After our Thanksgiving with the entire family, Jeannie was down the first weekend in December, and I gave her some of her family’s gifts. When Leslie came through here on her way home after her exams at Belmont, I sent the rest of them with her. Her visit spurred me to finish decorating the trees by then.
Next Mary Ellen’s family came on December 23 this year, which was different than past Christmases, but I was happy they could go to be with Brian’s mother in Florida this year. They are still there to celebrate their wedding anniversary on New Year’s Eve at Disney World—one of their family’s special places.
Gerry and Vickie arrived on December 24 in one car, and Geri Ann rode up with Erin, who had been in Georgia to have their family Christmas before that. Gerald was so excited that Tara and Bryan (the Archibalds) were coming with our great grandsons because he had traded tractors and he wanted to break in the new “buddy seat” with those three little guys. However, it turned out that was not to be on that day or the next.
Bryan had received word his mother had been admitted to the hospital up in northern Illinois. So instead of leaving Georgia for our house, at first they thought they’d keep going straight to Chicago-land to arrive there as soon as possible. However, as they received better news, they decided to break up that long car ride for the boys by attending the Johnson Christmas Eve gathering at Gma Shirley’s house down the road from us as originally planned. Then they could travel on north through the night with the boys sleeping in their car seats and they would be there for his mother’s scope procedure at the hospital on Christmas morning. (That turned out better than feared, and she was able to leave the hospital the next day.)
We were invited down to Gma Shirley’s also if we wanted to see the Archibald family. And we did, of course. The three great grandsons were in great form and high spirits despite the long car ride up from Georgia, and we loved seeing all of Vickie’s family since we don’t see them as often as we did back in the day when Vickie invited both sides of the family to her Johnston City house for birthday and graduation parties down through the years.
I’d seen pictures of Kinsley, Tara’s cousin Jeremy’s pretty little girl, but the photos did not show how sweet she was. Watching her carry Gma Shirley’s little dog Buddy around was so cute, and it was fun seeing her interact with our great grandsons and to realize they were very much a part of that large extended family. Maddux’s tight hugs clinging to Gerald was almost enough to compensate for our disappointment that they wouldn’t be coming over to spend the night and be with us Christmas morning.
Of course, to go to Gma Shirley’s house is to eat very well also with counters and tables full of food offerings. She had three tables pushed together to make one long one in the dining area beside her kitchen, and the table and holiday decorations were everywhere to please our eyes. I had not known that cardinals were her special bird, and those bright red creatures on her white tree were so pretty.
There was a lot of laughter, of course. I have been concerned that little Payton would be taken advantage of by his older brothers, but that was quickly disproved when I saw him hit out at the older two to get what he wanted. I enjoyed seeing that, and the older two boys could have cared less for their tough little brother showing his spirit. However, the most memorable event of the evening was seeing Erin, age 25; Sarah, age 21; and Geri Ann, age 17, swaying and singing together on the couch waving their Justin Bieber toothbrushes that Gma Shirley had given them.
Reluctantly we said good-bye to the Archibalds and everyone else, and I hurried to do some last minute details at Woodsong before Gerry and Geri Ann came over to sleep. With our invited guests decreased by five, I had extra time to spend with them on Christmas morning, and it was quite leisurely before the morning worship service at our village church, where Vickie met up with us.
We arrived back at Woodsong with smells of the baking ham and dressing filling the house. Unlike many years, no one had a second place to go to on this day. For the first time in perhaps decades we only had one table with ten for Christmas dinner. The Cedars had celebrated with David’s family on the Eve, and Dave. Katherine, and Sam arrived about the time that Gma Shirley did. We were so glad she came because she and Katherine have always had a special bond and they were able to have a good visit together.
Gift opening was much less chaotic than usual with fewer families here, but it was still fun. The weather was fantastic all week including the day we woke up to a beautiful snow that had melted by evening. Gerry had arrived with the squirrel dog that Steve Smith had loaned him to hunt with Aidan in Georgia, and he and Gerald enjoyed hunting as soon as Gerry arrived on Saturday and again on Monday and Tuesday. Long after the men had gone down to Union County to hunt with Keith and DuWayne, I was startled but enjoyed being woke up by our grand-dog Chloe that Tuesday when someone left the front door ajar and Chloe untied herself and joined me at the foot of our bed.
Wednesday we had to say goodbye to Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann. We drove into town with them for breakfast with Erin, who’d driven over from Cambria, before her family returned back home to Georgia. Erin was preparing to fly down to College Station later that day to meet up with Texas A&M friends, and now we are following her vacation there on Facebook.
The rest of Wednesday we continued eating Christmas Day left-overs and the Italian beef sandwiches I’d prepared when I thought the Archibalds were coming earlier. But Gerald was excited as a little kid knowing Aidan, Maddux, and Payton would be arriving Thursday to enjoy one more Christmas celebration. They were in Galesburg by this time with Bryan’s father and step-mother for that Christmas celebration, and the boys were enjoying the children’s museum there before driving downstate.
Since our Thursday night meal was ready (more left-overs) when the Archibalds arrived, I really wanted us to eat while it was hot before we opened the presents under the downstairs tree with them. But realizing there were presents waiting made the boys more eager to open than to eat. Three tractor-type toys still upstairs saved the day, and they played madly with those by the living room tree until we got to the supper table. At last I got to put out the three little special Christmas cups I had all prepared for Christmas Day.
It was a pleasure to see the three boys eat like hungry boys do. I had planned for Gerald to sit between the two youngest. However, Maddux, 3, happily sat in the high chair that I had ready for one-year old Payton, who his mother explained, thought he was too old to sit in the high chair. So he sat on the other side of Gerald by his mother. After supper we went down and opened presents in the family room, and everyone was ready to go to bed early so the tractor riding could begin this morning.
Even Payton was ready to join the two older boys for a tractor ride this visit, which he had not been enthusiastic about before. Then Aidan, 5, remembered the lime pile that Gerald created just for him originally, and all three boys had to play there digging with their little shovels, sliding, and filling their shoes with lime. Gerald got a kick out of Aidan taking charge and giving orders, which Maddux followed but Payton simply ignored, which did not bother Aidan in the least. Tara said Payton is not a follower, and we could see that this visit.
Meanwhile, Tara and Bryan were packing one more time after all their stops of this holiday vacation. We are always amazed at how organized they stay with the constant commotion of the boys and all the families they visit. Final hugs and kisses are always somewhat sad when we aren’t sure when we will see each other again The lime left on the kitchen floor has been swept up, and the tree lights are glowing.
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