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Christmas 2013

Started: 2014-01-01 19:06:46

Submitted: 2014-01-01 21:02:38

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator visits his parents for Christmas

This year our fall holiday rotation called for Thanksgiving at Kiesa's parents' house and Christmas at my parents' house. For the first time since Calvin was born, we chose to actually celebrate the designated holidays as scheduled, rather than skip Thanksgiving and double up on Christmas (as we did to avoid traveling for separate holidays while Calvin was younger) or abandoning the entire continent for Hong Kong (as we did last year).

Kiesa headed out to visit my mother a couple of days before me, and let her take care of Calvin while she worked. Her aircraft was flying from San Francisco to Boise to Denver before taking her and Calvin to Pasco, but the flight was diverted from Boise to Twin Falls due to weather in Boise. They eventually managed to fly to Boise, and then on to Denver and eventually Pasco, but Kiesa and Calvin were delayed for most of the afternoon.

I joined them on Friday before Christmas; I managed to get a ticket on the same plane flying from Denver to Pasco as my sister, who was connecting from New York. Our plane was flying from Los Angeles to Aspen to Denver, but it was diverted from Aspen to Grand Junction due to weather in Aspen. This time they found an alternate aircraft for us, and our flight made it out to Pasco after only a minor delay (and several gate changes).

That night my mother signed us up for a bus tour of the Christmas lights in Walla Walla. We headed to downtown Walla Walla to board the bus and spent the next two hours meandering around the city and its surroundings, narrated by a vivacious and entirely-too-enthusiastic guide. Most of the houses we saw would have barely registered an honorable mention in a tour of Gunbarrel, and there was a sizable emphasis on kitsch rather than what I would consider a tasteful display. A few houses actually stood out, including one that was elaborately synchronized to music broadcast over a low-power radio station. I couldn't help but worry I was getting too uppity to fully appreciate small-town life.

On Saturday, I used my camera to take my mother's family Christmas photo. I used my new Nikon D5200, which I acquired only a week earlier when the command dial on my Nikon D50 stopped working, but I did not bring my remote control (so Willy had to start the self-timer and run to place himself in the frame), and I did not have an appropriate flash for lower-light portraits. (A camera-mounted speedlight would probably have helped, but a series of separate flashes would have been especially useful to avoid awkward shadows, especially around the opening around the Christmas tree. Not that I need to acquire any new gadgets at the moment.) Willy and I assembled a 3D puzzle of R2D2. Despite not having been formally introduced to the Star Wars franchise, Calvin recognized the famous astromech droid.

Logan Christmas photo featuring Calvin
Logan Christmas photo featuring Calvin

On Sunday, we made Christmas candy (almond and coconut balls). Swinyar brought his two kids over for a brief afternoon play-time and spent most of his time chasing his toddler around the house keeping him from getting into everything. In the evening, after Calvin went to bed, Bethany convinced everyone to see American Hustle, while my father stayed home in case Calvin woke up. I was pleased to see that Walla Walla's one movie theater had joined the twenty-first century and now accepted credit cards as a method of payment, saving us from having to scramble to get cash to get the ticket. I found the movie enjoyable, though I was more in the mood for a light-hearted heist movie (which this was not) than a well-made study of flawed characters.

Kiesa, Willy, Mom, and Bethany make Christmas candy
Kiesa, Willy, Mom, and Bethany make Christmas candy

On Monday, Kiesa spent a good chunk of the morning trying to find a streaming version of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and ran straight into the current Balkanized video licensing regime that. iTunes didn't have a copy, and Hulu would only show its copy on a computer (not on a TV), so we plugged my mother's computer into the TV and watched it there.

Willy and I walked to campus, where I finally managed to set foot in the new administration building, but I had to confess it was not especially exciting. We dropped by the library to check out our favorite sections (DS400 and DS700), where I found a fascinating collection of very old books on China. We walked through Kretschmar Hall and the Chan Shun Pavilion and talked to Professor Klein, who is about to retire.

In the evening, Willy and I worked on a Return of the Jedi puzzle while listening to the movie's soundtrack.

Fallow wheat field above Walla Walla
Fallow wheat field above Walla Walla

On Tuesday, Willy and I managed to stage a whole-family expedition to Rooks Park. The parking lot was closed for the winter, so we parked outside the closed gate then walked into the park. We walked across the bridge over Mill Creek, then down the diversion structure feeding Bennington Lake, stopping for photo opportunities overlooking the fallow wheat fields above the creek, then down Mill Creek and back up the other side. I enjoyed the opportunity to get outside and get a bit of a walk on Christmas Eve.

Path along Mill Creek
Path along Mill Creek
Water bird in Mill Creek
Water bird in Mill Creek

On Christmas Day, we did my family's traditional stockings, then breakfast, then presents. Calvin received presents from everyone, and when we were all done I packed everything we received in a box to ship it back to us home, since I didn't want to drag it along with us on the rest of our trip. We took a walk to Mt. Hope Cemetery, overlooking campus and the rest of College Place, and headed back home for Christmas dinner. After eating we packed and I reviewed my guidebooks and maps to try to figure out what we were going to do when we flew to San Francisco the next day for a couple of days before visiting my grandparents in Sacramento.

Bethany and Calvin draw
Bethany and Calvin draw
A standard question in the Commune, "Study well?", has absolutely
nothing to do with how well one learned the designated material,
but rather to the individual's interactions with the one with whom
he is studying.
- Jaeger, journal entry 28 October 1999