Monday, November 28, 2011

Goodbye Turkey; Hello Christmas

Many things did go better during this last full week of November. Only two days left now until the Christmas season. I drove home from Katherine’s last night enjoying all the beautiful lights so many people put up over the weekend.

We celebrated my birthday last Wednesday when Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann arrived from Georgia. Gerry phoned from Paducah and said to meet them at Steak and Shake (Geri Ann needed to visit it just once while in Illinois) and he’d buy my birthday dinner. I was already preparing to see Katherine, and Gerald went with me to meet them. So Gerald brought Katherine in her van, and Sam went ahead with me. Erin came over from her house. It was such a leisurely relaxed reunion—a perfect start for the holiday. The annual Turkey Tournament at Crab Orchard High School began that night, and our family was involved since Gerry and Vickie’s nephew Drew Johnson, a senior, is one of the basketball stars again this year. I stayed home and rested while Gerald and the Gerry Glascos joined the Johnsons to cheer our Trojans on.

Later that night the Eilers arrived--actually it was Thanksgiving morning. Fortunately they ran late or the house might have been locked when Brian dropped off Brianna and Trent. (No, let me correct that. I think Trent arrived later at their camper with Mary Ellen, who had been tied up in Springfield with someone’s paper work) Sometime Sam arrived, of course. I can’t even remember when. People were coming and going to our house and to and from the Taylor camper, the Cedar house, and Gma Shirley’s house.

But in the confusion, the important things happened. Jeannie got in her bike ride and then went to help David get Katherine ready, which was a good thing since her wheel chair control broke and created a crisis. (On top of everything else, David now has the coughing cold that has plagued Katherine and me.) Mary Ellen was busy helping me in the kitchen. Younger grandkids—two now in college, two in high school, and Cecelie in 7th grade were rapidly involved together with their latest projects. Those six are the ones who always sit at the kitchen table.
I didn’t have Gerald put in the extra leaf since the Archibalds were celebrating Thanksgiving in the Chicago area with Bryan’s family. (The new table that can be expanded was bought before holiday time last year to accommodate great grandson Aidan, who certainly thought he belonged at that table with the big kids.) Our engaged couple Leslie and Mike arrived from Nashville even though they had to drive back that same evening. Erin was in and out all weekend, and those three were at the young adult folding table, so Erin finally got to meet Mike. Since Mike is an only child, we were wondering how he could stand the noise at our house, but he took it in stride.

Everyone had brought in food and colas including the deviled eggs that our kids had a lot of fun planning. (Thanks, Vickie, they were good.) We feasted all weekend on all the pies I had prepared and all the wonderful goodies Jeannie brought down from Freeport—and on Saturday we were able to enjoy her cauliflower salad she had planned. Mary Ellen’s casseroles are always delicious, and by the time the buffet and two narrow fold-up tables were filled up with food, we definitely had a feast—with so many left-overs for the rest of the weekend that thanks to the Walt’s pizzas that Gerry brought out Saturday night, we never even got around to the chili Jeannie brought. So it is in the freezer for the next clan gathering. I tried to lure everyone to have a bowl of chili after church yesterday morning along with my meat loaf—but they were all eager to get on the road to get back home in the heavy holiday traffic.

On Friday, the Eilers went down to Nashville for another Thanksgiving dinner that Leslie prepared in her little apartment. I think her co-workers helped her with part of the preparation, but I was impressed that she could do this. Mike’s parents had arrived from Ohio, and the two families that are merging in June had this special time together and even managed to see the beautiful Christmas lights at the Grand Ole Opry Hotel. Once again the Eilers arrived back at the farm long after midnight to fall into bed—but I suspect Trent, Brianna, and Sam were still up and going strong to greet Elijah and Cecelie. I didn’t ask; I went to bed at eleven.

People were going to the Turkey Tournament Friday and Saturday, and Jeannie got in a bike ride both days as well as doing some investigation on wedding bouquets. Rick was able to visit his Carbondale friends. The teens enjoyed running into town to eat and shop. They persuaded Mary Ellen to go with them to Carbondale on Saturday. Someone’s new board game soon took up half the dining room table. Gerry visited friends and was given a squirrel dog by Steve Smith, so he not only took the dog out but was very excited to be able to take Aidan and Bryan when the Archibalds arrived. I think there are still squirrel in the garage fridge. I better move them to the freezer too. (Maybe during Christmas break I will get the courage to cook them and the mushrooms from Arkansas that Steve sent us.) Son-in-law Brian finished combining the last small plot for our neighbor Scott, and Gerald hauled that corn to the elevator this morning.

Saturday’s biggest attraction was the Archibalds’ arrival with their three sons. Maddux had to immediately get out his Batman Cave from their car to show everyone. His 3rd birthday is not until December 11, but his northern Illinois family had given him an early party with a Superman birthday cake. (The Batman Cave adorned our living room the rest of the weekend and was popular with everyone.) Bryan just shook his head at their car loaded to its limit—and it not even Christmas. Little Payton,18 months, got up his nerve to pet the new squirrel dog Gerry had tied in the front yard, and all of us loved seeing the boys cavort with Ribby, Erin’s newest puppy she had finally brought over to meet us.

In addition to the championship Turkey Tourney game, Gerry and Vickie’s bunch had two local family birthdays to attend, so they and Gma Shirley, who had come to greet the Archibalds, were soon scattered, but Gerry and Geri Ann came back for the night. (We won the tourney, btw.)

I stayed up way after midnight to enjoy the games and final talk in the living room. Geri Ann and Sam had us laughing their jokes. Gerald shared his funny boyhood stories when he and his brother Kenny were Boys of Woodcraft and participated and marched in the adult rituals wiih axes on their shoulders. Their father wanted them to be serious. My favorite Saturday nighr memory, however, was the game when Rick played the part of the Great Houdini and enlisted Aidan, 5, to be his assistant. Aidan was more than adept at imitating Uncle Rick in costume and manner. I think we may have another actor in the family.

Families began to leave Sunday morning, and the last two groups left before lunch. I noticed though that the mothers all picked up and folded the blankets and sheets all over the place and neatened things. (There were nine to fourteen sleeping here each night.) Mary Ellen left the downstairs towels all folded neatly as only she can. Gerry had washed them, and Rick put them into the drier. (The kids are pitching in more all the time because they think I am getting old. Of course, I am not despite the birthday, but I appreciate all the help.)

Well, today's mail brought our first three Christmas cards, and I better quit writing and go upstairs to read them.


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