From my journal on Christmas night:
What a Christmas vacation. Two nights ago we boarded a plane from Austin to Seattle (which was cheaper than tickets to Portland, even with a rental); drove south (Oregon bound) but only made it Olympia before the snow started comin’ down heavy – too heavy & sticky for our lil Ford Focus with lil bare tires. With the help of some of God’s angels, we made it to a Red Lion Hotel and only paid $89. for a great room with two queen sized oh-so-comfy beds. We had quite the view of a the swimming pool-ice-rink and at breakfast, we sat at a table with huge windows overlooking a half-frozen lake and snow-blanketed trees all around, which made up for the suckie food. It was still snowing lightly when we looked at the freeway.
I-5 was wet & clear so we packed up & continued on, with 3.5 hrs of sleep, home-sick hearts and 3 refills of coffee as fuel. It amazed me how great we felt.
On Christmas Eve, we made it to Sherwood, OR … no roadside assistance necessary, even on the worst roads, Tualatin- Sherwood and my family’s street, SW Houston. The Stewarts came down to the Bebb’s and we got to love on each other, have chicken divan & Christmas cookies (wiener-dog shaped w/icing & sprinkles). Narnia and It’s a Wonderful Life played as the kiddos (Gabby 5, Jamae 7, Angel 2, and Braylon 6) ran around the house. Finally, we gathered in the living room where I read a few paragraphs from Luke 2 about Jesus’ birth before
Bray interrupted with, “can we open a present now?!” The kids got one gift to open. We set out three cookies and a small glass of milk on the piano. It was going to be two cookies, but Bray said that Santa (from the mall) whispered to him that he likes to have three.
At 10:15pm after everyone went to bed, I re-wrapped one present & wrote that it was from Santa…well, actually I wrote:
Santa and all us elves wish you God’s very best! You were on his “good list”.
Love, Hermie (the Dentist-Misfit Elf)
I messed up the car track in front of the fireplace, scooted a bench next to the piano, and made tiny arm & foot prints (the kind you make with the side of your hand) inside the dusty fireplace vent that opened wide. It would prove to be the perfect set-up.
Hook, line and sinker, baby. Two years in a row. After reading it, Braylon lit up when he thought it was amazing they knew him by name, and again when he remembered who Hermie was. He watched the old Rudolf claymation show last week. Hermie and Rudolf were both misfits that became friends.
Bray opened up the gift & it was (by coincidence) exactly what he’d asked Santa for three days ago when Papa Rick, Granny & Deenie took him to the mall ~ an mp3 player. What a convenient gift for our lil traveling buddy. Complete with a collection of the legendary sounds of Jonny Lang.
At 9am, we headed over to the Stewart’s place through the icy snow for a huge, yummy breakfast (including the traditional Santa-pancakes) and then back to Mom and Dad’s for presents. After Stew and Rick helped my Dad get our rental out of a snow rut, we were packed up and were off again…another 280 miles south, to see the rest of the family this Christmas day!
I-5 to Medford was wet & clear…even over the Sexton Pass (almost 2k ft). We made it to the condo by 6pm in time for some of Janis’s good ‘ol chicken spaghetti with the Reeves. We just hung out, caught up, laid back and relaxed in the presence of family. A sense of warmth and safety loomed. Braylon had a gift that he was just enamoured with ~ a small laser pointer. Someone asked him if he could give us a laser light show, to which he and his cousins all replied, “what’s a laser light show?” (What? You mean you don’t remember Pink Floyd at the OmniMax Theater?!) Well, after explaining it, we all took turns with our own unique designs on the ceiling. At one point, we all stopped to notice snow flurries lit by a parking lot lamp, out their 2nd story window.
Bob (inside-jokingly) said, “hey, lets all go around in a circle and name something about our spouse that annoys us!” Referring, of course to Rick’s genius attempt in 2003 to simultaniously cure bordom, bring laughter and promote the expression of brutal honesty among family members). This time Rick replied, “How ’bout we name one thing we love about our spouse (or for the kiddos, a parent or sibling)”. Well, this generated quite the response. Love filled the dimly lit room. Rick said: “I love how she cares how she looks, but isn’t so into herself that she goes to extremes. She knows who she is.”
After we all answered that one, we kept the ball rollin’ with a few more…
“name the best material gift you could ever get”
“name an aspiration you would love to do or learn the art of one day”
“name one place you’d like to travel”
“name one fear you have”
“name one thing you use or have, that you take for granted on a daily basis”
and we finished the night with real stories of angel sightings. It was about 11pm…and about 10 minutes later, not a creature was stirring.
The next day was shared with the other link in our Russ-chain: Jeremy, Jamie, Tyler 9, and baby Riley 10 mo.s (who weighed in at appx.28 lbs!). We grubbed on Greenberg smoked turkey (sent from Gam, of course), green bean casserole, mashed taters & gravy, and warm rolls…oh, and three gallons of Tillamook Ice Cream with brownies made from scratch.
Those few days were packed with blessings from my God. They were so much fun, and such a blur, that I just had to write it all down. Sometimes it can bring joy and comfort to be able to re-read and ponder the details of family gatherings such as these, for years to come.