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Monday, July 18, 2011

happy 5th of july, america

I have been out of the United States for over nine months now.  Nine months.  I’ve gestated quicker.  While it’s been an adventure of a lifetime and a lesson in adaptation, I think the harsh reality of our move is finally sinking in.  It’s not missing my friends or family.  I knew that was the cruel price of a one-way ticket to the antipodes.  Or no longer seeing Nicole Kidman at Starbucks at 26th and Wilshire anymore.  Six times I saw Virginia Woolf.  At my Starbucks.  Either she was intentionally stalking me or I was accidentally stalking her.  I did like examining her Botox so maybe--  (My wrinkled forehead and) I digress.  What I didn’t expect from this move was the toll it would take.  On my holidays.  

I had this epiphany on July 4th.  Actually, July 5th.  The festive star-spangled day came and went two weeks ago and you know what I did?  Nothing.  Stayed home and wrote.  Not in an American flag bikini.  Without a twelve pack of anything.  Didn’t make eye contact with a single hot dog.  It’s not that I forgot it was Independence Day.  I just didn’t remember.  When you remove all the stars and the stripes and the ads for Old Navy’s something off of everything Fourth of July sale and the Veterans on the corners of West LA and the fireworks and the dogs barking at the fireworks and the Americans, you’re not left with a lot of reminders.  Absence doesn’t make the heart go stronger.  It just makes you forgetful.  And hot dog less.    

But this was not the first run-in with a messed up holiday.

Halloween 2010.  Imagine the least decorated block in your neighborhood and you’ve just imagined all of New Zealand on Halloween.  My new country has yet to embrace this holiday of begging.  That’s okay.  Traditions take time.  But what wasn’t okay was this:  a house with a paper pumpkin on its door (universal sign for “we have candy”) ran out of candy at 6 pm.  As we found out from someone yelling down from an upstairs window:  “Sorry, we ran out of candy!”  What the what?  They were our first house!  They ran out of candy?  And did they just relay this information to us by shouting down from their upstairs window? Our little Frankenstein and tiny devil were pissed.  It seems impossible to run out of candy at 6 pm unless a. you never had any candy to begin with and you’re mean, b. you only had one piece of candy and you’re mean or c. you ate all the candy and you’re mean.  We concluded they were mean.  And ate all the candy and their stairs. 

Thanksgiving 2010.  Charlie Brown had an easier time.  No one here had turkey for sale because no one here eats turkey unless it’s Christmas.  Want a turkey sandwich for lunch?  Too bad.  But I get it.  It’s not their holiday.  It’s ours.  So we were on our own.  Just like the Pilgrims way back when.  But with access to a store that sold meat.  Our local butcher advertised that it carried beef, poultry, duck and pigeon (!) so we had to order our turkey.  It came a week later.  From I don’t know where.  Frozen.  And cost us about $95.  It tasted like pigeon.   

And then came Christmas 2010.  Smack dab in the middle of summer.  Piles of pine trees for sale next to the cricket field.  My in my flip flops and my husband in his shorts searched for the perfect one. The kids coated in SPF 30 watched.  It was weird.  Christmastime should be cold.  I would’ve accepted chilly, brisk or even mildly windy.  But it wasn’t any of those.  It was hot and sunny and beautiful.  And therein lies the weird.  Have you ever tried to have a snowball fight with sunshine and grass clippings?  It’s almost as hard as singing “Jingle Bells” in a tube top. 

Which brings us to Mother’s Day 2011.  I reminded my husband this holiday was coming up so it wouldn’t sneak up on him.  Like it does.  But he assured me he knew.  He was all over it.  He and Mother’s Day were like that.  Insert close up of his pointer finger and middle finger tightly crossed.  Cut to Mother’s Day weekend and my husband acting like he was just snuck up on.  “Wait.  Mother’s Day is THIS weekend?   I thought it was next weekend like in America.”  Oh yes he did.  To which I replied, “Mother’s Day is THIS weekend in America, too.”  Husband:  “Huh.  Well, you’re going to love what I planned next weekend.”  And I did.  But still. 

Father’s Day 2011 was not without its problems.  Found the perfect scarf for my husband.  Wrapped up some gumboots for the early morning soccer/mud games.  Kids made the cutest cards.  I even let him sleep in while I snuck out super early to get us coffee and a paper.  And that’s when it happened.  I ran into my friend Jenny and she told me the bad news.  It wasn’t Father’s Day.  I was shocked. “What?--  I thought it was THIS weekend like in America.”  Oh yes I did.  To which Jenny replied, “Nope.  Father’s Day is in September.”  One scarf, a pair of gumboots, a couple of cute cards, a NZ Herald and a hot cup of coffee later, my well-rested husband was not disappointed by the news of another Father’s Day.   

Next up is Labor Day 2011.  September 5th.  We don’t have high expectations for this day.  1. Because they don’t spell labor like that here and 2. it’s not Labour Day here.  Life will probably go on as normal – our new normal – and that’s okay.  They say change is good.  I’m starting to believe them.  Even though our American holidays are all jacked up over here, the ones we do remember to celebrate have turned out to be some of our most memorable. 

Now all I need to do is figure out how to get that second Mother’s Day.  And my forehead less wrinkly. 


  1. It's very easy to imagine forgetting July 4th. Hilarious that Old Navy ads serve as a reminder. Also hilarious that Scott "was all over" Mother's Day, and then wasn't. I miss you guys!

  2. "Have you ever tried to have a snowball fight with sunshine and grass clippings?" Genius. I feel your sunshiny pain, Ms. Zehnal.

  3. we and by we .... i mean me and the us holidays miss you!!

  4. You miss the holidays . . . I miss you on the holidays! And my jr kiwi's. Boohoo It's a hard habit to break.

    But june was superb! I still dream about the french farmers market, the food, the hills, the volcano room, the food, the stairs, the neon game in the bathroom, the food, the dinasaur, the tire swing, the giggles and chuckles, your amazing friends, the masks, the wine and the food . . . but most of all I miss you, Scott and my precious boys. A LOT! lol

  5. The subtext of that post was I miss my friends and family. See the puddle of tears at my feet.