octopus with a Santa hat on. Lit-up palm trees are a requirement. The ice cream truck plays Christmas carols. The ice cream truck unaccountably plays Christmas carols year round, but that somehow seems normal here.

So it was with some interest that I’ve watched a year go by at the Latino household up the street on East Tarpon. When mama is cooking dinner, and I haven’t had mine yet, I die. Whatever she's making smells like a cross between pancakes and pizza. I learned that they own a booming local Mexican restaurant--the happily named La Esperanza (Hope)--when one of the little boys whom I’ve seen on my walks greeted us at the restaurant entrance and proudly informed us that they own the place.

Last Christmas, in the midst of a boisterous light display, a large manger appeared on their lawn, festooned with yet more lights and accompanied by the Holy Couple and Wise Men, all patiently awaiting the arrival of the Baby Jesus. The Holy Infant arrived about a week before Christmas, which might be a Mexican tradition, I’m not sure. It was a delight to walk past every morning and evening!

After Epiphany, the lights and the whole entourage retreated to wherever they spend the rest of the year, but the manger remained. At the time, Bobby, Gilda, and I were walking together, and we’d noted that the, let’s call them Esperanza, family also had lifelike ceramic dogs on their lawn. Bobby quipped, “They should put the dog in the doghouse.” (The manger did look like a big doghouse.) We laughed.

Not a week later, I was walking by, and there sat the cocker spaniel statue, in the middle of the manger! What had been a nativity scene was now a fine tableau of an idiomatic expression, even though I'm sure the Esperanzas had no “dog in a manger” metaphor in their language. I loved the kids’ whimsical use of their nativity scene for a while.

It stayed that way, all year long. The mama told me recently that the boys once had a dog just like that, which would explain why they’re so attached to its graven image.

I wondered what would happen when Christmas rolled around again.

Why did I even wonder? This had become a tradition! First the cocker spaniel was placed gently outside the manger, relegated to watchdog status. Then back came the Holy Couple, who instead of an inn or a stable found only a doghouse for shelter in Southwest Florida. The Wise Men had no problem worshiping at a doghouse. And the Baby Jesus, I’m sure, loves it with all his heart.


Member Comments About This Blog Post:
SILLYHP1953 3/28/2013 2:49PM

    I am still waiting for a picture of the blue octopus, too.

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CARTOONB 12/22/2012 12:29AM

    Very cool! I love seeing the different Christmas decorations.

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_LINDA 12/21/2012 12:49PM

    Being a dog lover, I thought this story especially sweet. Gone, but never forgotten! If you are always liking Mama's cooking, maybe you will have to check their restaurant out and see what culinary delights you might discover!

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MSMOSTIMPROVED 12/21/2012 11:48AM

    You always crack me up! The cocker spaniel and manger are a real hoot! Happy Holidays!

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YELLOW09RED 12/21/2012 7:32AM

    Merry Christmas.
emoticon emoticon

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MORTICIAADDAMS 12/20/2012 10:45PM

    I'm thinking that I'm kind of jealous of the light up blue octopus Santa. I have yet to find an outdoor holiday decoration that suits my tastes exactly though. Hubby thinks that in order to please me we would have to make them and I sense he is right. I'm not into the inflatables which seem to be all the rage now. I tend to think our real deer don't care for artificial animated wire deer with LED lights. I need to be rich. This is something I could get into.

I love the part time manger/part time dog house idea. I would probably use it for other things like the Easter Bunny.

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MERRYMARY42 12/20/2012 10:11PM

    great blog, thanks for sharing,

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SHECHAM 12/20/2012 9:57PM

    Great blog... thanks for sharing...

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GEORGE815 12/20/2012 4:20PM

    Love cocker spaniels. Had one we were young.

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JOYINKY 12/20/2012 3:41PM

    Hard to believe you've been there more than a year already! I love taking walks with you! Our ice cream truck plays Christmas carols all summer too! At first I suspected that Bobby might have helped the dog to the dog house but obviously it is "tradition". Have a wonderful Christmas!

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BETHGILLIGAN 12/20/2012 2:34PM

    What a great story!!You are able to find interesting people and things everywhere you go!! I've been meaning to ask--has The Cat been around since you got the girls??

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GABY1948 12/20/2012 12:38PM

    Even though it was different for a Christmas Story...I really enjoyed this blog! You have a great way with words! Thanks!

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LADYJ6942 12/20/2012 10:51AM

    What a cute story, thank you.

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DDHEART 12/20/2012 10:49AM

    As I sit, enjoying my morning java, reading your FL Christmas story, I am looking out on a winter scene extraordinaire...snowing, blowing, we're supposed to get upwards of a foot of the stuff today and more tonight...the windows are flocked with it...sigh. Enjoy your warm Christmas!

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CATMAGNET 12/20/2012 10:32AM

    And I thought Memphis was interesting! Great story about your neighborhood. It's always great to hear about how others around the country celebrate and decorate such a joyous holiday. :)

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LEB0401 12/20/2012 10:23AM

    How charming :)

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MUSTANG_SALLY2 12/20/2012 10:21AM


A friend use to use their (indoor) manager scene as an advent calendar. Each day her son got to put out one piece. He could choose any piece and he set it up the way he liked. On Christmas eve before he went to bed, he got to put out the last piece and it was always baby Jesus. I love that idea!

Thanks for sharing the pictures. It's nice to walk with you!


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HIPPICHICK1 12/20/2012 10:12AM

    Aaaaw! Cute!

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KANOE10 12/20/2012 10:07AM

    That was a sweet blog. You have an interesting life in Florida! There are so many ways to celebrate Xmas. emoticon

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