Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Holidays Are Almost Over

Our last expected holiday guests, granddaughter Tara’s family, left us Sunday evening to go back to her Gma Shirley’s house just a couple roads away from us.  There they would celebrate Christmas with her and Tara’s uncles’ families before they piled back into their vehicle with their three little guys—Aidan, Maddux, and Payton—for the long exhausting trip back to Texas.  We were happy for the phone call yesterday saying they were home safe and sound.  They’d visited Bryan’s northern Illinois families earlier and arrived at the farm late Saturday night. 
Gerald and I were impressed this season with how blessed we are to be experiencing life all over again with another generation.  He decided to put up outside lights for the first time in a couple of years; and in the attic over the garage where the lights were stored, he found a couple of cardboard boxes labeled:  “Little Gerry’s Trucks” and “Little Gerry’s Machinery.”  He could not resist bringing them down to the corner of the kitchen.  When we moved here, there was no one to play with them.  But I couldn’t stand to part with them despite their being all scarred and scraped from Gerry’s hard play in the dirt pile beside our house at Pondside Farm. My thought was that maybe decades from now some stranger would stumble on them in the attic and be as thrilled as I was with a dish shard that Gerald found in our garden area when we built on this spot.
But with the addition of Gerry’s three grandsons to our family, Gerald wanted to see if these boys would be interested in these ancient playthings. Oh yes, once their bellies were full of bacon and Gerald pointed out the boxes Sunday morning, they were fascinated and excited to play with these worn saved toys from two generations back.  Their family’s  plan was to go to Gma Shirley’s house that morning since that was the only time Tara’s cousin Jeremy could be there with their daughter Kinsley, who is the boys’ age and very important in their lives even though they are only able to be together a few times a year.  But they got in enough play on the kitchen floor with their grandfather’s old toys to have made it worth while for Gerald to have carried the boxes down on the fold-down ladder.
When they came back for lunch, I was delighted that Kinsley was with them as she was not content with only a couple of hours’ play.  Quickly I set another plate on the table, but when it was time to go downstairs to the family room tree and open presents, I realized she would not have anything to open.  I did not shop this year and had pretty much used up anything I had stored away in the guest room’s “gift drawers.”  But I went in to look around anyhow, and there I realized I had the perfect gift for Kinsley.  A couple weeks ago when I was taking books out of the drawer, I wondered why I still had two sets of the first two Betsy-Tacy books and wondered who I could give them to.  Quickly I stuck the two little books in a gift bag and joined the others going downstairs.
Before Tara and Bryan had to return that evening for the Johnson dinner at Gma Shirley’s before the drive back to College Station, there was plenty of time for Gerald to enjoy seeing the kids play with the new toys he had shopped and wrapped for them. Riding the farm equipment is taken for granted when the boys visit, and despite the cold, they could not resist playing in the lime pile that Gerald keeps for them under the back shed.
 It was later in the afternoon that Gerald and I were so impressed with the knowledge that family history was repeating itself for us.  One of Katherine’s aides had not shown up, and I had gone in to give meds.  But another aide came in at 4, and I was able to return before our company left.  The family room was uncannily quiet, and I asked where were the kids.  It was explained they were in the next room preparing a play.  Soon they came out in construction paper costumes thanks to a confiscated roll of scotch tape from Gerald’s office.   Ah, yes, we’ve been down this path many times. Kinsley was narrator, and while Payton was king for awhile, before it was over he too proceeded to have a sword battle with Mddux just as Aidan had done.  Madd was really good at dying, which he did more than once. This sure brought back memories of confusing but satisfying short holiday plays our grandchildren used to produce for us.
Tara’s two sisters, Erin and Geri Ann, had come in from Texas the previous Sunday and stayed through Friday morning.  We loved catching up with their lives once more and hearing about their friends as they came and went trying to see as many of their local buddies as they could.
Rick, our Freeport son-in-law, had taken his older daughter Leslie down to Belmont on a college tour while she was in high school, and he wanted to do the same for Cecelie and her friend Ryan.  So they planned a tour of Liberty University in Virginia during their break. Elijah had gone along to help drive and to get in on the visit to Leslie and Mike in Nashville on the way back. Jeannie was staying home preparing for their family Christmas.  Elijah had texted he thought they’d be at the farm around 9 or 10 Tuesday night.  Erin and Geri Ann already had a dinner date in town that night with their Johnson cousins, but they’d be back in time for a good visit.
I invited the Mary Ellen’s family over for the frozen lasagna I planned to bake for supper thinking that way there would be some food in the house in case any of the Eilers were hungry when they arrived later.  As it turned out, the four from Freeport arrived earlier and were able to eat with us, so the local cousins gathered in.  There were 12 instead of six for supper, and that was fine because fortunately I had put two lasagnas in the oven.
When Jeannie called me about their coming through, I assured her that would be great but the kids might have to sleep on couches since Erin and Geri Ann were already settled in the two downstairs bedrooms.  At bedtime after Erin and Geri Ann had joined the others, I was silly enough to go down and lay out some sheets and blankets for the couches.  Fortunately, unlike my previous habit, I decided these young adults were old enough to make up their own couches.
There is one “new” full-size couch in the family room probably not over a decade old.  And elsewhere there are three very old couches I have hung onto for visiting grandchildren when needed. One in my office and two in the room, which some might call a junk room.  I first chose to call it the art room for the kids.  For years they would disappear together into that room to dream up all sorts of projects sitting on little plastic chairs around  the  table created by a unused door laid on a couple of stools for their art table.  When they out grew the little chairs and the short table, a discarded kitchen table was used in that room with the two old couches and a television Gerald installed. Now it became the grandkids’ den.  I say it was silly of me to gather up sheets and blankets because once again as they did the last time they had the infrequent but cherished opportunity to visit with Geri Ann, these guys pulled an all- nighter.
As it happened, Gerald had already made a Wednesday morning breakfast date with Geri Ann and Erin to go with him to the Jonesboro breakfast place where he occasionally meets up with his brothers and nephews who are habitually there. So Geri Ann had not been to bed when they left Woodsong at five for the drive to Jonesboro.  Since Erin is one of the older and more sensible grandkids, she had.  I have been told that there was a rush for her room with its two beds for an hour or so of sleep for the partiers since Rick had told everyone they were going to leave at eight the next morning. I hated to see them go but knew they had long hours of travel ahead, and I bet they slept very well on the way to Freeport. Geri Ann caught up when she got home from breakfast!
Christmas Eve was quiet at Woodsong since Erin and Geri Ann were at the Christmas celebration at Gma Shirley’s house.  The next morning was also unusually calm here as I put the ham in the oven and started noon dinner preparations.  Katherine had arranged for her usual Thursday morning aide to come in since that wonderful aide had her family celebration the Sunday before Christmas.  She had Katherine up and dressed and into her chair for David to bring out in the van, and Sam came in his car.  
I had told Mary Ellen not to bring anything since their family were leaving that very afternoon for Arizona.  I wasn’t surprised that they brought a cookie tray someone had gifted them with and Trent and Brianna’s annual peanut butter chocolate candies that they traditionally make. I was surprised that   Mary Ellen had gotten up and decided to make a huge pot of home-made chicken and dumplings for the first time in her life. (I got lazy a long time ago and make dumplings from tortillas.)  Hers were the real thing and so delicious, and the best part was she left them for us, and we have enjoyed them the entire holiday season! 
Gerald's brother Garry had driven up from his farm in the Mississippi bottoms, so we had twelve here for dinner before we went down to open presents.  I’d also given Mary Ellen orders not to do all the dish clean up she always insists on doing. But before we left the table, she had much of the clean up accomplished.  All and all although we were disappointed Gerry and Vickie could not be with us as usual, it was a very good day. We have grown used to Jeannie’s family not being able to come down at Christmas, and they had the experience of Leslie and Mike not being able to make it up to Freeport this year.  (Besides weather and travel dangers, they had their dogs, Millie and Sidney, needing to be at home and Leslie had Ragtime rehearsals.)  Yes, families grow up and move away and traditions must change, but with great grandchildren to visit, some things seem much the same.

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