Saturday, January 26, 2008

Christmas 2007

Last July, as Dan, Kenny, Justin and I pulled out of our driveway in Washington after a wonderful and relaxing summer vacation, Kenny gazed back wistfully at the house and wished that we all could celebrate Christmas together in Washington. During the long drive home to California, I imagined a happy family scene for Christmas, 2007:
My family is settled around a brightly lit and richly decorated Christmas tree. A cheery fire snaps and crackles as it burns in the hearth, while outside the window a lovely white snow blankets the yard. The scent of Christmas candles mingles with the aroma of Christmas dinner. Christmas carols pay quietly in the background as Justin, Kenny and Dan carefully unwrap their packages, all of which are "exactly what they wanted".
Happily deluded by my private dream, in a moment of utter insanity, I said "Yes, let's spend Christmas in Washington."
By October, reality was beginning to rear its ugly head. It started with airline reservations. Any other time of the year (except maybe Thanksgiving) I could locate tickets for $79 to $99 each way. Now, despite the fact that I was making reservations three months in advance, the cost of each ticket was roughly three times that of the National debt. (Apparently, airline companies aren't affected by the Christmas spirit.) I finally located tickets at a reasonable price but they required travel out of San Jose (two hours from our house) on Christmas Eve. Quickly deducing I was not going to be able to find, purchase, and decorate a tree in less than ten hours once we arrived on December 24th, I decided to decorate a tree during my October vacation.
In California, this didn't seem to be much of an issue. All the major stores start to display their Christmas inventory before Halloween. In fact, it is not at all unusual for many of the stores to be sold out of the majority of the "good stuff" by October 20th. But when I got to Washington, there was nary a decoration in sight. After checking ten different stores, I explained my dilemma to the manager of Scott McClendon Hardware. Wonder of wonders, they had a pre-lit, eight foot tree left over from the year before which they were willing to sell to me.
Next I had to locate decorations. After checking with local merchants (and enduring looks that suggested that they thought I was some kind of lunatic), I was finally directed to several gift stores in Seattle, Silverdale, and Shelton which carried Christmas ornaments on a year round basis. The catch was that all of the shops required at least a forty five minute drive to reach --- and all in opposite directions. Four days and seven trips later, I finally had enough ornaments to decorate the tree. I even found a tree skirt, a wreath, and a present for Dan!

Speaking of presents..............Oh, oh! The only way to get them to Washington on time was to ship them. Over the next two months, I became a clearing house for Christmas packages. I wrapped and reboxed everything, then made roughly 6,654 trips to the UPS store. Once each box was on its way, I had to track it online and notify my neighbor, Lennie, that a box was on the porch. She then retrieved the box and took it inside. Now add in the stress of the holiday season in Family Law. I began to feel like the Grinch in that Dr. Seuss cartoon. More than once I caught myself walking around and muttering "I must stop Christmas from coming!" to myself. It didn't work.

Before I knew it, it was December 24th. Alaska Airways recommended passengers arrive two hours before the flight to ensure time enough to get through security. Since our flight left at 6:00 a.m., we arrived at 4:00 a.m. Alaska Airlines apparently didn't read their own memo and didn't open Baggage Check-In until 5:00 a.m. Dan ranks waiting in an airport somewhere between having a tooth pulled without Novocaine and contracting a raging case of the flu. He paced in front of the ticket counter for a solid hour. Once it opened and our bags had been checked, we dashed to security. There is a math equation which states that the speed an airport security line moves is directly related to likelihood that you will miss your flight. Needless to say, it was close. Once in the air, there was turbulence.....lots of it. As we bumped and bounced on our way to Seattle, Kenny began to get air sick. You know, those air sick bags DO come in handy.

I was rethinking this whole "Christmas in Washington" thing when we finally landed at Sea Tac International Airport. I was relieved when we boarded the Kitsap-Bremerton Shuttle to Port Orchard, where our neighbor, Lennie, picked us up and drive us the remaining 20 miles to home.

Surprise! Lennie and her husband, Duane, had opened the boxes and finished decorating the house. Duane had hung Christmas lights on the outside of the house. Lennie had stocked our refrigerator. As a final touch, Duane had lit the pellet stove and turned up the heat while Lennie retrieved us.

This is what we saw when we opened the front door.

Kenny helped me finish up last minute issues, including folding luminarias. A luminaria means "light" or "little lantern". In New Mexico (where I grew up), luminarias are made from brown paper bags weighted down with sand and illuminated from within by a lit candle and traditionally displayed on Christmas Eve. These are typically arranged in rows to create large and elaborate displays. Tradition states that the lights will guide the spirit of the Christ child to one's home.
As a fund raiser, Kenny's class sold luminarias pre-cut with a candle cut-out. I folded them, Justin added a cup of dry sand to the bottom, and finally I added a votive candle (they last 18 hours). As night fell, we lit the candles.

Kenny turned on the tree lights and set up the Ipod to play Christmas Carols. And wonder of wonders, the Christmas spirit finally began to arrive. Gone was the stress and exhaustion. Instread, we were a family happily settling down for the night.

Christmas morning was happy and relaxed. We had a wonderful time finally discovering what was in those boxes. Dan found the most adorable sheep for me.
It moves when its back is stroked and bleats. Dan said he went to over seven stores trying to track it down.

After packages, I fixed crepes. Halfway through breakfast, it started to snow!!!

And boy, did it snow! As the snow got deeper, the boys donned hats, coats and gloves and headed outside for a snowball fight.
It was sort of one sided since Justin is so much bigger and stronger. But it didn't matter, Kenny had a great time.

As I stood at the window watching (I'm no dummy -- those boys would have hurled snowballs at me if I had gone outside), I realized that we HAD had a perfect Christmas.


sophanne said...


Two Cables and a Frapp said...

These pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Yarnhog said...

What a beautiful Christmas story, and wonderful pictures, too! I'm still smiling. (And you have great neighbors, too.)

Tina T-P said...

What wonderful neighbors you have - they are keepers. Gosh tell Dan, that had I known, we have a couple of sheep you could have who move and bleat when you pet them - hmm, probably wouldn't have fit in you suitcase tho...ha ha...T.

PICAdrienne said...

That was a lovely Christmas.

I have found for 'pre-season' decorations, for any holiday, going to the craft stores is the best place. Their season is advanced of regular retail, so people can make their own.

Life's a Stitch said...

Sounds like a lot of work to me. I would have given up at the airline ticket stage. Bah Humbug :)

It did look dreamy, glad it all worked out,

Mel said...

Those luminaria make me whistful for an actual house of my own. I can't believe how much snow you guys had for Xmas! How wonderful.