Sunday, February 09, 2003

Butterflies and Candlelight

Like this, except with ragged wings...

A family adventure today. After brunch in the dining hall and an afternoon nap for the baby, we bundled into the carseat and drove down to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens in Deerfield. The parking lot was full but, once we paid and got our hands stamped with pink smudgy wingedthings, the main lepidary actually quite reasonable, smelling of damp jungle and small purple flowers.

We were there both for us and for Willow. The money spent was well worth the shortsleeved walk through banana tree fronds and trilling generators. Under the fogged greenhouse glass you could almost forget it was winter outside. We sat on a bench for a while under the netted ceiling fans circulating the breeze through the warm greenhouse, watching the koi in the pond and the delicate black and yellow hummingbird-sized moths jittering around us in the air. A small butterfly with ragged orange fallleaf wings alit on the baby's shoulder when she wasn't looking, just for a moment.

The butterflies made Willow quite nervous, and she mostly spent her time with her brow furrowed, craning her neck to frown at the moving air. She laughed only once, when introduced belly-to-belly with a mirror-image baby named Wyatt in a similar bjorn baby carrier. We bought her a jittering pull-string soft caterpillar toy in the gift shop on the way out. It was only 4:15 and still light, the baby cheering up a bit, so we decided to press our luck and head two miles down the road to the Disneyland of candlemaking and Christmas that is the Yankee Candle candlemaking company flagship retail store.

Bigger than a shopping mall, more tourisity than a ski lodge gift shoppe, YK is a complex of over 30 theme rooms and speciality shop-lettes surrounding a cavernous warehouse-like space where one can fill gift packs of scented votives and tea-candles from rows of a hundred bins or more. It's always Christmas at Yankee Candle, which makes it the perfect place to hide from the heat psychologically in the middle of summer; in the winter, it's merely a big place to play.

Our path through the place took us through mountains of toys to Santa's workshop, where Santa himself checked on the availability of an item for us (Let me see if I have the supplies I need upstairs to whip up one of those, ho ho ho); around the Christmas Village, where snow falls on tiny villages all year and the train runs endlessly around its miniature track high up along the faux-granite walls; through the rustic country rooms of cross-stitch patriotism. We bought six kinds of fudge, and two more Folkmanis puppets, a baby skunk and an Eating Bear with a hole in its mouth so you can pretend it's really eating its small stuffed salmon. Everywhere candles, in a thousand thousand scents, filled the air with their sweet waxy breath.

Dinner at Chandlers, the four-star restaurant nestled against the Yankee Candle building like a very rich wart, where the backyard lights threw blue movielight on the snowcovered trees blocking the highway from view. The pea soup was too thick to drip from the spoon, and the tenderloin with Chevre mashed potatoes and carmelized onions on a bed of wilted spinach was excellent, if a bit tough on the newly-root-canal'd teeth; the chocolate lava cake melted like a half-cooked brownie under the weight of its clear vanilla ice cream, and the espresso came with a tiny spike of lemon peel, as it should. If we hadn't needed to continually juggle the baby to distract her from crankiness the entire time, it would have been a fine ending to a fine family day...but all in all, it still was pretty special; I'm thankful I have days like these.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:44 PM |
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