My father met me at the airport, and we chatted for a while while waiting for my baggage to show up. I had checked two bags in addition to my carry-on and backpack - all three of my bags contained at least 50% books by volume, as I had a large quantity of books to return to Shelly, since I hadn't managed to separate them out before I moved. During the conversation, I mentioned that I had a girlfriend, having realized that I hadn't actually mentioned Sora to my family yet*.
My arrival at home was quickly followed by my arrival in a nice, soft bed, and that was the end of that day.
The next day, of course, was Christmas Eve (Day). By the time I'd gotten up and awake and lucid, we were well into the day. I spent some time just hanging out with my family, and soon I realized that I really needed to get moving on wrapping presents - I had arrived in Ann Arbor with presents for the family, but none of them were wrapped, and I had to make a present for my grandmother still.
As is our Christmas Eve tradition, we ordered pizza and watched a movie. This year's movie was Amelie - Alice and Ryan and I had seen it, but the rest of the family hadn't. (I suspect the movie was slightly... educational for certain younger members of my family. I'd warned my parents that the French had a slightly different opinion than the Americans of what was and wasn't "appropriate"...)
As we watched the movie, I worked on a wire-sculpture Space Needle candle holder for my grandmother. Wire sculptures, and particularly candle holders, have become a traditional gift to her from me. It took another hour after the movie was over to finish the sculpture, but I'm happy with the way it turned out. Then, I wrote out tags for all the presents, and went to bed.
And then, Christmas was upon us. I woke up around 10 AM, and the present-opening procedure soon started.** Our family has a particular way presents are opened - one at a time, starting with the youngest in the family and proceeding up through the family in order of age, one present at a time. Then when everyone has opened a present, we repeat the cycle, as necessary. Our Christmas morning (really, morning/afternoon) is not a three-minute orgy of flying paper and opened boxes, but a peaceful, slow-paced process in which each person is given the family's full attention when opening a present. We also take breaks between "rounds" for breakfast, coffee, etc. It's really a very pleasant experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone distressed with the pace of their Christmas morning.
With the presents opened, we turned our attention to the preparation of Christmas dinner. Nearly everyone in the family had a part in this, as we were cooking for a total of twelve people - the six in my immediate family, plus Alice's partner Ryan, our grandmother, our mother's aunt, and her husband and two daughters - the latter being my second cousins once removed. (Whee, geneaology.) For my part, I prepared a roasted redskin potato salad, which turned out excellently, following a recipe scrawled on an index card from a small file-box we keep in our kitchen cabinet. As the dinner preparations came to a close, our guests arrived (or at least the last four; Oma had been present since mid-afternoon, and Ryan since his arrival Friday evening.) Dinner was eaten, and then we gathered in the living room for conversation, and eventually a game of Apples to Apples (which, if you recall my previous entry, you'll remember was a gift from me to my mother). The game was well-received by everyone, with an exception of my little brother, who quit the game halfway through, frustrated at his lack of success. The night wound down, and after the guests departed, the remaining people in the house gradually found their way to bed.
Monday, December 26th, being the day after Christmas, was a day largely spent cleaning up from Christmas. Early in the afternoon, I made arrangements with Stefan for hanging out (and doing whatever the collected people felt like) later in the evening, following dinner. Dinner was a vegetable-and-tofu stir fry with rice. The people present, to begin, were Stefan, Marshall, Emma, and Ariela, a roommate of Stefan and Marshall's who I'd met once before, during the summer. Later, we were joined by Moey (who I'd not yet met, but she's pretty cool) and Kayla (who I sort of knew through Stefan), as well as Alexis (who lived there - I know her from middle school) and her boyfriend Dan, and the rest of our night consisted of watching Equilibrium (as a drinking game! Drink whenever Actual Plot occurs***. Also, gun-katas are an interesting idea; the "statistical" "theory" behind them is utter and complete bullshit.), going to Steak'n'Shake for french fries at Emma's insistence, and watching Laputa. Mmm, Miyazaki. Then it was home for me.
Tuesday, I had some stuff to get done - in particular, I dropped off about 80 pounds of books at Shelly's house. She was visiting her family for Christmas. I chatted with her for a while - small talk, really, just catching up on each other's lives. It really was helpful to me, too - in the last six months, a lot of my thoughts on the subject of our past relationship had been reasons why it was a good thing we weren't together anymore. But seeing her on Tuesday reminded me of why it was such a good thing that we were together in the first place. It was great to see her... I don't miss her, I'm happy with my life now, and I'm happy with how things have gone. I feel balanced, and that's always good.
Tuesday evening, after watching a hockey game (yay, Wings! Woo) I went over to Stefan's again, with Alice and Ryan. This time was just general hanging out and talking, along with Stefan and Marshall "gangbusting" through Metroid Prime, and Adam and Dan (more friends from middle school) talking nigh-continuously about computer stuff. I was occasionally part of that discussion...
Wednesday was family day. Alice, Ryan and I woke up relatively early to head out to Mt. Clemens and help our grandmother with some stuff - changing a few lightbulbs, disposing of computer stuff, that sort of thing. She took us out to lunch, too. Sadly, my ribs were overcooked. So it goes.
Then back to Ann Arbor to finish getting ready for the extended family gathering. I didn't get a chance to see my grandfather, and I missed my eldest cousin (and one of my closest friends as a kid) by about a day, but it was awesome seeing everyone else. As the party wound down, we played some games - I finally got a chance to use my copy of Great Dalmuti that I picked up a month ago, and we played Fluxx as well, as I'd introduced it to some of them earlier in the day. We also played Apples to Apples, and it was again quite fun. Luke managed to get a card early on in that game, and I think his outlook on the game greatly improved.****
Thursday morning was dim sum, with Stefan, Marshall, Emma, Moey, and Lenore (who I'd met briefly Tuesday evening, and probably at some point before that as well, as we vaguely knew each other). Yummy, yummy dim sum. Apparently the dim sum chef at the place we went to in Bloomfield was one that Adam and Stefan had been "stalking" for a while, from his days in a dim sum restaurant in Windsor.
I came home to my family just starting to watch King Kong - the 1933 version. I was honestly surprised at how good it was - the video-compositing stuff they did, lacking greenscreen technology, was truly excellent for its time. I'm looking forward to seeing the new one at some point.
When the movie was over, it was nearly time to leave, so I had to pack up everything in a matter of a few minutes. Then, off to the airport! Uncle Jim and my cousin Max were flying out at the same time, from the same terminal, so we chatted for a while as we made our way through the airport. Eventually we parted ways, and I got over to my gate, got on the plane, and off I went. The flights back to Seattle were uneventful, save for a bit of a late departure, and sitting on the tarmac in Minneapolis for 45 minutes before taking off for Seattle. I shared my row on that flight with a couple middle-aged ladies - either lesbians or very close friends, I'm not sure. They didn't really like flying, and the turbulence had a habit of making them nervous, so I pointed out that thanks to physics, even if the plane's engines cut out, the plane would just effectively be a glider due to the wing shape and so on. I'm not sure it helped at all.
Sora was waiting at the baggage claim in Seattle. It was nice to see her again, and quite good to be home, particularly after a 27-hour day.
* I realize this is news to some of you, too. Well, there you go. My mom feigned consternation and annoyance the next day, when she discovered that I'd told my dad before I'd told her, despite the fact that she'd heard from my grandmother over a month ago. Mothers.
** My family is not explicitly Christian. I've been to Sunday school maybe twice, when my parents put us there while attending a couple sermons on specific subjects, at the behest of friends of theirs. My mother professes a belief in some higher power, but our Christmas is effectively Christless - the point of the holiday, for us, is a family gathering, but the centerpiece of our celebrations is the opening of presents, and the Christmas Day dinner.
*** I didn't get drunk.
**** We discovered that Great Dalmuti, Fluxx, and Apples to Apples are all pretty much correct about their upper limits for the number of players (8, 6, and 10 respectively) - the games get really slow beyond that. Apples to Apples was decent with 11, but getting people to focus was a bit difficult. We never played Apples to Apples with less than 9 people, and I have trouble believing that it would be nearly as fun with less than 6.