christmas vacation: report 1

Yes, I’ve been a bad boy and haven’t posted much lately; it’s been an extremely hectic couple of weeks, with a fair number of evenings away (for example, we saw the extended versions of Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers at the Uptown before seeing The Return of the King Monday night at a theater in Arlington). Work also has been at least as hectic and stressful as usual, if not more so; even though most of the students are away on leave these two weeks, the work hasn’t slowed down at all, and I’ve barely had time to read my email, much less catch up on other blogs or post to my own.

Last night I picked up another rental car–still no new word on the Prius–and this morning I drove down to be with my family for Christmas. A few hours after I left, Jeff flew out to California to spend Christmas with his family; he’ll be back New Years Eve and we’ll at least get to spend that evening and New Years Day together.

The drive was fairly uneventful. There was fairly heavy rain off and on, and I passed one particularly terrible accident on the other side of the road, but traffic was light even in Arlington as I was leaving during what normally would be rush hour.

Once in my home town I stopped to do some very last-minute shopping for my mother. Despite her protestations that she is easy to shop for, my sister and I agree that she is the single most difficult person for whom either of us have to buy gifts. She insists on being surprised, so she will not offer any suggestions or wish lists, and does not feel that gift certificates or other cash-like gifts show sufficient thought. At the same time, over the years she has developed a list of things that are not acceptable: tschotchkes, foods, fragrances or any personal supplies or, with a few exceptions, clothing. Fortunately, I have gotten some of those latter exemptions, since she has mentioned several times that she likes my taste in clothing for her. Still, every year I get very stressed out trying to find something for her.

This year I was surprised to get a phone call a couple of months ago to the effect that we were going to draw names for gifts with one side of the family. This was something I’d suggested again and again over the years to try to make the gift-buying process less painful and Christmas more enjoyable. To my horror, however, I found out that this new process this year was expected to be in addition to rather than instead of the normal gift exchanges. Fortunately, I got my sister’s name, and she truly is easy to buy for.

This afternoon we got together at my sister’s house with her family and my aunt and uncle for what has become a traditional Christmas Eve luncheon of take-out Chinese (the only ethnic food available in my hometown). Tonight the entire family (both my maternal and paternal relatives) come to my sister’s house for munchies and fellowship, and then most of the family will go to a late church service; I still stay home with my youngest nephew instead.

My mother and I will stay over at my sister’s house tonight so that we’ll be ready when my nephews awaken in the morning, and then my sister will fix breakfast for all of us, along with my mother’s parents, her sister and brother-in-law. Christmas dinner will be a fairly new tradition of steaks cooked on the grill (since my sister does so much to put together the Christmas Eve party, we finally convinced her to stop preparing a full Christmas dinner by herself as well, and this is the compromise).

Friday or Saturday my mom wants to go shopping for a headstone for my dad’s gravesite. I’m not sure why she wants to do this over Christmas, given that she’s waited this long; maybe it’s because I’m home and she wants to include me. It’s going to be a very weird Christmas.

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