Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Christmas from Arizona!

I was up until almost midnight packing my bags, trying to get everything I would need for a week of variable weather and a variety of occasions into carry-on bags (to save $50 round-trip). Mom woke me up at 4, and we were halfway to the airport by 5.

We left frigid snowy Iowa behind for sunny Arizona. Well, it was actually rainy and foggy, but it was still a lot warmer than Iowa had been. Grandma and Sandy picked us up in Phoenix, and carted us up to Prescott Valley, where Grandpa was waiting. They had put up lights outside, and inside set up a cute holiday village. Grandpa wanted to put up more, but Grandma reminded him that they would have to take down whatever they put up. Grandma was eager to open presents, so after supper, we opened our stockings.

I was in bed by 9 p.m. and awake by 5 a.m. That day, we took to the stores to buy Christmas presents. (This freed up space in out luggage, and we were able to take advantage of day-after-Christmas sales.) I got Mom’s favorite perfume and a wallet for Dad. For the grandparents, my aunt and uncle had gotten them a digital-picture-displaying ornament, which they filled with pictures of their daughters, sons-in-law and grandbabies. I found a similar device, and filled it with our side of the family. I also added some new pictures to the large digital frame we bought them a while back. For Sandy, I got some fancy beer and a mystery novel. Even Sandy's dog, Tipp, got in on the present-opening act.

That night, we went to Prescott for the Arizona Review. Each fall and winter, a group of local performers get together to sing and dance, with a little bit of comedy and some historical regional stories. Most of the time the show is western-themed, but at the end of December, it becomes a Christmas show. It was great fun. Grandma is friends with one of the singers, a tall diva named Jenifer, whose hair proudly proclaimed, “Thank You for this 1989 Country Music Award!” Voluminous hair is making a comeback.

Saturday I stayed in the house with Grandma and Grandpa while my parents went shopping. My parents then made “Texas Caviar,” a recipe Dad procured at grandpa Gilbaugh’s birthday party. He even helped mom make it!

I think that was also the night we visited the Valley of Lights, an animated Christmas light display that raises money for the Make a Wish foundation (like Jolly Holiday Lights in Des Moines). Grandma was collecting donations.

Sunday morning, I was lazing around the house. Then grandma announced that she would be leaving ASAP for choir practice. I volunteered to come, too, and managed to get ready in ten minutes. We picked up an anniversary cake to celebrate Grandma and Grandpa’s 61st. Singing was a lot of fun. Ever since the sing along with Rose and Ted over Thanksgiving, I’ve missed singing. Well, I missed it before then, but it’s keener now.

That afternoon, we dined on Chinese takeout. Mom cooked oyster stew for supper. It’s a generations-long Christmas Eve tradition in my family that will likely die with my mother. The smell of oyster stew just turns my stomach. As a kid I would hide it my room whenever Mom made it. Most foods I hated as a kid, I’ve tried as an adult, just to see if I’ve changed my mind (Fresh, raw cucumbers and tomatoes, yum. Fresh raw mushrooms and onions, meh. Slimy cooked mushrooms, yuck.) With oyster stew, I know, KNOW, there is no need. Shudder. Those oysters were ENORMOUS.

I toasted my grandparents: “Here’s to Grandma and Grandpa, who show us that love really can last a lifetime.”

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