The Parker Fergusons send you holiday greetings from the soon-to”‘be launch site of the “Jiffy Pop Two-” our very own backyard-sized UFO-shaped Mylar balloon. With all the competition for folks’ attention during the holidays, we realize that we really need to step things up to keep everyone entertained, and continue to provide relevance to the 01′ Christmas newsletter. We might even hang some Christmas lights on our balloon and launch it at night. Not to worry, though, our kids will turn up safely hiding in a box after we finally get national attention. Byron wanted to “take it to the next level” and build a giant 40 foot Estes rocket with clear payload section, instead of the balloon, but Toni insists we’d never get the scorch marks out of the backyard. Richard Heene’s wife is far more understanding of her husband’s eccentricities than Toni is. Editor’s note: A dated reference few are going to get, I’m afraid. Click here to read about the “Balloon Boy Hoax.”
While we do our best every year to avoid having any bad news to pass on, this year turned out to be a bit tough when the Fergusons lost two Christmas letter favorites. Both of our “big dogs,” Guiness (15) and Gus (10), finally succumbed to age and health issues. If there is a doggy heaven, Guiness, youthful puppy exuberance fully restored, is chasing down Frisbee throw after Frisbee throw; while Gus the st. Bernard receives an endless flow of angelic petting as he slimes their heavenly robes. Guiness, the only boy in a litter of 11 girls, and a pound puppy, provided needed “first child” experience after Byron and Toni got married. Gus, descendent of Molly- our first st. Bernard, was Toni’s baby, and received years of coverage in Christmas newsletters, and often out-ranked Byron in family photos. Both Gus and Guiness will be missed. We’re sure they’d want you to give your own pets an extra treat in their memory. Of course, we are not without some fish, and our one small mostly hairless dog, Jon Bald Jovi- a Chinese Crested. Byron insists on pointing out that Jon-Jon (as everyone except Byron insists on calling him), however, doesn’t like to be petted, can’t catch a Frisbee, and quite possibly is a cat posing as a dog. Life is cruel.
Only slightly less disturbing this year is that Nolan and Kyra are growing up. As impossible to believe as it seems to Byron and Toni, Nolan and Kyra turned twelve years old this year, and are racing headlong into the most dreaded of parent territory: puberty. Nolan, in an uncanny impersonation of Bobby Brady singing “when its time to change, its time to change”, screeches and squeaks with every sentence. We’re not-so patiently looking forward to a more harmonious “non-fingernails-on-the-chalkboard” final version of his voice.
Nolan’s other challenge this year involved taking up the fine art of shaving. Seeing that the Fu Manchu look is less popular than in the 1800s (or the late 1970s for that matter), Nolan conceded to “shave” training. Dad laboriously lectured and demonstrated everything but the nick-and-cut. Nolan’s kit includes the appropriate emergency equipment for the inevitable first cut- styptic pencil. Dad fessed up that using a styptic pencil hurts like, to quote Nolan- “a mother heifer.” Nolan, never a huge fan of pain, is considering a more long-term plan involving a full Amish beard to avoid shaving all together.
Kyra, of course (or much to our chagrin), is changing too. Byron’s plan, to dress Kyra in large plaid work shirts from Goodwill in order to disguise Kyra from any boyish attention, received quick veto from Toni. So far, however, Kyra’s own “intelligent” girl approach at school appears to be providing sufficient Romulan cloaking ability. Byron stands ready for the first suitors that notice her, though. Byron practices lovingly cleaning his 9mm, and speaking in a grumbly-low menacing tone, each night at the dinner table. “What the $%$ did you kids learn at school today,” he’ll growl. If necessary, Byron’s prepared to get visible skull-and-crossbones, snake, or other manly tattoos; bulk up; and buy a Harley. Kyra, when queried by friends on whether she has a boyfriend, informed them that she can’t date until she’s twenty-five, and that her parents “would kill her.” Well, at least we made that clear.
Both Nolan and Kyra are unsatisfied with simply “growing up.” Both are determined to prove their utter superiority to their parents. Initial attempts to show superiority started subtly. Kyra, in a way obviously designed to be nonchalant, often whips out bits of trivia learned from school and presents them as challenges.
“Did you know that eating spinach can cause gall stones,” she’ll query.
“No, we did not,” we reply.
“Can you name the capitals of all 50 states?”
“Who was the 22nd President?”
“Of which country,” we coyly deflect.
Byron and Toni respond to these attempts to undermine our superiority by leveraging modern knowledge. Byron and Toni quickly enrolled on Facebook and encouraged Kyra to “Join us, since we’re cool and hip, and on that Facebook thingy.” Kyra quickly proved her superiority on Facebook, as well. First, she sent her parents “How Well Do You Know Kyra Ferguson” quizzes. Scoring abysmally low, her parents now refuse to accept quiz requests. Next, Kyra began adding her own Facebook friends. Byron and Toni have a number of Facebook friends- maybe 30, family included. Kyra, who signed up much later, collected a cadre of friends in 22 countries and Antarctica- or something like that. Now Kyra intends to post videos from her exploding-fruit science fair project to YouTube. Guess we’ll have to figure out YouTube now.
Nolan, not to be left out of the quest to better his parents, uses video games to prove his superiority. Byron, who grew up in the “dawn of videogames,” and spent much of his allowance in arcades, considers himself an expert gamer. In split-screen death matches, however, good ol’ dad appears to be no match for the younger Ferguson, who spins circles around Byron’s avatar and pounds, shoots, or otherwise eviscerates the elder Byron into virtual pulp. Byron flashes back to junior high school when he and his sister hooted and hollered while playing Atari Asteroids against their mother. Byron’s
mom, sat playing for only a brief time with a glazed over I-completely-can’t-compete look. Karma’s icking at the door, but Byron’s not ready to hang it up yet. Unlike Byron’s mother, Byron has access to web sites with cheat codes, and doesn’t believe in the no win scenario.
In October, Nolan and Kyra accompanied their intellectually feeble parents on vacation to Disney World, Tybee Island, and Savannah. The trip, much of it planned, instigated by, and funded on frequent flyer miles of, Byron’s sister Diane, gave Byron and Toni a break from competition. Shortly before our trip, however, a doctor diagnosed Toni as dangerously anemic, as Toni became more and more winded from even short walks, or a stair climb upstairs. Byron, who imposed upon Toni for constant care, wheel chair pushing, and sponge baths after last year’s heel surgery, suspected Toni might be faking in an effort to wreak payback. Toni, who in fact was not faking, was in fact planning payback.
Once at Disney, and in line for a wheelchair rental, Byron began to laugh maniacally at the thought of being in total control of Toni’s mobility. Short uncontrolled rolls down hills, and funny swerving through Tomorrow land, filled his thoughts. All Byron’s plans went out the window, however, when Byron’s sister Diane, perhaps seeing the evil glint in his eye, sprung for the Cadillac of electric wheelchairs leaving Toni fully in control of her own destiny.
Toni, spinning the dial wildly to the right, began her mad sprint though the Disney kingdom at approximately 3.6 mph. Most of the day, Byron and kids sprinted madly in an effort to keep up, but also occasionally found themselves in front of Toni’s rolling mass of death, and dodged left or right to avoid being run over. With the exception of one mishap with a permanent railing and two others with small unobservant children (one of whom was Kyra), all other accidents were avoided. While Disney no longer moves wheel chairs to the front of every line, Toni seemed to enjoy driving her wheel chair almost as much as the rides themselves.
After covering all four Disney park in two days (it’s a wonder how much ground you can cover at 3.6 mph), Byron sister drove the mostly tired Fergusons, and the one uber-chipper Toni, to Tybee Island (slightly outside of Savannah, Georgia.) At Tybee Island, the Fergusons stayed in a beautiful condo, frolicked on miles of public beach, played in the sand, flew kites, and sat in beach chairs. Toni pouted slightly on learning that the local purveyors of surfboards and sand dollars carried no oversized-balloon-tire’d beach-cruising dune-buggy wheel chairs for the family to chase. Instead, Toni confined much of her beach time to sunning in a stationary beach chair; which is probably exactly what she would have done fully recovered.
The Ferguson’s made a few excursions into the city of Savannah between do-nothing days at the beach. Savannah, Georgia’s largest city, features one of the largest National Historic Landmark districts, 21 park like squares, and Victorian and Civil War antebellum architecture; all of which the Fergusons elected to ignore. Instead, our first stop was Paula Deen’s “Lady & Sons” restaurant. Paula Dean, a featured chef on the Food Network, is a bubbly gray-haired southern woman and cook who, regardless of what is being cooked, slaters everything in butter, and could make cardboard sound appetizing in her description of it.
Kyra loves all things Paula Deen, or we suspect at least, is slightly enamored of her two somewhat hunky sons- Bobby and Jamie. While it appeared that Paula, Bobby, and Jamie were tending other aspects of the vast Deen empire during our dining; all of the Fergusons enjoyed chowing down on fried chicken, sweet tea, fried tomatoes, and other artery-hardening concoctions.
After eating, and still adamant on avoiding being sucked in by anything historical, the Fergusons finished their Savannah tour with a nighttime trolley ghost tour. Byron, skeptic of all things paranormal, glumly sat packed in the middle of a trolley of appreciative (and possibly drunk) Ghost Hunters fans. As the trolley caromed by various architectural splendors, the gravely voiced twenty-something tour guide shared her “experienced” knowledge of local lore and legend- all presumably “deadly” true. Byron (mostly) refrained from heckling the guide, and yelling “boo,” at all the inappropriate
times. The rest of the Fergusons, Diane, and her husband Rick, appeared to enjoy the stories and tour, although none of them reported seeing anything vaguely haunting- to which Byron insists on saying, ”told you so.”
Finally, we hope that all of your holiday goings-on are happy, that your kids stay out ofyour Mylar balloons, that your food is slathered in butter, and that your add Byron and Toni as your friends on Facebook; we need to prove we know more than those darn kids of ours!
Byron, Toni, Nolan & Kyra