Ferguson Christmas Letter 2010

Triskaidekaphobic Christmas greetings from the Fergusons.  Having scoured the Internet for the origin of “fear of thirteen,” the Fergusons found references to Hammurabi’s code, ancient Wikan rites, and celestial alchemy- but not a single reference to ancient cave peoples who feared their children turning into TEENagers; surprising since we suspect that may be the true origin of the fear of thirteen.

Toni and Byron, who feared their two turning thirteen, experienced at least a few sleepless nights worrying over our soon-to-be teenagers.  Toni speculated that the transformation would be “Twilight” like- each child turning into a vampire or werewolf. Byron, on the other hand, hoped for something more “Transformers” like- with whirring parts changing into wings, artillery, or at least some sort of can opener.  Alas, the transformation occurred without any such fantastic whimsy.

A less whimsical change did occur, however.  After turning thirteen, Nolan and Kyra lost their child discount eligibility.  The Fergusons are now forced to pay extra for hotel rooms and movie tickets; and can no longer order chicken fingers, hot dogs, and cheese quesadillas from the children’s menu.  Byron made it clear to the new adults under his care: he’ll only be paying the child price, while Kyra and Nolan must now make up the difference. Both are old enough to be working in a coal mine, sweat-shop, or otherwise paying their own way (according to Byron)- but the child labor market appears to be particularly hard hit by this recession, and the two continue to basically subsist on the charity of their parents.  Toni reminds Byron he’ll be eligible for his own senior discount soon.

In July the Fergusons drove to Vegas (via the North Rim of the Grand Canyon) to celebrate the thirtieth wedding anniversary of Toni’s Uncle Don and Aunt Christal. There is no temperate time to visit Vegas- but July is the least temperate time.  Byron, still reeling from the economic impact of paying full price for the kids, insisted on seeking out Vegas’s best deals. Driving to-and-fro in their black fiberglass topped oven (a.k.a. Jeep), the Ferguson’s found entertainment deals galore- just outside.  Go-cart driving, putt-putt golf, and the world famous Bake-O-World offered fabulous discounts, while indoor (and air-conditioned) activities like Cirque du Solei shows, motion simulators, and high stakes poker were disappointingly… full priced.

Of course, visiting the re-branded “what-happens-in-Vegas, stays-in-Vegas” sin city requires constant vigilance to avoid any non family friendly activities.  While Toni and Byron remained vigilant, carefully steering their young charges from bombastic displays, and beer-swilling pool side beach parties; we were not totally successful.  Driving to yet another outside adventure, Nolan and/or Kyra inquired, “What are those people on the sidewalks handing out?” Stuttering, stammering, and sweating, the two parents attempted to explain the nature of the illicit handouts in that oh-so-totally-incompetent way so familiar to parents everywhere, and ending by saying, “..if anyone tries to hand you something, just don’t take it, and especially don’t make eye contact.”  Later that night, walking through the artfully fake (and air conditioned) Paris Le Boulevard, the Ferguson’s stumbled directly into several lingerie clad women handing out brochures for a bar, nightclub, or show at the hotel. Nolan dutifully walked on by, but our instructions may not have been followed perfectly. As Nolan cleared the eye tempting obstacle he turned to his Dad and said, “Mom would be proud. I didn’t look her in the eyes.”  “Duh, that’s my boy,” said Byron proudly; but specifically quietly enough that Toni wouldn’t hear.

Kyra, a.k.a. Daredevil, insisted on participating in something slightly more adventurous than Putt-Putt while in a town known for its glorious excess.  Trying to placate Kyra’s wild side, the Fergusons eventually visited the Stratosphere- Vegas’s tallest attraction. Byron, who, in addition to fearing the number thirteen, fears heights; felt just riding to the top of the Stratosphere would be adventure enough.  Kyra protested, insisting the family ride one of the vertigo inducing rides precariously placed at the top of the needle thin spire. After drawing straws to see which other member of the family would ride with Kyra, short-straw-holding Byron boarded the X-scream with Kyra.  Toni and Nolan watched from relative safety inside.

The X-scream ride is a single car mounted to a short track projecting out over the edge of the Stratosphere’s “roof”.  The track suddenly pitches up and rolls you speedily forward over the 800 foot high edge where it comes to a bone jarring sudden stop.  Kyra smiles happily in the pre-ride souvenir photo as 90 mile-an-hour winds caused her teeth-clenched, pale, terror-stricken father beside her to quake.  Kyra then proceeded to laugh hysterically as the ride plunged over the edge, loving every minute. Byron, less enamored, was not surprised to see that the ride-exit souvenir shop offered an entire section of new pants.  The next time she’s in Vegas, Kyra wants to ride the Stratosphere’s cable drop down the side. Byron hopes someone else gets the short straw.

After leaving Las Vegas, the Fergusons travelled to St. George, UT to spend a few more days with Toni’s Aunt and Uncle.  Uncle Don insisted on a chance to get back all the money he lost to Nolan and Kyra playing Texas hold-em in the hotel room.  Unannounced to Nolan and Kyra, Don and Christel planned to gift their older model side-by-side jet ski to the kids. The hot-pink Kawasaki SC-600, draws instant interest wherever it is towed.  Several people stopped to inquire about its uniqueness before we even left the driveway. At the gas station, someone with the same model referred to it by the affection nickname “the sea couch,”  referring to its wide side-by-side seating. Toni, misunderstanding, began referring to it as the “sea cow,” which eventually mutated into our own lovable nickname for it- “the pink pig.”

Many states are apparently unfamiliar with the “thirteen equals adult” rule so frequently used at movie theaters and buffets, and ban driving water craft until age fourteen.  Unable to test their craft (legally), Byron volunteered to do the duties. Readers of previous newsletters will know that Byron has previously: fallen out of two separate white water rafts, sank two separate cars, nearly drowned off Cancun, and lost his wedding ring snorkeling in the Bahamas.  Toni affectionately calls him, “Flipper.” To say Toni had misgivings about letting Byron drive a jet ski, especially accompanied by her children, would be an understatement. Wearing a life jacket only because Toni insisted, “Flipper” and Nolan motored away from the dock on a three hour tour. The pair was gone only minutes when Byron, true to his “Flipper” nickname, turned the wheel sharply, applied throttle, and executed a perfect 180 degree upside-down roll, pitching Nolan sanctimoniously over his Dad and into the drink.  Nolan now fearing for his life, insisted on returning to the dock so he wouldn’t have to “swim in the water where the fish go poo.”

In October, the Ferguson’s visited Byron’s sister in Tennessee.  Other relatives have filed official protest that we don’t visit them as often as we do Byron’s sister; they, however, don’t travel the world collecting frequent flyer miles to share with us.  Of course, the fact that Dollywood, home of the world famous fried baloney sandwich, is on the the travel itinerary seems to especially motivate Byron’s visits. Byron spent months fasting, working out, and otherwise justifying his ability to order the gut-busting cholesterol-inducing pork feast, even receiving special dispensation from his doctor for the event.  

Entering the park, Byron insisted on visiting the baloney stand first- verifying that calico clad Grandmas still serve up his beloved baloney behemoths.   Satisfied that delicacies awaited, Byron reluctantly rode roller-coasters, saw shows, and shopped authentic folk crafts with Toni, heavily salivating the entire time.  Near lunch, the clan’s travels had, unfortunately, took them as far away from baloney as humanly possible. The nearly inconsolable Byron pouted, but was assured they’d have his baloney for dinner.  Finally, bless-ed dinner time arrived, only for Byron to learn that Dollywood baloney is strictly a lunch time treat- that’s no baloney. The calico Grandmas could not be entreated to reopen no matter how much cash Byron waved in front of their wrinkly old faces.  Byron is a bit bitter.

Kyra, unmoved by her Dad’s baloney loss, quickly moved on.  Kyra, usually quite frugal, fixated on purchasing a tourist-priced Canjo from one of the local craftsmen. The Appalachian folk instrument, consisting of a can, stick, and one guitar string, can play any song in the key of G consisting of less than 7 notes.  Kyra, however, remained unmoved by her Dad’s promise to make one just like it at home, or that it was a bit pricey for a can and stick. Kyra parted with her own hard-earned money to buy her very own Canjo sporting a varnished pine and spinach label look. Only hours later, she was plinking out tunes while still in the park.  Dad surreptitiously put a hat next to the bench where she was playing, and only thirty minutes later collected enough money from park patrons ( who apparently thought Kyra was a park show), to pay for dinner. For those interested, Kyra will be releasing an album of Canjo classics soon for purchase on Amazon.

Byron, still heartbroken and baloney-less, trodden along unhappily after Dollywood to tour the Biltmore in North Carolina, which is specifically known for not having baloney sandwiches.  The Biltmore, billed as America’s largest home, at one time boasted its own brick factory, woodworking shop, and a three-mile railway spur for transporting materials to the building site.  The home which is still occasionally used by Vanderbilt descendants, is now open for public tours to pay for its preservation. Toni insists that between tour income, gift shop, possible addition of a baloney stand, and all-time-low mortgage rates we could easily afford this as our next home.  Byron briefly considered such a move, but frankly would never move into a place where the bowling alley didn’t have an automatic pin setter.

After Dollywood and the Biltmore, the Fergusons returned to sister Diane’s Tennessee home.  The family spent only a brief time there before Poseidon once again taunted Byron from aquatic depths.  Rick, Diane’s husband, retrieved his recently repaired boat from the shop, and wanted to give it a test drive before winter set in.  Rick and Byron jumped in the truck, and headed for water. Nolan and Kyra only agreed to tag-a-long if Byron wouldn’t drive. Fifteen year old Chris, visiting Rick and Diane and also naive about Byron’s water exploits also joined in.  Rick opened up the throttle rocketing across the huge reservoir and verifying the function of his boat. Then, in a total lapse of judgement, he let Byron steer to the dam. Poseidon laughed.

For a brief blissful moment it appeared the family would escape dry. Nolan and Kyra let out a collective sigh of relief as Byron completed his erratic turn at the wheel and Rick took back driving duties.  Unfortunately, heading back for the distant dock, water from an unidentifiable source suddenly began pouring into the back of the boat. Rick floored the accelerator in a last gasp attempt to return to the dock from whence we came, but the boat nose pitched ever higher as water added more and more weight to the back.  Declaring an emergency, Rick now headed for a closer dock at shore. The kids perched like panicked figure-heads at the very front of the bow, bouncing up and down as the boat planed less and less successfully. Nolan screamed, “Not the fish poo, again!” Finally, with the batteries, engine, and transom nearly under water, the boat sank-a-ground in waist-high water.   Everyone waded back to shore and contemplated the complex engineering of underwater boat retrieval. Fortunately, the family was able to borrow a small igloo cooler for bailing, and ride to retrieve truck and trailer, for a small cash donation to a homeless man. The crew spent most of the rest of the day bailing water, fashioning a hoist, and man handling the boat back under trailer.  For those keeping score at home, that’s water: 7 Byron: 0.

Even with all the year’s aquatic travails, the Ferguson’s are now happy to be home and dry.  Of course, the kids will not turn fourteen until July, so we’ll no doubt have to deal with other bouts of thirteen.  Recent EBay purchases include a lucky rabbits food, Celtic talisman, and several CO2 powered instant inflate life jackets, so we think we’re covered.

Nolan and Kyra who are on track to graduate from the 8th grade sometime in May will host a graduation blowout Memorial day weekend.  We hope some of you can join us to celebrate their graduation and pending entry into High School. Nolan is disappointed to learn they have no XBox classes, and Kyra- to learn Canjos are not allowed in the school band.  Both will no doubt excel at the classes that are offered, though.

Finally, we wish you and yours a very MERRY CHRISTMAS, and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!  One without water, or the number thirteen.