Culture clashes. Weather wars. North vs. South. Palm tree vs. fir tree. All families have their set of differences to navigate -- but this year, I thought I'd found an ideal compromise!
Due to our mum's fragile health, holidays mean Christmas in Florida. "I'm a cold weather girl," I grouse. A few years ago (when she could still travel) I managed to coerce the family to northern climes. Of course, unlike this year, there wasn't a flake to be found. So the kids still haven't seen snow.
My brainstorm involved whisking my niece and nephew off to the east coast of Florida. Why? The Boca Raton Resort and Club has added an ice skating rink! Pink Rink, it's called, and it sounded perfect.
In truth, the horizontal drive across the Sunshine State is dreadfully long and deadly dull, but when the graceful salmon edifice rose up to greet us, both the 11 and 13-year-old said, "WOW!"
That wow increased exponentially when we entered our room: two queen-sized beds with crown canopies, big marble bathroom with both bath and shower, comfy couch with welcoming goodies and a breezy balcony overlooking the bay. I figured they'd be nonplussed by the view, being Florida denizens, but they looked around wide-eyed (as they stuffed black-and-white cookies in their mouths), saying, "This is the nicest place we've ever stayed."
Gratifying words to a self-described PANK -- a term I recently learned and embrace for its practicality if not its euphonics. Professional Aunt No Kids. Yep, that's me. As such, you have to work harder to have an impact in the little time you're allowed.
After the ugly, exhausting drive, we all just wanted to bliss out in those soft clean sheets and nap. But with scant time, and a PANKy agenda to be had, we headed to the beach to get the familiar out of the way. But even the familiar turned out to be fun.
Because the main resort is on an inlet, you have to take a boat ride to the beach. Bonus!
After kicking around in the sand, collecting shells and climbing out on the rocky promenade (one privilege of PANKs is that you get to be slightly more permissive than parents), we eschewed the three pools, and surf school! -- been there, done that, they said -- and opted for some frozen yogurt. With 10 toppings, including gummy worms. Uhhh.
Then, back on the boat and over to the ice rink! Just in time for the pro show. Sometimes these can be a bit cheesy, but the sparkly costumes engaged 11-year-old Olivia (OK, and me. Let's face it, half of us watch the Winter Olympics for the skating outfits) and all the muscular jumping, twirling and mid-air turning entranced the three of us. There was also hot chocolate and churros for the kiddies and Prosecco for the PANKs, uh, adults.
Duly inspired, I said, "OK, let's get you guys some skates!"
"I'll only do it if you do it," said Drew, the 13-year-old. I had not anticipated this. So we all laced up and hit the ice. Wouldn't you know it, within minutes Drew had gotten his "ice legs" and was drolly gliding around the rink. Even Olivia, who initially panicked and clutched the handrails, grew bold, with forays away from the wall, and a delighted "Look, Aunt, no hands!" grin, while Miss Northern Snow Queen was hobbling around the edges, white-knuckling the sides.
But frankly, seeing their confidence and enjoyment was worth the humiliation (mostly). We even managed to scrape together a minuscule snowman from the rink shavings. Yay!
Leaving the Pink Rink, we found ourselves in a tropical rainforest featuring an enormous Kapok tree. This does not happen up north. Still invigorated from our efforts, we decided to explore the fitness center. I've never laughed a so hard at the gym (I've never laughed at the gym at all actually). While we played with all the machines and balls and gizmos, I had an Auntie Mame-style brainstorm -- a genius fitness book: PANK plus Niece and Nephew Tour the Great Hotel Gyms Of The World, Bonding, Slimming and Getting Wicked Fit.
This seemed particularly wise after our amazing dinner in the Tuscan-themed Lucca. It was only when we headed back to the gym after a delicious breakfast buffet in the Cathedral room that we discovered under-16-year-olds aren't allowed. Another brilliant idea dashed.
Oh well, we'd relished our secret midnight swim in the palazzo pool before heading up to those heavenly beds. My only warning: Don't touch anything in the mini bar. Don't even look at it.
Our parting treat was frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, with a casual mention that the original one is in N.Y.C. (bait to get them back north).
In the meantime I plan to practice my ice skating! I just hope the Resort extends the Pink Rink beyond the holidays next year, maybe all January long. Hint, hint.