Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Merry Christmas! I began a beautiful holiday morning with the Colliers Harvest of Holidays. They have at least five Christmas stories, more than for any other holidays. My favorites are "Flora McFlimsey's Christmas," about a little doll who manages to walk down to the tree on Christmas Eve, where the angel on top cleans her up for a little girl, and "A Star For Hansi," as a grandmother teaches her granddaughter about saving with a story on how she bought her little brother a star with her last saved coin.

Sun was streaming through the window overlooking the park as I crept to the tree. I always open the presents Linda Young gives me on Christmas morning. This year, my big gift was a beautiful warm woven wrap in red and blue plaid. The other larger gift was a cozy mystery novel set in an ice cream shop. The "stocking stuffer" was a new pair of gloves. I especially appreciated those! My cheap black gloves are stretched out and badly pulled.

Watched Match Game on Buzzr as I opened gifts. Betty White appeared with her husband Allen Ludden of the Password franchise on a week of episodes in 1976. In the first one, Allen got a look at this crew's usual shenanigans when his wife again rolled up Gene's pant legs while he talked to the upper desks. "Is this what goes on when I'm not here?" asked her amused husband. In the second, a question about their social life sent them both blushing and giving strange answers.

Strolled to Dad and Jodie's around quarter after 10 on foot. Everyone was already there when I arrived, including Jodie's son TJ and his fiance Eric and her other son Jesse and his wife Dana, along with Vanessa, Jessa, Joe, and Midnight, and Rose and her tribe. Along with leftover candy, ham, and macaroni salad from last night, Jodie and Dana set out Jodie's amazing French bread casserole, Dana's sausage bake, egg muffins, blueberry and plain English muffins, a plate of pineapple chunks and berries, real syrup, and orange juice. Dad had the Christmas Story marathon going in the background all morning, and someone found the Gatlingburg Festival of Lights Christmas Parade on WPHL 17. (Why a Philly station played a parade from Tennessee is way beyond me, but it was fun.)

We unwrapped the gifts around 11. I gave everyone their cookie boxes. Khai got a book on codes and Super Mario Maker 2. Finley got the most adorable play barn and her own stuffed "puppy" on a leash, so she could have a dog to lead around like Midnight and Nala. I got warm alpaca wool socks from Dad and a brand-new laptop and 50 dollars from Dad and Jodie. I'm typing on my new laptop now. It's a HP and is a lot smaller - and ten times faster - than my old Toshiba.

Everyone but Dad, Jodie, and the kids took part in the gift exchange. This time, everything but my cocoa mug was wrapped. We grabbed them based on size and shape alone. I was first; I took the only bag under the tree. Jessa wanted a box that included a pair of light-up chopsticks, but Dana snitched it. (She eventually kept what was in the box but gave Jessa the chopsticks.) The others kept switching around a package wrapped with brown paper and a thick rope. Jessa ended up with it; she got a cool slide music maker. I think Joe got the cocoa mug.

Everyone says I got the best present. Someone wants me to move into the 21st century. My present was a Google Nest thing that acts as an alarm and controls everything in the room. I'll figure it out tomorrow or later in the week.

Rose and her crew drove me home. Mom called while I worked on setting up my laptop. She absolutely loved the cookies I sent her. She's still trying to figure out her new, smaller stove. Her best gift, though, was getting to see Lilah when she had to deliver a package to Collyn and his dad Mike in Wildwood. Mom and Anny are still having problems, and Mom hasn't seen her grandchildren in a hug from her granddaughter was the best possible present she could have gotten.

Jessa didn't pick me up until nearly 1:15. We were about 20 minutes late to the mid-afternoon showing of Rise of Skywalker. We missed the commercials and probably about the first ten minutes or so, but we did see most of it. Or at least, I saw most of it. Poor Jessa is still wiped out from working early all week and slept through the majority of the film.

I'm not going to do the plot here because of spoilers, but...I loved it. Maybe not quite as much as The Last Jedi, but I did still enjoy it a lot. On one hand, I wish we'd seen more of Rose, that it had wrapped up some plots better (and I frankly liked the idea of Rey being a nobody more than her having a fancy linage)...but I also approved of many of the changes, and I like that in the end, Rey,  Finn, Poe, and Rose all opt to just stay friends instead of going for the obvious romance. Also, I mostly approve of how they ended Leia's story. It seems right.

In the end, I think all five of the Star Wars films released by Disney have gotten a bum rap. Fans and critics tend to just expect waaaaaayyyy too much from these movies. If' you're a Star Wars fan who enjoys the sequels or the franchise in general, I'd totally disregard the reviews and go check out the end of Rey's story.

Jessa and I drove over to her and Joe's condo in Deptford after the movie ended. Joe and his 14-year-old daughter Dannica and 11-year-old son Connor were playing the newest Just Dance when I arrived. I laughed and watched them and Jessa shake their booties to "Prince Ali" from the live-action Aladdin remake and a few other songs.

After the kids finished their game, they opened their presents from their father. Dannica seemed happiest with a new sketchbook from Jessa and a sequined pillow with Danny DiVito's face on it from her father. (I didn't ask about the latter.) Connor loved his box of practical jokes and goofy little toys and Mad Libs book.

While the kids opened their gifts, Joe showed me the tons and tons of offerings on Disney's new streaming service, Disney Plus. We watched two funny shorts featuring Sporky, the new "hand made" toy character from Toy Story 4, and the classic Mickey Mouse short "Lonesome Ghosts." Joe started Return of the Jedi while the kids were looking over their presents, but they lost interest around the time Yoda died, and everyone was hungry.

Truth be told, no one had any idea what we were going to do for dinner. The only place we could find open was WaWa...but the kids loved it. I got a double mocha chilled cappuccino and a cheeseburger quesadilla (ground steak with pickles, cheese, and onions on a crispy tortilla). Everyone else had soda, chips, popcorn, and hoagies.

We took them home and had Christmas dinner while watching Dannica's favorite movie The Greatest Showman and playing Mad Libs with Connor. It was a lovely and cozy couple of hours. The kids were happy, we all laughed, Midnight sniffed around our legs, and I was glad to be around people who were having fun and wanted nothing more than for me to write a goofy answer to a silly story and sing along to "This Is Me" and "Rewrite the Stars."

We headed out around 7:30-quarter of 8. The kids had to be home between 7:30 and 8. They live in a gated community; the opening gates glowed like blue and red lightsabers, and you had to type a code on a pad to get in. Joe took the kids up to their mother while Midnight, Jess and I waited. Jessa and Joe dropped me off ten minutes later.

This was one of the best Christmases I ever had...and the present I loved most of all was just spending time with everyone in the family, people who enjoyed my company and enjoyed being around me and each other. I had more fun today and yesterday than I've had in a long time. Here's hoping your holiday, no matter what you celebrate, was equally wonderful!

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