Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

I'd have to check the employee handbook to be absolutely certain, but I do believe that I am not allowed to bring my white elephant present back to work and keep it in my cubicle, despite the fact that I really, really want to.


We're spending Christmas with Ash's family in Michigan, which means several hectic days of fun and family togetherness. And I'm totally not even being sarcastic! I really lucked out in the in-law department.

Ash's mom called us on Thursday to tell us that she'd thrown out her back. This is no laughing matter, as she's got a persistent and serious back problem from a car accident many years ago. This time, she's off work and only semi-mobile. As in: she can hobble around slowly for short periods of time, but mostly can't move normally. No bending over, no lifting or carrying anything, and even standing for more than a few minutes at a time is too much. So that meant that the task of finishing her mammoth Christmas baking project fell to the daughters and daughter-in-law. Mostly the daughter-in-law, as she is the only one of the three to really do much cooking or baking on her own. So on Saturday, I spent most of the day baking more cookies than you can shake a stick at. There were four different kinds, including one with nuts. The other two girls got stuck with that one, since anaphylactic shock tends to put a damper on the holiday spirit and all. But I rolled out, cut out, balled up, and dredged in sugar for hours anyway, losing count somewhere around the 20 dozen mark. See, she makes cookie plates for the entire extended family. And you may remember from my astonishment at the final guest list for our wedding that they have a very large extended family. Very large indeed. Luckily, the pain of churning out commercial quantities of cookies was lessened quite a bit by the 100 greatest songs of the 90s, as determined and presented by the brilliant minds at VH1. My super awesome sister-in-law, Liz, and I had a blast belting out the lyrics to such ageless classics as "Groove Is In the Heart".

We spent the next several days on the road, meeting up with Ash's college friends one day, spending Christmas Eve and part of Christmas Day with the big extended family the next, on to a different friend's house, and ending up at Ash's dad's house last night. It was kind of an overwhelming several days, but in a very nice, very fun way. The extending family get-together is something of a new experience for me, since my extended family is very small to begin with and we get together on Thanksgiving anyway-- most people go to visit in-laws and such ever since my grandparents died. Back when I was together with Finbar, Christmas at his house was even smaller, since his parents had essentially cut ties with their extended families many years before. So the idea of 25 or 30 people at this year's Christmas gathering seemed crazy to me-- even though it was slightly smaller this year than last. I think I'll get used to it eventually. This year, for example, was not quite as overwhelming as last year for me. But still, I had to sneak away for a little break a couple of times during the night. I think the hardest thing is the fact that they're kind of a little clique. Not in a bad, mean high school girls kind of way, but just in the way that people who've known each other all their lives can be. And I am the first newcomer of this generation. The last time that the circle was expanding was back when our parents' generation was getting married. I told Liz that I was paving the way for her eventual spouse to join the club.

We did get one really fantastic present-- though really, I suppose it was more of a wedding present than a Christmas present. Ash's Uncle Bob gave us his grandparents' wedding album. It is downright scary how very much Ash looks like his grandfather at the same age. They even hold their bodies the same way. As I was paging through the album, a small booklet fell from between two pages. I picked it up and realized that someone, I think most likely his grandmother, had saved the missal from their wedding in the album. How incredible to hold that in my hand, all these years later! The other thing that Uncle Bob gave us-- or is going to give us once we have a place to safely store it-- is Ash's grandmother's china. I am so excited about that, I can't even explain it. It just feels so good to have that connection going back all the years. And one day, we'd be able to pass it down to our own children.

So now, having told you about the best present, allow me to unveil the White Elephant:

I got nunchucks. Nunchucks weapped in gold glitter paper.


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