Christmas, 2010
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Christmas, 2010

 Dear Family and Friends, 

The Franklins started 2010 “down under” and were never quite able to claw their way back up. This was the year that Joe and Nancy, figuring that Jimmy and Taylor may eventually become convicts, decided they should see the convict nation—Australia.


According to Jimmy, Australia is the land of all things that can kill you, including spiders, jellyfish, snakes and….Vegemite. Vegemite is Australia’s national spread, much like peanut butter is ours. It appeared on the Franklin’s breakfast table their first day, Christmas morning, gaily wrapped like the jams at Denny’s. And the Franklins, eager to try something that had been immortalized in song (“…Vegemite sandwich…”), smeared it all over their toast, stuffed it into their mouths and started retching. Vegemite, it turns out, tastes like bovine excrement in a tube. The fact that your first inclination is to rinse your mouth with an antiseptic might explain the Aussie love affair with beer and wine.


Now, on Christmas Eve, Nancy had developed a slight eye itch. By Christmas morning, her eye was the color of Rudolph’s nose. By Christmas evening, she was ready to claw it out, spear it with a toothpick and pop it into a martini. Instead, she went down to the desk clerk to inquire about the in-hotel physician program. After a brief bit of frivolity on the part of the clerk, Nancy affixed her with her death laser eyeball and it wasn’t long before the entire Franklin clan was bundled into a taxi heading into the Outback in search of the only pharmacy open on Christmas evening. Several hundred Australian dollars later, Nancy was clutching a bottle of eye drops like myrrh for the baby Jesus.


Australia is a beautiful country. And Nancy, Jimmy and Taylor would have seen a lot more of it if they hadn’t had to keep yelling at Joe to drive on the correct (left) side of the road.  When Joe’s driving didn’t kill them, Jimmy and Taylor went skydiving. Surviving that, Jimmy, Taylor and Joe went bungee jumping.


Bungee jumping is Darwin’s way of weeding out the merely stupid from the totally stupid and reckless. The MERELY stupid are the ones, like Joe, who bungee only once. The TOTALLY stupid and reckless are the Franklin children, who spent the better part of an afternoon repeatedly chasing the endorphin rush while their parents repeatedly chased the waitress bringing drinks in the viewing area, below.


In bungee jumping, you are, basically, a cat toy strapped to the end of a rubber band. You fling yourself off a platform some 150 feet in the air; head first, on a collision course with a pool of water. Joe swears he saw his life pass before his eyes. Jimmy and Taylor say Joe’s life passed right through him because they swore they saw what appeared to be a brown contrail emanating from Joe as he took flight off the platform. Nancy, of course, politely declined to participate, figuring that someone would need to accompany the coffins back to the States and spend the insurance money.


In Australia, Joe wanted to see the annual laying of loggerhead turtle eggs, and the Franklins were lucky enough to secure reservations in the first viewing group at the turtle sanctuary. Too bad the turtles don’t honor reservations.


An hour went by; then two. No turtles were coming up on the beach. The whining began. “Can we leave now?” “No! We’re not leaving until some damn turtle comes up on that beach and lays golden eggs!” replied the ever-affable Joe. And then the rain and wind started.


At first, a gentle tropical mist, which progressed to a squall an hour later when the first viewing group was led to the beach in a configuration that can only be described as a rugby scrum. On the beach, it’s as dark as the interior of your colon, only on this night your colon would have been drier. It’s now raining sideways, and the turtles, as you might suspect, are in no freakin’ hurry. From start to finish, it took the Franklins 7-1/2 hours to view this spectacle; drying their clothes in an Australian dryer took about three days. Nancy recommends that if any of you want to see this rare occurrence, grab a Fosters, some take-out from Outback, rent a Discovery Channel DVD and fast forward through the turtle highlight reel.


And yes, the Franklins did make it to the Great Barrier Reef. Since it was “box jelly” season (more things that can kill you) the Franklins had to wear body suits that covered every bit of exposed flesh, making them appear like light blue sperm. Nancy and Joe suspect that their children’s reluctance to snorkel had less to do with the jellyfish than the fact that Joe and Nancy told them that they would be happy to pee on them (human urine being a great pain reliever for jellyfish stings) if they got stung.


This summer, the Franklins again visited Washington State to celebrate the 80th birthday of Nancy’s mother. The rental house in La Conner turned out to be a cross between the Bates Motel and your worst antique store nightmare. Norman Bates, the proprietor, assured the family that none of his mother’s antiques were priceless but the kids had their arms secured to their sides with duct tape for the duration of the trip anyway, as a precaution. The clan toured the family’s old homestead and attended the Northwest Washington Fair where the kids learned that “road apples” and “cow pies” are not food.


This was a big year for Jimmy. Through a combination of good luck (Jimmy’s) and fervent prayer (Nancy and Joe’s) Jimmy managed to graduate from Mira Costa this past spring. Now 19, he took classes at El Camino Community College this fall and is in the process of enlisting in the Air Force. Jimmy is hoping he’ll be the guy in the Airstream trailer in the Vegas desert remotely running the Predator drones over Afghanistan. This will be sweet justice for all the years his parents told him that playing video games was rotting his brain. Of course, knowing Jimmy’s attention span, Nancy and Joe are learning how to say “I surrender” in Farsi and Korean.


Taylor, now 18, is busy applying to colleges. She is using “Map Quest” to find the college of her choice. This involves putting her home address in the “from” box and “as far away as possible” in the destination box. Other academic criteria seem to include the number of concert venues, ratio of boys to girls, and quality of football team. This, of course, all has to be in inverse proportion to her grades. If Joe and Nancy could read the thought balloon over her head it would probably say “Dear Lord, how much longer do I have to live with these people?!”


Joe continues his love affair with tennis. He and the rest of the “Delta House” fraternity parlayed the tennis excuse into a 3-day Palm Desert vacation. Actual tennis was played, followed by the usual belching, fighting over the remote control, icing of the various injured and sore body parts and sharing of Advil. Joe and another one of the frat bro’s got thrown out of the country club for “inappropriate dress”, which probably means that Joe’s toga showed too much leg or his lipstick didn’t match his purse.


Nancy is still working for Providence Health & Services, where every day is like the Crusades. She continues her quest for karate greatness and has progressed to sparring and “bag work”. Or, as Joe likes to call it, “working the Old Bag.” Many days, Nancy looks like she fell down a flight of stairs. This is fine with Nancy. She’s leveraging this by telling Joe and the kids that if they make one false move, she’ll roll up her sleeves and pant legs, claim elder abuse and have them out of the house faster than a teenager’s text can travel with news of a party at a parent-free house.

 And so once again, as this year comes to a close, the Franklins give thanks for good health, good friends and the fact that their life isn’t like a tube of Vegemite. May you all have many blessings in 2011! Love,Joe, Nancy, Jimmy and Taylor 

This and past Franklin Christmas Letters and Stories are at www.mirthquakes.com