Presents? I got most of what I asked for and many other things -- as also seems to be our tradition, most of them are clothes and odd trinkets (a bar of loofah coconut soup, a candle scented with patchouli and orange). I got a collapsible walking stick that also can serve as a camera monopod; I'm not sure it will fit in my luggage, though, and I have trouble believing they'll let me take it as a carry-on. I may take it to a packing store and pay them a bit to get it to me.
My mother and her SO have gone just about 100% vegetarian. The catalyst for this was health -- my mother had heart problems earlier in the year and was warned to cut back on fats, particularly animal fats -- but it dovetails into a long-standing interest in animal rights and environmentalism. This is something I've picked up from her after a fashion, although my heart lies more with wilderness protection and preserving/restoring spaces for predators. ("Chipotle likes big, wild carnivores" will not surprise most of you.) Among more conventional stocking stuffers and gifts, I've received three meatless "jerky" strips (shiitake, soy and seitan), "fair trade" coffee and -- a PETA celebrity vegetarian cookbook. No telling whether the celebrities are vegetarians, mind you: I have trouble believing that William Shatner maintains a low-fat diet.
I haven't had meat at home since I've been here, but yesterday when I went out driving I stopped at Steak'n'Shake for lunch. Shh. The drive was one of my characteristic random drives, and I went on another today after I started writing this, heading out west toward Spring Hill, the town I went to high school in.
Spring Hill is something I think of as peculiarly Floridian, although I'm sure it exists elsewhere: a planned retirement community started by a developer in a location expressly chosen to be the middle of nowhere, over time creating a suburb with no city. Now that the Suncoast Parkway (a toll road that goes through the middle of nowhere) is complete, Spring Hill could become a bedroom community for Tampa -- but it was already a town of 30,000, a town with no town center, no historical significance and little in the way of homegrown business. Its defining characteristic is that it has no defining characteristics. Oddly, it does have a Belgian microbrewery now ("brewers since 1731," the sign reads) -- which may be worth a visit on its own.
Now I'm back and waiting for (vegetarian) dinner, some ten minutes away. I'm contemplating a paradox in myself I've been aware of for years: I like to have friends around, and get irritable when I'm feeling consistently excluded -- yet I work and think best when I can have uninterrupted solitude. And I won't get that here, not at my mother's home. I know from past experience that unless I'm firm enough to risk unpleasantness, she will want to talk with me when I'm visible and every so often check on me when I'm not. Thirteen years ago when I ended up living here briefly after my college misadventures, I begrudged her that; now I don't -- not intellectually. Emotionally, though, it would still drive me batty.
So. It's after dinner now and I'm in the living room, listening to the casual pseudo-arguments between my mom and her SO that seem to be most of their conversation and having occasional comments directed at me. The song "Merry Christmas from the Family" by Robert Earl Keen is floating through my mind, which may be unkind, although perhaps it's better than the Arrogant Worms' "Santa Claus is Coming and He's Gonna Kick Your Ass." I'm thinking about new years' resolutions, which I rarely make -- but I might this year.
That's for another entry, though.