Our grandkids shred Christmas wrapping paper in seconds, joking about their dexterity in “baring gifts.” Soon, though, they squirm with “indoor-itis.” Crowded into our den, they are ready to put aside month-long warnings about “Santa Claus watching them.” Their deportment grades plunge, ranging from “gremlin to grinch.” (Grades typically peg to the right of the latter than to the left of the former.)We have six “grands” ranging from ages 4-10. They still qualify as “electric Chihuahuas”—ever ready to dare and accept dares, as well as take on challenges involving speed, athleticism and dogged determination. Their competitive juices flow like Niagara Falls.When the “din in the den” jiggles the Richter scale or sounds like the dull roar used to describe tornados, the “chillun” face backyard banishment. There, all six are under the surveillance of a keen-eyed adult….*****I was so assigned recently. (That holiday afternoon, they waived the “keen-eyed” requisite.)The kids scattered like quail, except for 7-year-old Jonah. He remained on the patio to jump on his new pogo stick.Ten minutes later, he was still bouncing, albeit it with lessening control. The other five cousins gathered ‘round, joining me in shock that this first-grader could be so tenacious….*****“One thousand and 95 jumps,” Jonah jawed joyfully.Nine-year-old Juliana, herself a gymnast, offered a slight correction. “I was counting, too, Jonah, and it was 1,093 jumps.”One thing for sure and one “maybe:” This goes down in my memory book, and four other cousins—Ben, 10; Brittin, 7; Kedren, 5 and Addison, 4—will “practice up” for 2012 Christmas pogo stick-jumping….*****Among memories that measure up, a visit to Galveston for the inaugural cruise on Carnival’s Magic—its largest and newest vessel—holds “top shelf” status. Who could have dreamed a dozen years ago that North America’s fourth-busiest cruise port in 2012 would warrant not one but five cruise ships from four lines? Carnival has two in place, and Royal Caribbean has one. Princess and Disney will add vessels this year.Cruise line employees, trained to a fine edge, continue to amaze with their broad smiles and eagerness to assist. During the most recent cruise, their smiles seemed even broader. One cruise official credits technology. “With the Internet, crew members have both oral and visual communication with their loved ones,” he observed. “In previous years, it was common to have a dozen duffel bags filled with mail from home. Now, it’s typically one bag, only partially full.”Each cruise offers opportunities to meet new and interesting people. Several cruises ago, a guest claimed to work at a sardine factory, where his job was to “close their eyes before the cans were sealed.” On the Carnival Magic was an older man who had traversed the Mediterranean on several of the vessel’s summer runs before its assignment to Galveston. He offered valuable tips for the Lido deck. “Go straight to the Mongolian wok station,” he advised, noting that word of its popularity would get around in “tweet time.” (He “made it big” printing individual “birth certificates” for Cabbage Patch Kids dolls when the craze started in the late 1970’s.)…*****A small island “where the coast begins,” Galveston is BIG in attractions easily “connected” with a few extra days on either end of cruises. It is rich in history, entertainment and creativity, the latter underscored by wood sculptors who took over where Hurricane Ike left off. Stumps remaining where towering trees once stood now are carved, polished works of art, more than worthy of searches through neighborhoods.The Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau has all the “scoop” on what-to-see-and-do. (More information at galvestoncvb.com) I’ve never seen hosts and hostesses so passionate about their island attractions. If they’d made lemonade of all the lemons they’ve been dealt, starting with the devastating Galveston Flood in 1900, there’d be hundreds of lemonade stands in place. Galvestonians are made of sturdy stuff.Upon arrival of a press contingent there to greet the Magic, Santa Claus and a couple of elves parachuted into world-class Moody Gardens to signal the beginning of the Christmas season. I spotted the popular threesome from time to time at the Festival of Lights, their heads bobbing above the masses. Maybe they were “pogo-sticking” around the magical island….
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