Thursday, January 08, 2004

Christmas, Part II: North Carolina
The day after Christmas, Mark and I arose, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, at the dawn-like hour of, oh, around 9. And we hadn't packed yet. Therefore, alas, we did not make a typical Watson family early start, but rather conformed to Mark and Matt's time honored "9:30," otherwise known as noonish.

To spare everyone the grisly details, 13 hours later, we arrived. Oh, but wait, I can't leave out all the grisly details. Mark found a better way through Ohio, the never-ending state, which takes us on a more bucolic and picturesque route. It goes through Amish country! I counted 6 buggies, and 4 people just walking along the road. This kind of buggy counting is much more fun that VWs.

Anyway, we finally got there, unloaded the car, and went to sleep. The next day was our 3rd Christmas day, and I got to open all of my presents from my Watson relatives who had been at my parents' house on actual Christmas Day, plus from my parents and brother. My parents got to open the mystery present, which was a ever-so-exciting vegetable steamer, and my brother got to open his more 2D, but still triangular, set of billiard ball tree ornaments. I liked those. I thought myself very clever.

Mark's NC present haul had a geographical theme. He got a giant map of Michigan, though not as giant as the world map we already have, and a big canister full of food and mixes from all over North Carolina, as my mom continues her campaign to convince Mark that the South has good aspects. (shhh. I think she's winning.) I got a whole bunch of books, which is what I asked for, as well as being the favorite gift to both give and get in my family. Perhaps print addiction is genetic. Mark is well suited in this regard, as we went to Barnes & Noble to spend our $50 gift certificate from his sister, and picked up 8 more books. Mmmm, books. I also got a Frank Lloyd Wright cross-stitch pattern and a beautiful FLW-patterned scarf, which my mother selflessly offered to keep if I didn't think I'd wear it.

Then it was time to start the visiting! The thing about my traditional Christmas is that everyone, and I mean everyone, from both sides of my family is in Raleigh. As the cousins have grown up and had to get jobs, this has been harder to get to actually happen, but it still comes quite close. The only people missing this year was my cousin Adam, due to his job, and for most of the time my cousin Laura, though she made an appearance briefly, with very festive silver Birkenstocks. I said she should leave them with us for New Year's, so we could tie one to the ceiling fan and use it as a disco ball. She declined.

Everyone else was there, though, including Michael and Becky, with the first of the next generation, their daughter Courtney. Obviously, she is the celebrity of the family. My mom had run out of film, so she instructed Mark, with his digital camera, to "take lots of pictures, especially of Courtney." On the other side of the family, my aunt and uncle from Chicago were there. Mark and my uncle Bruce got along very well. I think Bruce was very happy to have someone around that he could finally talk to about computer games to his heart's content. There was lots of visiting at various houses, lots of eating, lots of talking. It seemed all too short.

The only damper on the holiday was seeing my grandfather after so long. In the last year, his Parkinson's has gottne much worse, and dementia had a very sudden onset since I was in Japan. Our holiday traditions are changing now, as not everyone can stay in their house all at once. But we managed to farm everyone out to other houses successfully, and Granddaddy even seemed to appreciate it when people were around in small doses. He especially seems to recognize Courtney.

I was also conveniently home to take to my mother to the UNC hospital for the final test, and arteriogram, she needed to have done before donating one of her kidneys to a co-worker. The appointment, of course, was for 7am, which is just the time I wanted to be up on a vacation day. It was actually interesting, though. The surgeon drew us a diagram of the kidneys and what arteries and veins they were going to be looking for. Of course, he drew it on the sheet on the bed, but the nurse's response was, "Oh, surgeons do that all the time." After they took my mom off for the procedure, I went to the hospital cafe, which happens to be right next to the Children's Hospital, and it has the neatest ball maze ever, like that one from Sesame Street, where the ball runs through all the flags and carts and things. I sat and watched that for a while, then went back to the waiting room to watch the news until they came to tell me my mom was back in the recovery room. She had to stay there for another 2.5 hours before they would release her, but she seemed to be doing well, so we were back home in time for lunch, and my mom was ready for more visiting by dinner.

On New Year's Eve, I even got to see some of our old neighbors from when I was growing up. I hadn't seen them in years, and Betty especially was very happy to see me. We got all updated on what had been happening on our old street. I'm not sure I want to see our old house now, and I definitely disapprove of people splitting our lot in two and building another house on the front half. But then, they didn't ask me. Or anyone else on the street, it sounds like. Just in time for dessert, my dad said he wasn't feeling well, and then got spectacularly sick, as is also traditional. Thus, we went to the New Year's Eve party at Leatha and Bob's without him. Mark was happy because it was the first New Year's he ever got to spend within 500 miles of his significant other. My mom was disappointed to not have anyone to kiss for herself. I was amused by the small world phenomenon when my ex-boss from Bright Horizons daycare showed up.

After we totally confounded Mark by insisting on watching the split screen New York ball/Raleigh acorn midnight drop and drank our champagne or sparkling apple juice, we headed home, to sleep, then get up, repack the car, and hit the road again.

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