Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Late Fall and Early Winter Holidays Consolidate

Three of the Freeport gang arrived Wednesday night in Elijah’s car, but Elijah and Cecelie were dropped off at the Taylors to join Brianna and Trent while Rick came onto Woodsong.  Later they arrived here and Sam came out from town to join them.  Looking out the next morning at the grandkids’ parked cars, my heart was warmed  realizing anew how grown up they’d become.  Even our youngest, Cecelie, is now taking drivers instructions and will soon reach that milestone of being a 16-year-old driver.
We had ourl three daughters and all their children with us except for Leslie and Mike, who were in Ohio with Mike’s parents. Our son and his children were in Texas except for Geri Ann, who was in Oregon.  Despite enormous cooperative efforts and holding noon meal-time until 2:30, we did not succeed in having Katherine at the table.  Just when we thought we had conquered our quest to bring her to the farm, Rick and Gerald discovered the van had a dead battery probably because of the cold weather since nothing had been left on to run the battery down. The battery charger could not be found in her garage, and so it was necessary to go back to the farm and come in after the meal to get her van charged. With Mary Ellen left with the clean up, we returned to town. The van was charged, another round of meds given,  and Katherine did spend the early evening with us. 
Not only clean up, but Mary Ellen did the majority of the meal preparation this year.  She and Brianna had a mother-daughter day making pies on Wednesday as well as many delicious side dishes. Gerald and I did do the turkey, and I did the dressing and sweet potatoes.  Gerald helped me lift the heavy frozen bird into the fridge to thaw and then five days later on Wednesday night to get it out  for pan preparation.  He did the hated job of getting that awful plastic (better than the wire that used to be used) unstuck from the back cavity. As strong as he is, it was difficult even for him to remove.  Remembering all the times I had fought that at 4 a.m. in times past, I was grateful.  The turkey was all prepped and panned before I went to bed.  All I had to do when I got up at 6 the next morning was move it a couple feet from the fridge to the oven.  Mary Ellen, who had already gone into Katherine’s at 4 a.m. to adjust her after receiving a text that alarmed her, arrived early and did the major work all day in the kitchen.
I had planned to fry the okra as I promised Brianna, and the pan was laid out with olive oil and the okra thawed and covered with corn meal.  However, I was late coming back  with those of us who had gone for Katherine. Jeannie, who was busy in Freeport helping her church up there on Wednesday, drove down by herself Thursday morning with Lucky and Leah and more food for our feast.  Since she had arrived by time for the okra to be fried, she was drafted and did a beautiful job with the okra. The grandkids explained to her that she needed to burn it a bit to be like Grandma’s, so she cooked it a little longer. (That explains well my cooking, but fortunately the grandkids are sentimental anyhow about my okra!)
The five grandchildren here were in top form enjoying each others’ company and exchanging college and high school experiences talking late  into the night. Hearing about a proposed tennis shoe painting project left parents fearful they would be ruining tennis shoes, but the kids’ colorful unique designs were actually very  attractive.  Parents already  burdened with college tuition and housing costs breathed a sigh of relief as well as appreciation for their art work.
The kids were talking about progressive Thanksgiving dinners, and Mary Ellen thought I might think they meant the old-fashioned progressive dinner where each course was served at a different house.  But I knew what they meant, and I thought Gerald and my combined efforts on the turkey qualified us to be called progressive. They thought we still had a way to go, so to be truly progressive, we may have to turn the cooking over to them next year!
If not progressive, we are good at keeping family traditions.  Despite getting to bed late Thursday night, Gerald dragged Rick out of bed to go down to Union County to have breakfast at Jonesboro with his brothers and nephews. A new tradition may have been born Friday afternoon when Elijah took a educational movie in to watch in her bedroom with his Aunt Katherine, who remains extremely interested in inner-city education even though she can no longer teach.
Since I had not been on the computer for a couple of days, I was catching up very late on Friday  night after I came home from Katherine’s.  (Actually it was morning since it was long after midnight.)  I heard our herd of young adults upstairs in the kitchen cooking, and I did not dare go there, but slipped on quietly to bed. They were using their kindergarten “inside voices” and quiet giggles trying not to be a problem to the adult population, but I wondered what the kitchen would look like when people arose the next morning.  I warned Gerald before he left our bedroom that I had cleaned the kitchen the night before, but not to be shocked if things were in disarray. However, although  there were some left-out objects and dirty dishes in the sink,  over-all the kitchen showed their maturity.  Best of all, the left-over turkey  among other things was devoured, and they had once again created memories without any help from us older folks.
One holiday highlight for me was going to Carbondale on Saturday afternoon to see The Theory of Everything with my grandson Trent. Sam had left to work on an English project with his friend Anna. Elijah and Brianna, who also really wanted to go to the movie, used the discipline that has made them good students and elected to stay home and study to be prepared for classes this week.  The Eilers had to return to Freeport on Saturday, but Elijah stayed on and the kids ended up at the Taylor house that night.
Sunday was made special by having Elijah, Sam, and Bri join me at worship at our village church before I scurried in to Katherine’s house.  Gerald picked me up there to go to the funeral of our dear long-time neighbor Mildred Stapleton.  She had lost Russell just a few months ago. This couple had gone through World War II with Russell fighting overseas and through the Viet Nam War with their son Steve fighting there. Then in recent years they had suffered the death of  the two older sons. Mildred was 92 and deserved to go to a better place.   But her loss was great to her grandchildren and their younger children, Mike and Debby, who were neighborhood friends to our kids. Gerald took me afterwards for a bite of lunch and I went back to Katherine’s for the rest of the day.
The autumnal decorations are now put away, and I must face the two over-full closets with boxed Christmas trees—one downstairs and one upstairs. Because I like to leave our trees up at least until New Year’s Day, I haven’t started Christmas celebrating yet except vicariously on the drive to town or  enjoying photographs of lovely lighted trees on Facebook.
Despite a desire by many to have the main holidays of the fall and winter separate, Thanksgiving and Christmas have become one long season in America—just as towns and cities and villages have run into each other and been consolidated into metro regions, where you have to be a local resident to even know when one location ends and the other begins.
Putting the tree up on Christmas Eve was abandoned by most families long ago when electric lights replaced dangerous candle-lit trees.  And now with artificial trees so prevalent, we can put up trees early with less fear of dangerous drying out and annoying shedding needles.  Busy lives have also caused many to use the Thanksgiving time off to put up trees.   Outdoor decorations are assembled  to avoid colder weather later. Consequently we are already into the Christmas season with its beautiful decorations and lights often before we have finished our Thanksgiving grace. Even though I am behind all those who have already decorated, I am going to try and be progressive and enjoy this early beginning of the best season of the year!


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