They came from across the Pacific and across the Atlantic. From East Coast and West. They descended on Albuquerque to siege and take over the lands of de-I and the Tower. Our defenses were completely overwhelmed.
CHRISTMAS EVE AND DAY
Christmas we glorious. We decided that we needed a Christmas Eve meal that was more informal so I made a big pot of seafood/chicken gumbo. We fed the kids first. I was sure they would turn their nose up at it with its strong flavors. But know they are liked it, even 1.2 who can be very picky. On Christmas Eve, the kids had exchanged gifts with each other. We also started with all the traditional things we've done as a family such as listening to our hokey synthesizer Christmas mix tape (with daughters and I singing along) and the mass watching of Claymation Christmas, a special shown once on TV during the 80's which we recorded and have watched religiously since. We managed to get everyone up to bed in spite of their excitement. Then the adults got all of the presents out and stockings and set everything up.
Christmas day was glorious. I've not always seen the joy in it. I don't have it hard wired in my head as we never had it as a kid. But this year with my focus on my role as grandfather, it was a very different experience. The grandchildren were warm and enjoying the opening of presents. We made our traditional breakfast and then had a relaxing day before we made our traditional Christmas pizza. Wife did a new Neapolitan dough recipe that was quite good. We had all the grandkids and the adults making their individual pizzas. It was a very mellow day.
PREPARING FOR THE REUNION
Who organizes a family reunion just two days after Christmas? A primarily Jewish family that can only bring it's far flung members at that time of year? So yet another onslaught of people. I will kid you not that the idea of having the reunion at our house while the only logical choice was exceedingly daunting and stressful. I'd been worrying about it for weeks. Fortunately all sorts of family members had stepped up to the plate to do jobs. One of my nieces, X, did all the meal planning. My wonderful sons-in-law took the job of rearranging furniture so we could easily accommodate the 29 people total we had. S-I-L 1A (aka Armenian Deal Hound) took on the Costco mega shopping with his wife #1. After all the hard work, S-I-L 2B had arranged for a babysitter for the 8 grandkids so we adults could all go out to dinner.
THE TOWER CONQUERED!
The final onslaught. Having this many people at your house feels a bit like being evicted. But seriously it was really an amazing event. We've never been a close family. That is in large part to the overwhelming presence of my father whose feeling was that extended family was something to be avoided at all costs (there is a long background story to this that I don't have time for now). We used to have an annual get together when my mother was alive on Thanksgiving and my father would rage at my mother for months prior to it. It was legendary that Dad would find someone to pick on and reduce to tears.
But this was something different all together. The vast majority of our family had never met each other or had only had the most perfunctory of meetings. For example almost none of the family had met any of my grandchildren. There was my younger brother's daughter from a long ago prior relationship whom none of us had met. In spite of all this, the barriers seemed to drop very quickly. There was some really deep conversations on multi generational levels.
We had toned down our culinary expectations significantly for both cost and time considerations. But we still decided to do one meal with our cooking. That was a combination of the organization and cooking of my nieces X and E. I had committed to roasting lamb, chicken, and salmon on my Yoder wood pellet smoker/grill. X's finance, D, who does tons of smoking, agreed to handle which was a great stress reliever. X and E did our traditional schmaltz (chicken fat) mashed potatoes and a killer mac and cheese. With my flavoring of the meats and D's skill with smoker/grill the proteins came out great. Then Daughter #3 had made a Dutch Apple Pie with home made ice cream (our old fashioned ice cream maker of 30+ years died in the process 0 but not before the ice cream was properly churned!).
Wife went way beyond the call of duty. Even though it is not her family, she took on the chore of scanning in scads of pictures into a collage that could be put on one of the TV screens. These old pictures of family captivated everyone. Then she went even further. During the reunion itself the nieces X and E made their data base of pictures available to her and she added to collage. Finally on the last night she had pictures from the reunion itself included!
The final piece de resistance was the Blackjack game. This has a long family history. During the years when we had our family Thanksgivings, one of my uncles would always gather the grandchildren (my and my older brother's kids) and teach them Blackjack. As my niece E said, she learned how to count at those games. So we had my older brother go out and get cards and chips. He likes playing in Las Vegas so understands all the nuances. Then we got my grandchildren playing. It was a hoot to see the kids learning the subtle hand moves to ask for or hold their cards. And once they started the game in real watching the kids get so focused and serious.
As fast as the invasion completed the take over of the Tower, the reconquest of the Motherland began. On the 29th we were hard at work putting the house back to its normal arrangement. On the the 30th the both the Visigoths and Ostrogoths (#2 and #1 clans respectively) had moved on to more fertile fields. Sections of our home that had not been seen for a week were now back in de-I control. Negotiations with the Amsterdam contingent to repatriate them to the Ostrogoth lands in the Bay area are showing fruit.