“In the Lap of Luxury” is part of the continuing story of the loss of our home in the San Diego Witch Fire 2007. To read the other posts in the series, click on the links at the end of this post.
From ground-breaking day to move-in day, we now are home in a record eight and a half months! As promised, our builder got us home in less than the contracted nine-month period. Normally, one would take their time to settle into a new environment. But, it’s the second week of December and my brother and his family from New York are arriving the next week to celebrate the holidays with us. And, Tiffany and her 1½ year old daughter, Princess P, are arriving from Arizona for a pre-holiday visit (Tiffany and her husband lived in Arizona for 5 years before moving back to California 3 years ago). Plus, our entire family is having Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners with us!
Everyone in our family is excited for us and they want to share our first Christmas in our new house. How can we so no? But, this shindig will require coordination on many fronts and massive shopping expeditions. For example, Charlie and I each have a set of towels purchased when we lived in the condo. Now we need a minimum of six more sets for our guests! We have bed pillows for each of us; now we need at least six more! New beds have been delivered from furniture stores for the guest rooms, and now we need complete linens for each! And, we need extra sheets and blankets for kids who will have to sleep on the floor!
While in the condo, I had purchased just enough kitchen ware for the two of us and a few guests. Unless we ate on paper plates for the two-week visit, I needed to purchase more dishes, glassware, utensils, etc. On top of all that, we will need food – lots and lots of food!
What I don’t think most people realize is how much food you store in your house on a regular basis. For example, spices. Most people collect spices over time, as needed for recipes. Or condiments; the same holds true for those. Plus, jams and jellies, vinegars and oils, broth and stocks, sauces (hot sauce, Worcestershire, etc.) and salsa. So, when those are lost in a disaster, just replacing those categories of items is costly. On top of that, one usually acquires a stash of canned goods and other food stuffs, such as cereals, pastas, grains, breads, baking supplies (flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, nuts, baking chocolates, etc.) on top of fresh and frozen food and dairy products. And, if that isn’t enough, what about toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels, sponges and scrubbers, cleaning supplies including brooms, mops, buckets, etc. and laundry supplies?
We replaced few of these items because our condo kitchen was small and storage at a premium. Plus, as busy as we were every weekend working on something for the new house, we ate out often. So, the next several days was a whirlwind of multiple trips to retail stores, the linen store and three trips to various grocery stores (including a big box store) and then unpacking and putting everything in its new place.
In the meantime, Tiffany and Princess P arrive that weekend. They spend a few days with other family in our area and then arrive at our house on Monday, the 17th for a few nights stay. I take that day and the next day off from shopping and Tiffany helps me settle into our new house. And, on the 19th, the day of Glenn’s family’s arrival, I go yet again to Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Costco arriving home from Costco as my brother and his family arrive from the airport! After hugs and kisses all around, the kids help me unload the last of my shopping spree and the fun begins!
(pictures all courtesy of my sister-in-law, Missy):
But, guess what? The day after their arrival, December 20th, I dragged the kids to Home Depot Expo (now no longer in business) to buy a Christmas tree and then to Target to buy Christmas ornaments. My father was in the hospital at the time, so Glenn and his wife, Missy, spent the day with him while I took the kids to get a Christmas tree. This was the first time in their lives that these children had an artificial tree! As residents of the very cold Northeastern United States, they cut their tree down every year at a Christmas tree farm. Imagine that! So, coming to Southern California for a Christmas with no snow, plus buying an artificial tree, was a unique experience for them!
Well, I had to have a 12’ tree. Nothing less. Our 99-year-old house had a 9’ ceiling and this beautiful new house had a couple of 14’ ceilings. So, I had to have a 12’ tree! We found the perfect one and the box barely fit in my car along with all of the kids. But, it did. The next day, while I’m working on preparing some sort of meal for everyone, Glenn and his kids put this massive tree together and decorate it. I’m oblivious to what is going on around me, engrossed in something else, probably meal preparation. And, when they were finished, they came and got me and the tree is beautiful and I’m a very happy girl!
Fun in the Sun:
The kids loved the long driveway! Plus, with a golf cart at their disposal, they raced up and down; I think they had just as much fun on our driveway as they did touring Southern California attractions! And, my brother kept the driveway clean…
The slumber party on Christmas Eve:
- Setting up Aerobeds in the foyer. Our house was so full of guests that all the kids had to sleep on the floor!
The cousins getting ready for their slumber party on Christmas Eve.
- Talking ’til late in the night!
- And, not wanting to get up the next morning – Christmas Day! The New Yorkers woke up early (3 hour time difference) while the West Coast cousins slept in!
We have a wonderful holiday with them, my parents (my father was released from the hospital just in time to join us), my local sister and her daughter, my youngest sister and her family from Arizona and my elderly relatives from Orange County, who were not yet living in assisted living. Our house was full; overflowing! Overflowing with love!
See the 12′ Christmas tree in the upper right corner? My need for a giant tree will create a problem. Read about it in the next chapter: Much of Muchness.
Touring around SoCal:
After Christmas, I spent several days playing “tourist” with Glenn’s family at all the various local tourist attractions (Charlie is handicapped, so decided to stay home with Coco). We went to the Wild Animal Park (now called the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park), the beach, California Adventure and Disneyland.
We went to California Adventure and Disneyland on the 29th and 30th of December. Since Glenn’s family had never been to California Adventure before, we decide to spend the first day of this two-day trip there. That evening, we crossed over into Disneyland. We gathered just in time to watch the Fantasmic show on the Rivers of America. The crowd was stacked 20 deep and everyone was standing. While much of the show is fireworks in the air, some of it takes place on the river. So, the kids couldn’t really see it and my brother traded off trying to lift the kids up on his back and shoulders to see.
The show was fantastic (Fantasmic fantastic!) and we decided that we wanted to see it again the next night. So, we also decided that we needed to plan it so that we could get a better view. The next morning, after arriving at Disneyland Park to start our day, we wandered over to the Rivers of America area and perched on the wall facing the area where the show takes place – 7 of us perched in a row on the wall. A Disneyland employee walks up to us. Here’s the conversation:
“Are you tired already?” he asks (it was 10 o’clock in the morning).
“No; we were here last night and saw bits and pieces of the Fantasmic show and we are just strategizing on how we can see it better tonight,” we reply.
“Can we sit on this wall and reserve this space?” we ask.
“No; sorry. They don’t allow that; in fact, they block off these walks so that people can’t do that.”
“Can we sit on these benches and reserve this space?”
“Sure, but there will be lots of people in front of the benches, standing, and you won’t be able to see anyway.”
“How early do you think we need to be here in order to get a good view?”
“People start lining up four and five hours before the show.” We are crestfallen, each of us calculating the “cost” of standing in one location for four or five hours to see a show.
“Where are you all from?” he asks.
“New York except Auntie Carole. She’s from California and we’re visiting her.”
“Have you heard of our contest ‘The Year of a Million Dreams’? We have roving ambassadors going around the park making people’s dreams come true!”
“Yes,” my brother says, “and you’re one of those ambassadors, aren’t you?”
“As a matter of fact, I am. How would you like to be the Honorary Grand Marshals in the our Main Street Parade tonight AND we’ll arrange for reserved, unencumbered viewing of the Fantasmic show for you?”
Do you think we said NO? NOT. A. CHANCE!
The Disneyland roving ambassador telling us that he wants us to be the Grand Marshals in the Parade!
A picture of the group with Todd, Disneyland roving ambassador (I took the picture this time so that Missy could be in it!).
- Top row right in the photo above: all of us meeting the Disney employees for a photo-op with the sign before it’s installed on the car and before the parade starts. I’m on the far right next to my brother.
- Middle row left: all of us getting our instructions to “wave to the crowd” as we pass down Mainstreet all the way to It’s a Small World!
- Middle row right: doing the “Princess wave” or the “Parade wave” (whichever you want to call it)! All of these photos were taken by Disney employees with Missy’s camera.
- Bottom row left: the end of the Parade route – It’s a Small World.
- Bottom row right: the kids a the back of the car at the end of the parade.
Watching the Fantasmic show on the Rivers of America with our “reserved” front row seats (a row of steps that Disney employees roped off and kept clear so that our view was unobstructed).
End of a magical day – my brother and me walking to the parking lot with their signs in tow. Disney lets the Grand Marshals keep the signs on the car if you want them! My brother and his family did and we mailed them to New York!
Imagine being selected as Honorary Grand Marshalls in a Disneyland Parade? What were the chances? One in 100,000? One in 250,000? Disneyland was wall-to-wall people that day. Getting around was impossibly slow and getting on rides a complete challenge! And, getting food equaling challenging with long lines and long waits. So, this was the icing on the cake to a wonderful family reunion on top of moving into a brand, spanking new beautiful home!
What a way to end the year!
The story continues tomorrow with Chapter 15, “Much of Muchness.”
(other posts in the fire series)
Prologue – Any Way the Wind Blows
Chapter One – The Valley That Time Forgot
Chapter Two – Eye of the Storm
Chapter Three – In the Blink of an Eye
Chapter Three.One – Too Far From Home (Tiffany’s story)
Chapter Four – Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Chapter Five – In a Blue Funk
Chapter Six – Back to Square One
Chapter Seven – One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Chapter Eight – Not Me, Why Me, Who Me, It’s Me
Chapter Nine – The Whole Kit and Caboodle
Chapter Ten – Feathering the Nest
Chapter Eleven – The Blind Leading the Blind
Chapter Twelve – Apple Pie Order
Chapter Thirteen – All Hands on Deck