It Hath Arrived
Oh, what glorious days. We're up at the cabin in a flurry of activity: cooking, tree setting up, light hanging, music listening, sauce making, salmon smoking, oyster shucking, hot tub taking craziness. I prefer it, as you know, no other way.
This morning I woke up to my dad (Bob) summoning my brother (Rob) to come make us the pancakes he'd promised us the night before. "Pancake man! Where's the pancake man?" Then my mother joins in chorus...then I roll out of bed and want my damn pancakes, too. So, I join in. This, my friends, is what I consider fun.
Mom (Peggy/Margaret) enjoying said whole wheat pancakes; Pancake Man and Dad (bacon man) in the kitchen
The advent of my unemployment brought on the possibility of LOTS of time at the lake (a now mostly frozen lake). Christmas eve here with my folks, mom's sister, dad's brother and his wife, four of their five children, their partners and their children. We have kids, one a year from 14 to 3. Some of them aren't here this year, but the chaos is sure to ensue...Now they've all departed and I'm back with an update: it was a really really pleasant chaos. Last night we all went to dinner together and it kind of served as a rehearsal dinner. We all got to catch up a little, break the ice, remind the kids who I am, cause they really don't see me a lot at all. And today went really smoothly and was really, truly pleasant.
The dinner crowd: 13 adults and 7 kids under 15 years old in a photo I took...I cut off the people on the left (Dad and Michael...oops!)
We eat oyster stew, by my uncle Bill and tonight we had a romaine, spinach and strawberry salad. I don't eat either of these things (please don't tell Uncle Bill!). I eat APPETIZERS. Smoked salmon, shrimp cocktail (which my brother reminds me often the farming of which severly debilitates mangroves in South America), cocktail weiners and meatballs in BBQ sauce, crudites...I think that was it. But it's a LOT. Oh, and Summer Sausage and cheese...we are in Wisconsin after all.
OH! And oysters on the half shell. My cousin Bill(y) shucks them and...eats them :) HUGE Whitlock tradition here, folks. I had my first raw oyster when I was 12. I haven't had many since, but I hope to cultivate a taste for them someday.
Then for dessert, we eat homemade chocolate ice cream. Made by my gourmet dad...
My first cousin once removed, Ethan, son of Bill and Serena (Bill, who's my cuz) sampling the goods. The paddle stirs the chocolate (or strawberries or peaches or whatever Bob wants) and cream into a frozen piece of heaven.
Cleaning oyster shells out of the sink! Susie, cuz Bill, dad Bob, cuz Anne and brother Rob
What dinner really looked like...dim as the sun went down. The "icicle" holiday lights are up cause my mom likes them--actually, we all do.
And now, totally gratuitous cute child moment:
Rob and Reece; Reece with fire gloves on!
Reece with a mini billows (is that the right word? The thing to blow air on the fire for you).
Reece in BIGGER fire gloves giving his "I'm dead serious" look (which inevitably ends in a huge smile and cackle).
Reece totally hamming it up. He's carrying a log in the fire gloves. The gloves go above my dad's elbow and they CONSUME Reece. This child is HILARIOUS.
Reece two years ago at Wildwood.
We have two "gift games" we play with our larger family. The first, which we did tonight, is "self gifts". You buy yourself whatever you want, we all wrap it in the same paper (because my aunt Susan is like a magician with wrapping paper and it's a dead give away) and put the gifts in a pile. We pick numbers and start unwrapping. The fun part is that you have to guess who's bought what for themselves. Uncle Bill, a rain gague; Rob, a bike seat post; Peggy, a book of religious poems; Bob, a really nice chef's pan; Rob White, a plaid (surprise!) shirt; Anne, a table runner, etc. But we have to guess and it's a great window into a) what people want b) who people are. When you buy yourself something it's a great way to explain who you are to your family. It is ALWAYS a lot of fun, tonight was no exception.
Rob, Susie and Anne
Tomorrow night is "Dirty Santa". Everyone buys something under $15 (I splurged a little this year cause I found something I really liked), wraps it and after dinner tomorrow, we'll open them, orderly like. First person opens, then second. If the second person wants what the first person opened, they trade. You're only allowed to trade twice. It gets hilarious. Two years ago Bob Dylan's biography was the hottest ticket by far. Again, a great way to a) cut down on the number of gifts one must buy and b) see what people want.
Tomorrow morning is Santa's arrival with my immediate family, including my aunt Susan (for whom I am named). Then to Wildwood, which is my dad's brother's familys' lake place in Hayward. Then back here til Tuesday when I go to the dentist-back to the cabin Thurs through Sunday and down to Minneapolis for New Year's (probably, have to see what my brother wants to do).
Now, I'm listening to David Bryne, about to go to sleep on the couch upstairs (I was supposed to sleep downstairs but it's cold and I'm afraid of the mice that might be down there-so so lame). Being on the couch affords me a sleeping partner, though, who I don't get anywhere else. Orion. He's stretched across the Wisconsin winter sky, and there's nothing like stars. Especially the ones I've grown up with.
It all makes me think: today was such a great day. One of my most enjoyable family gatherings in years, it feels like. I connected with the kids in a way I haven't before, got to talk to some of my cousins who I haven't in a while...I know I have a home to come back to in Minnesota and as time goes on, I have a harder time thinking I may not come back. I love it here and I love my people here-I love my people everywhere, but my family here is so great.
Sophia "doing" my hair. Sophia is ten and in the fifth grade. One of the most fashionable ten year olds I know! She informed me my hair is "impossible to work with" and that I'm a "very bad client" because I wouldn't stop moving or stop talking! She's awesome.
The things it makes me think about: love, decisions I have to make and how I'm going to make them, the stars, the packed white snow. It makes me think of Ryan Robinson, Tom Johnstone. It makes me think of my grandfather; it makes me hope for better things for the world; the best things for my friends. It makes me remember how much I love living and how much I appreciate the blessings the universe has so so graciously showered me with. I feel so fortunate to feel such joy and fulfillment in my life.
I hope that your holy days are amazing, filled with family and provide room for you to relax, reflect and nurture yourself and the loves of your lives.
Happy Happy, Merry Merry.
And remember, Jesus is not the reason for the season ;)