Christmas vacation: Day 9

We departed The Farm Saturday afternoon for my parents’ – aka Grandma and Grandpa H. – home.

I had stayed up past 2 a.m. the night before working on a puzzle we started when we visited last summer. Never had a puzzle taken us so long to finish at The Farm, but this particular one was a doozy. Not only was the wilderness scene it depicted dark, but the puzzle was loaded with pieces that appeared identical to each other. The closer we got to finishing it, we began to find several mismatched pieces that didn’t belong in the holes in which we’d placed them. And then, to top it off, there really was a duplicate piece, which can be seen alone to the left of the puzzle in the picture below …

Just before we left, Phoebe also got her wish fulfilled by convincing Grandpa S. to take her sledding …

* * *

Our stays at my parents’ home contrast from our visits to The Farm. For starters, we’re not forced to “find things” to do like we are in the rural, old-fashioned environment of The Farm. It’s not long after we arrive at my parents’ place that Kates and I are plugged in and checking email – trying to catch up on any news we missed in our few days of being out-of-range at The Farm – and we’re enjoying the cable TV right along with my parents. Phoebe doesn’t have access to the Disney movie library or toys she does at The Farm, so she’s left to enjoy the toys we bring for her, or in some cases my mother will pull out a special game and some things for Phoebe to do. This time, Phoebe had my old Chutes and Ladders game waiting for her, along with some crayons and paper for her to draw with.

We arrived at my parents around 6 p.m. Saturday night. It’s about an hour drive from The Farm and both girls slept for most of it.

Quickly we settled in. Mom had some of her signature barbecue sandwiches ready to go for supper. We watched TV and caught up on the latest family news and headed to bed shortly after 10. … Now with Faye, who sleeps in the Pack n’ Play when we’re traveling, there’s no longer enough room for Phoebe to sleep on the floor of the guest bedroom. So, after much discussion – mostly it was Phoebe’s waffling on where she wanted to sleep – it was decided that I would sleep on the futon in the porch, while Phoebe and Kates would sleep in the guest bed and Faye in her Pack n’ Play with them in the guest bedroom.

At about 7 a.m. Sunday, Phoebe startled me awake, standing in front of me at the futon and whispering loudly, “Daddy, Mommy wants you to take Faye.” Long story short: Faye had not slept well, and Kates wanted me to play with and take care of the girls, who were now wide awake, so she could get some more sleep. I got out from under my cozy blankets and followed Phoebe back to the guest bedroom where Kates was standing and holding Faye out in front of her. “They’re all yours,” she said as I took Faye and Kates closed the door between us.

Kates slept for a couple more hours. Meanwhile my parents joined me and the girls for some play time in the living room.

* * *

That afternoon we headed to my Aunt Dana’s home for a gathering with my dad’s side of the family. There, we dined on soups, meatballs and other goodies while catching up on eachother’s happenings.

Before long, to my delight, the discussion turned to our family history. My ancestry research going strong for seven months now, I recently finished mapping out our family tree on a sheet of paper that extends beyond your standard kitchen table, and I brought it on our holiday travels just for this occasion. So I rolled it out on the table and let the others study it. In no time, they were recounting their memories and drawing realizations from the names on the sheet of paper before them. It’s a shame none of us thought of trying to gather more of our family history and ancestors’ stories 20 years ago, we said.

At another point, someone mentioned that it seems like it’s been a long year. To which my aunt replied, “When you think of all we’ve been though this year, it has been a long year.” And now that I think about it, it has been quite a year for our extended family, with a college graduation, a new baby, job changes and my Grandma H’s declining health, beginning with her stroke last January, which has prompted a whole series of episodes and decisions families must deal with when such things happen.

Eventually, by mid-afternoon we said our goodbyes and were on our way. Kates and I agreed to take the long way home, partly to give the girls another opportunity for some nap time during the 30 or so minutes it takes to get from my aunt’s place to my parents’. We drove through the old downtown and up the hill to my old neighborhood and past my childhood home, past the hill that Joel and I used to spend entire afternoons sledding down during the winter months. Then we drove past the lake and the cottages-turned-to-mansions, and past Grandma H’s house, which is now vacant. With the trees that lined the streets covered with a fresh snow, the refurbished downtown and the restored Victorian homes, the city never looked so beautiful and picturesque to me as it did today.

We arrived home in time to settle in for the second quarter of the wild Packers-Vikings game (… Had the Packers played better during the first half, they would have won that game … I’m not sweating it though; they still won the division and clinched a playoff spot).

Mom made grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for supper. And we found “The Lion King” – one of Phoebe’s favorites – on TV.

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