Friday, December 24th marked the gloriously anticipated Heesen/Zellmer/Olson Christmas Present Exchange we all had so long awaited. After coffee and bowls of the delight known as Marshmallow Maties, Kristin and I trekked eastward with Sarah and Ben back to West Allis and finished wrapping some presents at their newly-painted home. Half a vegetable tray later we disembarked for Steve and Laurie’s, where I proceeded to parallel park a little awkwardly due to the ice deposit forming along the curb directly along my lateral axis. It took a minute or two since I didn’t want to collide with the early development Everest taking residence there but as a result of my attempts to steer clear I kept coming out too far into the street. Enter Kristin (actually, she was there the entire time, but you know what I mean), offering her services in a rational manner to take a stab at docking operations. I gave her the con and, grabbing a batch of presents from the back seat, made my way to the sidewalk with Ben and Sarah to wait for Kristin and praise her parking ability. Instead, after one attempt to ease into the Free Parking Space of Doom, we watched (to various degrees amongst us) as she suddenly took off down the street, turned left, and disappeared into the hazy wintriness.
We three laughed uproariously at such a random turn of events, but the laughter subsided as the December chill crept into our coats and cast a frozen pall over our frames. We waited a few moments before reaching the conclusion that Kristin was going somewhere and it wasn’t where we were. We beat a retreat inside, theorizing over where she could be heading- back to their house to pick something up we had forgotten (presents? the other half of the veggie tray? her phone?) but we realized quickly that couldn’t be the case (their house was locked and they had the only key). Other theories were advanced, covering the mundane (maybe she went to get a loaf of bread?) to the fantastic (maybe she’s a sleeper agent, heard her activation word, and was on her way to prosecute a mission?) to the ludicrous (we were actually in an episode of Dallas and this was all just a dream).
We entered the house and happily greeted Steve, Laurie, Josiah, Jenna, Mom, Dad, and Mike, and immediately thereafter tried awkwardly to explain where Kristin was (“Um… you know, I’m not really sure right now…”). I gazed forlornly out the window, awaiting the sight of my beloved’s silhouette emblazoned upon the sun-soaked horizon. Silence engulfed my little corner of the house as I searched for a handle on the moment. After unsuccessfully trying to get a hold of her via phone four times, I heard the door open and at last she returned! All of our bizarre theories were offered and rebutted to the tune of riotous laughter. It turns out she was unsatisfied with the original parking spot and was attempting to carve out some real estate in another location, but the presence of so many one-way streets kept funneling her onwards until she was bottlenecked in unfamiliar territory.
Finally, we were all together! We had a grand old time sitting by the fire, passing around Jenna and listening to Josiah’s pronouncements of what type of vehicle we were.
“What am I, Josiah?”
“You’re a 747.”*
“What about Auntie Anna?”
“Auntie Anna is a hang glider.”
“And Uncle Ben?”
“Uncle Ben is a helicopter!”
Ah- from the mouths of babes…
After dinner we prepared for the glorious exchanging of presents, but first came the Heesen tradition of reading the Nativity account in Luke’s Gospel and singing “Silent Night.” As ever, it was a beautiful moment of recollecting as a family the coming into the world of the Son of God, but eruptions of a different vibe altogether made themselves known whenever Jenna would seize the string of tinsel cupped in my hand and shriek with hilarious glee. I don’t care how pious you are, it’s hard not to laugh during prayer when such a munchkin as her refuses to stop finding that funny!
After everyone’s suppressed laughter was fully released and purged from our systems, we got to the business of shredding open gifts, one present at a time going up in age and then cycling around to begin with A.J. and ascend through the years again. I had Mom as my secret recipient this past year and gave her a popcorn popper and a blind-friendly digital voice recorder. Anna had me, and amidst the Transformers-wrapped boxes (that in and of itself was too cool for words!) she offered my way was… an iPod? At long last my misconceived (and ill-defined) antipathy towards 21st Century music technology would have to come to an end. My former analog-purist self would cringe at how easily it died. The hundreds of cubic feet of torn apart wrapping paper obscured our lines of sight to one another and testified to everyone having scored some serious swag. All in all, it was a great Christmas Eve, and it was hard (as always) to say our goodbyes and swing the ol’ Conestoga wagon back home.
We watched A Muppet Christmas Carol and were blindsided by how devastating that film is emotionally! There’s a scene where Scrooge (portrayed brilliantly by Michael Caine) stands behind his former fiancée as she sings of how Scrooge once was and why she must leave him and how he won’t miss her at all before long. He begins to sing the last verse in harmony with her, but begins to weep and cannot continue as the enormity of what is happening seizes and overwhelms him with the despair of losing something so precious and knowing he will never have it again. Man… pwned! Whoever would have imagined that a Muppet movie would pack such a potent emotional punch?
Having drunk deep from the joys of Christmas morning with one another (and weep sufficiently at the Round 1 KO that was Muppet Christmas Carol), we took time to look our best for Christmas at my gr
andparents’ that after noon, which necessarily meant I had to shave my goatee (finally). As much as I enjoyed it during its brief time on planet Earth, I knew it had to go when I started finding crystallized remnants of soup from the day before or other such assorted and sundry items contained therein. If I may quote James, “Brethren, these things ought not so to be.” We spent the afternoon and part of the evening with my grandfolks, my sister, and both my mother and father; this doesn’t happen often, so it was especially pleasant to have grace and peace abounding at 2129 Mole Avenue that day. Grandma pulled out all the stops for dinner (which, anymore, is to be expected, so I need to find a new phrase to describe the unparalleled heights of eating epicness she concocted that day). Afterward, we communed with one another in the living room, miserable from too much food (except me, for the first time in literally years!), reminiscing on Christmases past.
Having had time for sufficient digestive processes to kick in to restore freedom of movement, we were able to stand up once again and thus exchanged presents. Kristin and I finally took my mom’s personal dislike of presents seriously this year (to her surprise and delight) and she was presented with new earrings Kristin had made especially for her. I was thrilled to open a toolbox complete with several tools from my grandparents and father, which I took to mean two things: first, I am officially recognized as the Man of the House complete with all subsequent rights and titles, and second, that it’s about time I stop asking to borrow theirs week in, week out when I’m trying to work on a project of some sort! It’s all right- I can take a hint!
The next week was a much more subdued affair with more time spent lollygagging and enjoying the full measure of what winter break is. Kristin and I finally fashioned an office out of what was formerly our odd-and-ends room, loaded to the brim with desk parts and seas of books. Encouraged by Kristin’s patience with my obsessive-compulsive tendencies to turn where my books are into a museum, I made it through the process of clearing everything out of the room, putting together bookshelves, and cleaning it altogether top to bottom. At long last, I wouldn’t have to work on homework in the living room anymore, where the couch was beginning to conform to my backside a little too much! I type now from the office that Kristin, more than anyone, whittled out of a log of pure chaos.
I don’t know if that metaphor really worked…
I also had the chance to hang out with the Buzzmen (a.k.a. Joel) that week; he and Jared came over for a hilarious viewing of Home Alone 2 (rendered more hilarious by our Mystery Science Theater 3000-isms as we were watching it) on Tuesday, making that Joel’s second visit and Jared’s first. The next day, Joel, Justin, his girlfriend and I went sledding in Edgerton of all places (I didn’t know that “the most ultimate sledding shredding spot ever” Joel was talking up so much beforehand was there, I swear!) and we all got pwned. Joel and I did a lot of talking and caught up on a lot from the past couple of years. I am beyond grateful for our time spent that week reaffirming how close we truly are and how that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
And so we were brought at last to that most hallowed of year end events… Well, the list is pretty short when you really consider it, but what I mean is, of course, New Year’s Eve! Kristin and I made the trip up to West Allis (are you beginning to sense a pattern?) to have brunch with the Heesens and the Zellmers at an oh-so-choice pancake joint where I glutted myself on far too many delicious breakfast items. Later that evening we attempted to find some Cold Duck (our New Year’s Eve sparkling grape juice of choice) but, to our dismay, Woodman’s had none and Sentry was closed. Refusing to give a foothold to despair, we persevered in our mission to buy an unhealthy amount of soda for Phil and Deanna Pickering’s party and counted our Cold Duck but loss toward the greater end of ushering in carbonated frolic and frenzy for our friends.****** We drove to the posh, upwardly mobile quarter of the west side where they own their palatial estate and proceeded to rip the old year a new one. There were a few less people at their party than last year which was, truth be told, kind of refreshing; with fewer randoms, there was better opportunity for more fruitful group discussions to take place amidst the hilarity of Travelling Pictionary, Wii Super Mario Bros. and yours truly trying to teach Stephen and Cameron’s daughter Naomi how to say “chupacabra.” As midnight struck, the Pickerings unveiled their finest vintage of sparkling grape juice (rendering everything right with the world) and we bid welcome to the new year as one.
The next day offered fellowship with Andy Steiner up in Madison which had been put off for far too long. We met up at Qdoba, the Mexican-ish dining stop of emperors, before going to Barnes and Noble for a Christmas book exchange coupled with running commentary on the non-existent quality of most young adult fiction these days. I bought Andy Knowing God by J. I. Packer, and he in turn gifted me with The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther. What a bro!
Afterward we went to the home he is staying at in Sun Prairie and hung out, eventually watching Despicable Me. Well, most of us watched it, or at least most of it… I both punked out and passed
out about an hour and some change into it and refused to awaken despite ample provocation from both Andy and Kristin in the form of pinching, tickling, and screaming. It seems that almost everytime I hang out with Mr. Steiner I end up falling asleep. This is not a negative assessment of the quality of his friendship; rather, I think he releases some form of narcotic agent from his sweat glands which I am more sensitive to than most and to which I yield after prolonged exposure. His departure for a meeting occasioned the need for me to finally get up and so we made our way back home to Janesville and resolved to just chill and recuperate from more fun than most human beings can withstand in doses of that size.
And there you have it. Here we are, in 2011, and the mission objective hasn’t changed; if anything, the means to our end have become clearer as we work out the best ways to accomplish our goal of glorifying our Redeemer with the circumstances which have been granted to us. I’m excited for continued growth and maturation in Christ as well as its corollary: the freedom to glorify God in the enjoyment of Him as the all-satisfying object of worship. What could be better?
*I don’t think he understands the basic premise of fat jokes, but sometimes you wonder…
****From the Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898, the first naval engagement of the Spanish-American War. Admiral George Dewey issued the now-famous phrase in his order to Captain Charles Vernon Gridley to begin the assault against the Spanish Pacific Fleet (which they pretty much pwned that day).