We went to my parents’ house a few weeks ago for a family gathering, which just happened to overlap with the Super Bowl, and Jenny took the opportunity to ask my parents about a part of my youth that I don’t remember as well as I should. Listening to them, especially my mother, recall that time in great detail made me realize that my ability to recollect things about my children will probably not be nearly as strong as theirs. I’ve always intended to use this blog to make up for that deficiency, but that won’t work nearly as well if I take long breaks from writing, so I’m trying to repent with an offering of at least a brief summary of our recent activities. (At times like this I wish I was as expressive as my sister, or rather her dog, who can say in two words and a picture more than I can capture in several paragraphs.)
Christmas was a whirlwind of family; we opened presents no fewer than three times with different branches of it. After six months abroad, far away from everyone, we were especially grateful to see so many cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. We spent Christmas with Jenny’s family, then New Year’s with mine. Jenny was so eager to get Christmas started that she and the kids left mid-week, and I rode the train down to meet them the Friday before Christmas. Although we all got more than our share of nice presents, the thing that I appreciated the most was a whole day to spend alone with Jenny while the grandparents watched the kids. We visited Poplar Forest, the partially-restored second home of Thomas Jefferson, then went to see Les Miserables, and closed the night out with dinner at a little Mexican restaurant that we went into because it appeared to be the only thing open, only to find that they had delicious and authentic food, starting with the chips and salsa and continuing with everything that we ordered.
Elena and Roman are among the younger children in any family gathering, and they really admire the older kids and love playing with them; in particular, Elena’s Hide and Seek skills have undergone a substantial improvement. There were some hazards, for instance: after we arrived up at my parents’ home, my brother’s boys had to be more careful with their brand new, recently assembled Lego sets. Everything came to a peak on New Year’s Eve, when everyone stayed up long past our various bedtimes. We snacked on yummy treats, played games, and watched Star Wars. It was an extra-special evening for Matthew, because he got to stay up until midnight to welcome the new year in person for the first time. We all had so much fun that we were exhausted and called it a night not long after the ball dropped. The next morning, we tried to keep the spirit alive as we all packed up to head back to our own homes, but after John’s family left there was a palpable sense of increasing emptiness. Along with Leisa and Sam, we stayed for lunch with my parents, but it was clear that they were going to miss having everyone around once we left.
Just two weeks later we embarked on a trip which would allow us to see all of Elena and Roman’s remaining cousins that we hadn’t seen over Christmas, along with some that we had. David and Carrie were getting married in Utah, which meant that all of Jenny’s family would be there and that we could see the branches of my family local to that area. We knew that it would be plenty to keep us busy for the whole week of our visit. Unfortunately, we all battled with illness during the trip, some of which we took with us and some which we acquired along the way. The extremely cold temperature and persistent inversion layer certainly didn’t speed up our recovery, but we did the best we could given the conditions.
We were lucky to stay in the most hospitable places. At the beginning and end of the trip, my sister Heidi opened her home for us. Elena and Roman loved playing with cousins Ginny and Vanden (and all of their fun toys), and Heidi made sure that we ate more than our share of her good cooking. During the middle of the trip, we had the pleasure of staying with Grandma Flo, a woman we had never met before but who has been Carrie’s parents’ neighbor for years. Her home was an oasis of warmth; I can’t imagine that she treated us with any less kindness than she treats her own children when they visit her.
Of course, the main purpose of our trip–the wedding and events surrounding it–occupied a couple of full days. The wedding itself was beautiful, and the temple was up high enough that the skies were clear and blue instead of murky and blue when it was time to take a big group picture. Roman didn’t handle the cold well during the picture, and we couldn’t offer much comfort because we hadn’t realized that our hand warmers would take a long time to warm up. The other events: a family lunch at a churrascaria, a beautiful reception, and David’s bachelor party, were all pleasant and warm.
We found plenty of fun non-wedding activities:
- Window shopping at the new retractible-roof indoor/outdoor mall, followed by quality play in the Land Before Time-themed play area at the food court, which was entirely indoors.
- Dining at some of the Utah’s finest new establishments. At Sub Zero ice cream, we even got to observe one of the owners, who we had seen the week before on Shark Tank, having a discussion about the business with a marketing class from BYU.
- Visiting with a group of Jenny’s friends who all live in Utah now.
- Seeing the sights on Temple Square. Jenny and I had never taken a tour of the conference center before, and it had been a long time since either of us had visited the Beehive House
- The baptism of Cousin Michael, which his parents chose to have in Utah so that the whole family could attend.
- Dinner at Great Grandma Barbara and Great Grandpa Ralph’s house, along with several other people from my side of the extended family. I only had to prompt Elena a little bit to get her to ask her great grandparents what toys they liked to play with when they were kids, a question that she has since asked to other adults several times without me suggesting it. (Roman and I also had a short visit with Aunt Norma, who can’t leave her home much.)
- Driving with Laura up the mountain, out of the valley to escape the inversion and feel the warm, bright sun on our shoulders, after which she introduced us to some great hamburgers.
- Playing at the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum. All kids love balls, water, building things, and running around! Elena, Ginny, Roman and Vanden all played so hard and got so tired that they fell asleep on the short drive from there to Laura’s home, where she had prepared us yet another delicious dinner.
Writing it down now, I find it hard to believe that we fit all of that into only a week. It’s no surprise that we were worn out on the trip home. As the plane descended, Elena looked at me and said “Dad, I don’t want to go on any more trips.” I hope that she just needs a break to recharge her adventure batteries, and didn’t intend to say that she doesn’t want to go on any more trips ever.