Present and past holiday celebrations

Christmas for Keith and me came in shifts this year. We opened presents three days running, as family members did not arrive all at once. Fine with me — I love Christmas! Keith’s favorite present from me was a large framed and matted photo of six sandhill cranes that I took about five miles from our house. A few days after Thanksgiving we had gone to see the cranes in a huge field near Argentine — at least 100 of them. A gift from one bird-brain to another.

Another favorite gift was a hollow plastic unicorn head made to be a squirrel feeder. Keith smeared peanut butter inside it and stuck some seeds in as well. Then he hung it up a short way off the deck floor. We have a few fox squirrels around, and if their weight gain is any indication of the winter ahead, we will have a bad one. We waited to see if any of them made an appearance on the deck. We didn’t have to wait long. Cracked corn under the unicorn head attracted a fat squirrel. First he had to clean up the scattered corn, and then he was apparently still hungry. He smelled the peanut butter inside the plastic unicorn, and proceeded to stick his head into it. He stood up to reach the treats, and the top half of his body disappeared. Three of us stood inside snapping pictures of the squirrel with a unicorn head. What should we call it? Unisquirrel? Squirricorn? The comical sight was good for laughs.

For the first time since our wedding on February 28, 2015 all four children and four grandchildren were here together for one dinner. Keith and I were excited to host them. We tried to arrange it last Christmas but it didn’t work out. When only two of the kids live in Michigan, one lives in Wisconsin and one in California, getting them here at one time is a difficult task. We are fortunate, though, to have all our grandchildren nearby so we can watch them grow up.

The dinner was the highlight of our Christmas celebrations. We loved watching the kids getting to know one another better, and the older grandchildren helping the younger ones putting Legos together.

Now we’re looking ahead to another new year. Keith tells me his family in Pennsylvania often ate shrimp on New Year’s Eve, and pork, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes on New Year’s Day. A Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, for luck. For my family I made cream puffs, and we toasted with sparkling juice when the ball dropped on Times Square. Keith and I are so different; he is an early bird and I’m a night owl. I would find it easier to stay up for the New Year, but at our age we’ve seen so many New Years that we don’t really care.

My most memorable New Year’s Eve took place six years ago when two of my three sisters and I made a trip to India. It had been 50 years since we left India with our parents, after living there as children. Sylvia, Sheila, my son Scott (who traveled with us to make a documentary of our trip), and I landed in Bangalore on December 29th after traveling for 24 hours, into a time zone 10 1/2 hours ahead.

Two days later we welcomed the New Year almost a half day earlier than the family we left here in the U.S. On New Year’s Eve we checked into a hotel in Belgaum, the city of our childhood home. We all suffered from jet-lag, and we had not slept a wink during the all-night train trip from Bangalore to Belgaum..

My room overlooked a patio where there was a very loud party going on, with techno-music turned up as high as it would go. My two sisters’ rooms were across the hall. Another party on the seventh floor above us provided surround-sound music. I stuck earplugs in my ears, went to bed at 9:30 p.m. and slept through the whole thing. Scott went downstairs to film the party. Sheila couldn’t sleep and sat in her room writing in her travel journal. At 2:00 a.m. she called the manager to report several people who were drunk in the hallway and yelling “Happy New Year” to anyone who passed by. A hotel employee came upstairs and yelled at them, making even more noise. Wonderful memories.

Time seems to fly faster as we age, and now we will be using calendars dated 2017. I wish for all my faithful readers a happy and healthy New Year.

(Scott’s documentary of our trip, “Planes, Trains & Autorickshaws,” is available to watch on Amazon Prime.)

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