Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ramping Up to Christmas, In Good Ways, Mostly

Sunlight on cloud cover, from my window seat on the flight to Seattle.
Fifth day into a two-week sojourn in Seattle and life is very full indeed for every member of my family who lives in this raw, rainy, dark place in the Pacific Northwest. Today - December 21 - is the shortest day of the year, which means it is 7:30 in the morning and the sky is still dark. And I'll bet that daylight will disappear by 4:00 this afternoon.
Darkness does not, however, stop activity or peace threatening family interactions. Life is complicated in Seattle, as I suspect life it is for all extended families with kids and grand kids and grandparents, each member with her/his own needs and wants and wishes and expectations.
I am ensconced in my tiny and most comfortable guest bedroom at Jeanne's and I hear a lone gull, or perhaps a goose? flying high over the house. That has been the only sound this morning, if I don't count tinnitus in my ears. Even the McGrady children are still asleep after a big Saturday night out to see 'Miracle on 34th Street'. But enough of this preamble and on to photos of holiday preparations, of which there are plenty.
I arrived in Seattle early on Tuesday evening. Jeanne, Kelan and Lauren met me at the airport. Lots of hugs and such fun to see them and to know that when Kelan pulled that very big suitcase off the carrousel, I was beginning two weeks with my daughters, my sister and all their progeny. My family life is always lived in distinct geographic segments. Except for brother John. He and I remain in close prximity in Houston.
Kelan was not quite his self at the airport and indeed, he was getting sick and stayed home from school the rest of the week. Jeanne was out in the mornings, so Kelan watched whatever he watches on the big screen and I poured over my Houston Arts Alliance artist grant application, which I seem to have rewritten several times. Guess I need to have a grant savvy reader give it a review. It's due January 6 at 5:30 p.m. Jeanne and I've walked around Green Lake twice, so I've gotten in 10,000 steps on two of our first four days in Seattle.
When the McGrady's gathered round their Christmas tree a few evenings ago, I told the kids what I loved to do on Christmas night and demonstrated. I lay under the boughs of the tree so I could look up through its branches. I was joined on either side by a grandchild. A night or two later Dan was under the Christmas tree with his kids. The beginning of a tradition?
Jeanne made a double batch of Christmas cookies and yesterday the kids frosted them. What I noticed this year was much licking of fingers as they decorated a table covered with cookies.
Two evenings ago, I went to Kate's carrying with me a dozen East End tamales, two avocados and a pomegranate. She'd made a pot of black beans and I shared a semi-Mexican holiday supper with Kate and Denny, Chris and Heather and baby Ben. So good to see Ben before he and his parents take off for Heather's parent's home for Christmas. Received raves for the tamales, BTW.
What I love about Kate's table - and indeed her whole house - is how many of Mom and Dad's belongings she's incorporated. Kate spoke about the set of Christmas plates Mom gave her years ago and how she'd thought they never be used and if they were, it would be once a year. But Kate has served dinner on these plates at Christmas time, over and over again, for twenty plus years. Notice she sets the table with Mom's poinsettia napkins.
After watching the McGrady's drip soft frosting on cookies yesterday morning, I drove over to the Kleban's, who'd just returned from Charlie's basketball practice. He's an avid player and thinking ahead towards his career in the NBA. Yes, he's that avid. Last summer, he and I talked about basketball, and as I'd attended A LOT of UH  Cougar and Houston Rocket's games in the late 1970s, I actually knew player's names and could have a conversation. At the time, Charlie Bean was quite admiring. "Mameau knows her basketball," he said, which actually is not true. However, I told him I'd bring photos I'd taken of the Cougars and a basketball photo of mine that was printed in the Salt Lake Tribune (because we happened to be in Provo for the college playoffs, I'd gotten a photo pass to sit under the basket with the rest of the photographers and captured a shot that the Salt Lake Tribune photographer missed. He asked for my roll of color film and I was happy to provide.).
Last night, Caroline prepared a real Hanukkah dinner with potato latkes and flank steak and it was well received. Not a latke nor a slice of meat was left uneaten. After dinner, the family lit menorah candles, Steve uttered words of prayer and then gifted Lulu and Charlie with special hats. For Lulu, leopard headgear and Charlie, Seattle Supersonics. And then, they spun the dreidel. All with those Christmas stockings lined up across the mantel. We are indeed multicultural and that's a blessing.
It's daylight at last, daylight that is grey, overcast and so Seattle. Off to the kitchen to make some breakfast and then I'll wrap presents. That box from Houston was on the McGrady's doorstep when I arrived home last night after Hanukkah with the Klebans. Happy Latkes to all!
And I can't resist adding this photo of Caroline. Her Bama, my mom, would understand completely. Holiday season is overloaded with expectations, preparations, wrapping paper and ribbons, disappointments, bits of joy, frosted cookies and latkes, bearing up and hoping for the best. It is a very busy time. To each and every member of my family, here and afar, my love to you during this time of hard work, tribulation and sparkling moments of happiness.

P.S. More Bama. Sweet Mary B gifted us all with a link to Vimeo for Bama's Story of the Christmas Pudding.

P.P.S. And Earl is home in Houston, hopefully seeing lots of his daughter and three grandchildren and  friends. I do know he's painting like crazy. Here's the latest.

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