Note: This column appears in the 12/18 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 12/19 issue of the Peoria Times
There were two reasons my wife and I thought twice about moving to Arizona. First and foremost: family. Was Arizona far away enough? (That was a joke.) The second reason was much less important -- though still relevant -- and actually in direct contrast to one of our main reasons for wanting to move here in the first place (the warm weather), and it was this: Christmas…in Arizona?
(Spoiler alert: We moved here anyway.)
Now granted, both of these issues are rendered moot when we travel back east for the holiday itself. But Christmas isn’t just a day. It’s a season, and it’s one that starts -- judging by my 2008 calculations -- three weeks before Halloween. I had my reservations about what it would be like here for those days and weeks, especially after my dreams of sipping hot cocoa by the fireplace (that we don’t have) were interrupted by the sign near our house that reads: Fire danger: Extreme.
Speaking of extreme, I wondered exactly how much I missed the extreme east coast weather as my wife and I watched the crowd at Rockefeller Center freezing their butts off during the tree lighting ceremony on TV a few weeks ago. Last Saturday night we wore jeans and a light jacket when we attended Glendale Glitters. We saw the lights, grabbed a cup of coffee, and just took in the whole holiday scene. Afterwards we went to our good friends’ house to test out their new fire pit. We had a few drinks and even made s’mores. It sure felt like Christmas to me.
A couple of weeks ago we went out to dinner with friends to a place we never would have found on our own. It was called Tutti Santi in Glendale, and, as you can imagine, it was authentic Italian cuisine. If there’s one thing a guy with Italian in-laws misses this time of year, it’s authentic Italian cuisine. Outside of the restaurant a live band played and the promenade was adorned with Christmas lights. Inside our waiter demanded that we try the crème brule. Strangely, it felt like home.
Sure, nothing is the same without family, but if you’ve noticed a common theme of our Christmas-in-Arizona experience thus far, it’s that we’ve got some great friends to share it with. Most of them are in a similar position to ours -- far from home but trying to make new memories here. Corny? Yes. Christmas-y? Also yes.
On our way home from Tutti Santi the other night my wife and I took the back roads home so we could see the lights on the houses along 91st Avenue. I have no idea how you get Christmas lights on a cactus -- or, for that matter, off a cactus -- but these people get it done. And it all looked so amazing amidst the clear, cool Arizona night sky. As we got closer to the house, our headlights revealed that the fire danger had been reduced to “moderate.” I asked my wife if we could get the fire pit going and have some hot chocolate. After all, it was a crisp 48-degrees. She said we didn’t have a fire pit.
Maybe next year.
I’m looking forward to it already.