Saturday, December 28, 2013

Five Days of Christmas

Christmas always is a hectic time. This year was no exception.

On December 21, I took my daughter, Amanda, and two grandsons, ages 6.5 years, and  21 months, to Chattanooga for the North Pole excursion at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. It included a visit to the Elf Workshop so the boys could make Christmas ornaments and gifts, tickets to the Miniature Railroad Museum, a picture with Santa, the North Pole train excursion and an Elf Tuck-In. The latter involved two lively teenagers dressed as elves who came to our motel room, where they read and acted out, “The Night Before Christmas.” Then they jerked the sheets from the bed and used them to tuck-tuck-tuck-tuck-tuck-tuck-tuck (their words) Gabriel into bed, leaving him wrapped like an Egyptian mummy. Next day, we spent a few hours at the Tennessee Aquarium, where we watched Scuba Santa feed the fish. 

the Santa at the train depot, Mati, the younger one, decided the white-bearded fat man was one scary monster. He couldn’t stop crying. The photographer suggested putting him in his brother’s lap. It didn’t help. When Amanda turned to put down her purse so she could hold Mati, he reached for her, and fell. We watched in horrific slow motion as he hit the sleigh, bounced off the steps, then landed on the ground. He now has a big bruise to show for the trip, and holds the dubious distinction of having fallen out of Santa’s sleigh. It’s a good thing I already had a photo of the boys with the Bass Pro Shop Santa. 
When we tried to get a photo of the boys with

Gabriel wanted to spend a few days with me after the trip. How do you say “no” when your grandson wants to stay with you? We made gingerbread cookies, and he helped me drill holes in the legs of my new deer feeder so I could secure it to the ground stakes. We don’t want the wind or the raccoons to topple it. Other than that, he spent his time in front of the television and on the iPad while I baked the ham, cooked the chicken, made chicken and dressing, and baked a cake and a pie. 

I took him home Christmas Eve, had dinner with the family, including my oldest daughter and her hubby. I spent the night, and enjoyed the chaos of Christmas morning with the two boys. It was about 3 p.m. when I got home Christmas Day. The silence of the house was truly golden.

Next day, I just loafed. 

I figure I deserved a day off.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Of Horses and Friends

It was a sticky September Friday morning, and the air was heavy with the promise of rain. I was headed to Troy for my second competitive trail ride weekend, and I had spent two days and checked off numerous lists getting my trailer loaded.

On the trip down, I had the fleeting thought of how horrible it would be to forget one’s clothes on a trip like this. Must have been a premonition, because after unloading my horse, Mallory, at the camp and parking my trailer, it hit me like an iron skillet in the hands of a jealous wife: That’s exactly what I had done.

I arrived with only the clothes I was wearing. There were no comfy jammies, no riding pants, no shampoo, no toothbrush. Nothing. Nada. Zip. I remembered putting my bags on my EZ-Go 4x4, but that’s as far as they got. Fortunately, I had parked the EZ-Go under a shed, protecting it from the weather.

Man, was I bummed out. I felt as stupid as a brick, and my self-esteem was about as low as chewing gum on the bottom of a shoe. I stomped around, fussed, fumed and called myself names that I can’t repeat here, in case my grandson reads this. My fellow riders tried to calm me by relating similar experiences. That wasn’t much help to someone facing a day of sweaty riding without a change of underwear.

Several folks pitched in and loaned or gave me items of clothing, and I purchased toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant at the camp store. Fortunately, I had my towels and linens, food and drink, plus all my tack and horse feed. I washed out my underpants, but they didn’t dry in time for Saturday’s ride.

It was a great ride, even if I was in borrowed breeches. At least I didn’t have to worry about panty lines showing. That night, a friend gave me a pair of panties and someone else gave me a tee-shirt that I slept in and wore the third day with my original jeans. I didn’t have a hair dryer, and my water heater wouldn’t work, forcing me to take tepid showers. But at least I was clean.

When the awards were handed out Sunday, Mallory took first place out of the seven horses in our Novice division. We won’t discuss where I came in. Her win made up for all the horse manure I went through.

Novice or not, I have a great horse and good friends. What more does a woman need?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Touch of Holiday Nostalgia

I usually get very nostalgic and sometimes sad around Christmas. This started long before my husband died, but his death certainly adds to the sadness. I think it has to do with remembrances of Christmas past, when my dad's side of the family got together to celebrate.

Most of my dad's three brothers (a fourth died when I was a toddler), three sisters and their children would gather at Thanksgiving at my Aunt Vera's. She's dead now, and so are all but two aunts. I miss the missing ones most during the holidays. Like they say, when the generation ahead of you is gone, so is the umbrella between you and eternity.
I can still see those long tables set up in Aunt Vera’s basement, laden with the yummy foods my aunts would bring. That's how I learned that mac 'n cheese didn't originally come in a box, the way my mom made it. My Aunt Rubye made the most mouth-watering mac 'n cheese I’ve ever tasted.

After lunch, we’d draw names. Then we'd get together again around Christmas and exchange gifts. Grandpa Hobson used to buy something for everyone, but because there were so many of us, he couldn't spent much on each. They were token gifts, but I appreciated the thought. My mom, however, didn't. He often gave the women hosiery, but at 5'9-1/2" tall,  her legs were too long for any of them to fit. She always resented that.

  As the family grew, exchanging gifts became expensive. My cousin Ed had five children, and announced one Thanksgiving that he could no longer afford to buy the extra gifts. He suggested we let the kids draw and exchange, and that worked out fine. I can't remember when we stopped the name-drawing altogether.

After Aunt Vera died, my Aunt Rubye and I took turns hosting the gatherings. In fact, I had already hosted a few of the Christmas parties. Once I had a friend come in dressed as Santa Claus. We took pictures of the kids (and a few grownups) sitting on his lap. No one knew him, and because Ed had not arrived yet (like income tax refunds, he and Diane are perpetually late), everyone assumed it was he. You should have seen the looks on their faces when Ed and Diane walked in! 

One Thanksgiving stands out because of a game. It was my cousin Pat's idea to play "Oldyweds," based on the then-popular TV game show, "The Newlyweds." She picked out three couples who had been married for various lengths of time.  Pat sent the three husbands into one room, their wives into another, and everyone was instructed to contemplate three questions. One of them was: "When was the last time your spouse made you mad?" When my Aunt Violet recalled the last time Uncle Alvin had made her mad, she got mad all over again just thinking about it.

When I moved out here to the country, I tried to keep up the Christmas gathering tradition. It was hit or miss, because aunts and uncles were aging and cousins became scattered far and wide. Everyone had so much to do during the holidays, so many church and school obligations, that it was difficult to get many to come. So I stopped. It took a cousin's funeral to get us started again last year.
This year, only two families showed up, but I still had a house full. There were 15 of us, including three first cousins. It was worth the exhaustion I felt after three days of housecleaning and decorating.
We decided to try for a November date next year so more folks could come. We also agreed we should get together more often. We’re talking about  a summer get-together, when the kids can play outside and visit my critters.
Since we're considering a summer gathering, though, I may try to persuade one of my cousins who has a swimming pool to play host. There's nothing like seeing a bunch of old geezers in swim suits to get the nostalgia juices flowing.