Tropic blunder

“That’s just weird,” I said to nobody. I stood there surveying the decorations for another moment. Bright yellow and orange flowers and Tiki faces leaped out from among the Santas and white lights. Hula cutouts graced the table. Tropical paper lanterns hung from the ceiling near the Christmas tree. It all felt uneasy, as if we’d asked a Feng Shui expert how we might purposely cause people headaches. The judgement was dumb since I, not coincidentally, was in shorts, a sky-blue, fraying floral shirt, and canvas loafers.
A few days after Christmas, we were hosting a family party in honor of my cousin. He was home on a very short leave and kindly making time for us. Since he’s stationed somewhere cold, and we’d already been snowed on, we thought a South Pacific-y thing was in order.
Cheesy decorations, check. Soundtrack to Blue Hawaii, check. Thirty pounds of pork butt for sandwiches, check. Hawaiian lingo for the invitation, check. Pineapple juice and rum, check and double-check. A day between the major seasonal holidays where at least some of my relatives actually had a free evening, check(isn).
That a party was needed was not in question, but we were juggling a lot: our motivations, his very valuable time, general holiday overload, and our first go at both a theme and the pulled pork we decided to try ourselves.
The pork sandwiches turned out to be easy. I used a recipe that had the meat cooking all day in root beer. I started it with a decent amount of skepticism, but by the end of the day decided it was not only delicious, but made the best-ever idea for a candle scent. And it really did shred with a fork. I stopped counting at three sandwiches.
I think I also concocted my first Blue Hawaiians correctly.bluehawaiianInvented in the 1950s to help promote the electric-blue Curaçao, these bright and tasty cocktails  helped drive Tiki culture during the Mad Men era. They were just as appropriate for this occasion–simple, colorful, relevant, and just downright cool, even without the paper umbrellas. I settled on a creme de coconut version (not coconut milk!) on the rocks, without the sweet-and-sour mix. Wonderful.
They worked better than the tropical shirts suggestion, since I was the only dope who wore one. The cheap-o leis helped the mood, but I guess it’s difficult to alter winter wardrobes on such short notice. More visual discord.
Ultimately, most of the set-up wasn’t needed. While that was fun, time together was the important part. I was grateful for that, and for the easiness of it. Our parties, whoever hosts, always have an open-house feel, which suits me fine. We don’t have to impress anyone so we normally don’t sweat details much.
Not party details, anyway. What I worry about is losing connection to the rest of the family. My wife and I often have flashes of realization that too much time passes between visits. We wonder why we have a hard time keeping in touch, despite all the ways we have available. So these gatherings, above others, are valuable to us. It isn’t just me–we all seem to understand this on some level. Response is usually pretty good, and however the schedule winds up, an occasional reunion is better than nothing.
I had another motivation, that I kept to myself. I was enlisted once, and always looked forward to seeing everyone after being away for long periods. My time at home flew by; going back was invariably difficult, but the holidays were better because I got here.
I suspect it’s something similar for my cousin. Whenever we have these parties, he’s always the last to leave.


One response to “Tropic blunder

  1. Fantastic story! I love your point of view about being on leave and having everyone around you when you got home. Time together is so precious!

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