IF you receive this update via e-mail, please be aware that there are photos available on the website that aren't posted here. Click on the hotlinked title to get to the site.
OK, so yesterday I got the rant part out. Thanks to those of you who responded either posting here or e-mailing me directly. Having gotten that out of my system, and having received some positive feedback, I feel a lot better. Now let me tell you about the positive sides of our family gatherings this season.
I'll start with the most recent, the event that started the rant. We got together in Fresno with family members, many of whom we hadn't seen since last Christmas. There are 10 cousins to the eight adult children, plus one set of grandparents and a great uncle. The kids have all grown so much, and they'll all much more self regulated. It was, all in all, the most pleasant family gathering we've had in the past decade.
The 10 kids, 9 of whom are 10 or younger, played wonderfully well together. The host family kids shared their drum set and marimbas, piano and bongos, toys of all sorts and space. Sure, there was plenty of potty humor, but it was refreshing to hear one of the cousins, in previous years one of the biggest instigators of purely disgusting talk, ask the other kids who were involved to "please stop while we're at the table, at least!" Oh, sure, there were some snags, but they were minor, and the good hours certainly outweighed those random minutes.
Most of the adults had mellowed with age, too. Since the kids needed little interference from us, for the most part, we had time to talk, catch up, help out with the preparation and cleanup. The host sister treated her husband with more respect than any of us had ever seen - helping him out and, unlike former years, NOT harping on him until we were all just uncomfortable witnessing it all. I had a fantastic time playing a backgammon tournament with my little brother. We played a lot when we were kids, but, MAN, he was the BIGGEST cheater. That boy would cheat at just about ANYTHING. This weekend, when he broke out the board, I was up for the game. It was one neither of us had played in years. We had to read the instructions to refresh our memories. Then, throughout the game, we kept helping each other out. That's right. ..helping each other, often to our own detriment. Sure, we both wanted to win, but we've both learned that it's much more fun to win honestly.
Our holiday season also included a relaxed Christmas Day which began with our own little pajama-clad family opening presents and enjoying treats throughout the morning, followed by a visit from both my mom and her husband and dad and his wife. (That's right - my mom and dad, though divorced nearly four decades ago, can share a room, enjoy a visit. And that makes MY life much easier, much more enjoyable.) Having Mom and OtherDad here was a last-minute surprise. They had planned to go to Washington for the holiday, but had been snowed out. Instead, they put in the extra effort to drive a couple of hours up here, enjoy the afternoon and evening with us, then head back home. It was a more relaxed replay of our Thanksgiving weekend, though I was particularly thankful they made the trip since Mom and I had a falling out after Thanksgiving. I had been pretty certain she wouldn't want to see me again. It seems we've forigiven each other and that's the second-most important thing. (Not having the argument at all would have been most ideal.)
Our winter solstice party hit a snag when we arrived at our favorite bonfire beach only to discover no fires are allowed there Dec. - March. Port San Luis Harbor District removes the fire rings from the beach to keep them from vanishing in storm swells. And no fires are allowed without the heavy, metal rings, so... We were fortunate that it was a very nice evening out. In long sleeves and long pants our family and friends played football and freeze tag, gabbed, built a fort. When it was too cold to hang out anymore (well after sunset), some of us headed to Fat Cat's for dinner.
So, I may gripe, but I must confess the holiday season was largely a success.