Usually we opt to let the magic of Christmas unfold in our own living room, and we’ve dedicated a decade of Decembers to creating our very own holiday traditions. On Christmas day it’s usually just the four of us, hanging out in Christmas pajamas while approximately 2,815 miles away our families are gathered around tables, playing cards, sharing turkeys and hams and prime ribs, exchanging gifts, and celebrating the season. We dial into the celebration; the phone gets passed around the happy chaos and we chat with most everyone for a minute or two. In recent years the call sometimes happens via Facetime (which can get awkward because of the whole Christmas pajama thing).
This year we decided to heck with that phone call, and hopped on a plane instead. A plane to Nebraska, in the winter, that departed at the brutal hour of 4:50 AM. (Full disclosure: direct flights to Maui with a lovely 10 AM departure time were actually less expensive… but it’s not like that tempted us or anything.)
For the first time in years, we were home for the holidays. We bounced between all the special meals, gift exchanges, and celebrations. We met the newest family members and hugged the oldest. I’m not sure what was used more at my parents’ house: the pool table or the kitchen table? The kids especially loved cousin time, which included shooting clay pigeons, epic late night games of Parcheesi and Pitch, and a few country road driving lessons in my dad’s Dodge Dakota, which has a manual transmission. What a great way to humble overly confident new drivers!
I declare food the official love language of the Midwest. We were spoiled with beef tenderloin, homemade ice cream, casseroles, ribs, homemade stuffing, and the best hot hamburgers we’ve ever had. Clark whipped up several batches of his world famous cinnamon rolls, and I contributed a few soups to our week. It seemed someone was always cooking, planning for cooking, or shopping for cooking.
We managed to put together not one but two 1000 piece puzzles in the time we were back. The first was slammed out on Christmas day with over 10 people rotating in and out of the puzzle table. The second took a little longer with a smaller crew, but in the end Nola got her moose!
We’ve haven’t lived in Nebraska for over 20 years, but we still have the most incredible friends back there. The kind who know you’re in town, so they offer you keys to one of their cars for a week. The kind who Clark casually mentions he’d like to get the kids out pheasant hunting, and the next thing you know we have a back seat full of gear and plan in place. Clark misses pheasant hunting almost as much as his buddies, so this was a highlight of the trip for sure. I know Sam won’t ever forget it: a trip to get his first pheasant on the same day as his first ditch dive! (Clark takes responsibility: it was icy, and he told Sam to jam the brakes to check road conditions. Not tap. Jam.) Thank goodness for wide open roads, flat terrain, buried telephone lines, and the farmer with a tow chain who pulled them out! Oh, and also thankful that the owner of this borrowed vehicle got a good laugh out of the story!
On New Year’s Eve we enjoyed a family dinner, and then headed to a party at our friends’ home in Arlington. Elle came along, and we recreated the hilarious photo of her holding champagne and Ramen from two years ago in Hawaii. Cheers to 2020!
This trip was a blur of hellos and goodbyes. We didn’t get to see everyone we hoped, but we crammed in as much as possible.
Until now the kids only remembered Nebraska’s never-ending green fields, stormy nights, and sunshine-filled days of swimming. Now they will remember a different season in a familiar place, where the one constant is family.
Merriest Christmas, and Happiest New Year!