Jul 18, 2011

Christmas In July

Both Dar and my families come from Wisconsin. We both grew up here. Our parents, all four of them, still live here. And despite the ravages of Winter, cold sub-zero temperatures, icy roads and sidewalks, piles of snow we lovingly refer to as "banks", and the love/hate relationship most of us have with salt (it melts ice on the roads, but it also "melts"... perhaps corrodes is a better word... the metal bodies of our cars and trucks)... despite all that, most of the family still lives here. Sure, some have escaped.  Our own two kids have escaped to the west coast... other nieces and nephews are scattered about the USA... my brother Bill traded all this for Bozeman Montana, which quite possibly has an even longer and more brutal Winter than Wisconsin (go figure!). Dar has a brother that traded Wisconsin for the Upper Penninsula of Michigan... so questionable decisions have been made on both sides of this conjoined family.

Because Dar and I are on this "Sabbatical" (now more than 4 years long), we've been missing the December holiday family gatherings. While we're lost in a Southwest desert someplace, much of the family is celebrating Christmas with cheer (lots of cheer!) and good will toward anyone within earshot of a hearty "Merry Christmas". They all gather and exchange serious gifts, watch a little football, and eat traditional meals of ham and turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes. They have a great time. And Dar and I do miss the together-ness of it all.

So this year we decided to take matters into our own hands and host a "Christmas in July" party so we could, in a small way, try to capture the feeling and spirit of the big holiday. Sunday the 17th was the selected date for the big outdoor gathering. Dar went overboard and decorated with Christmas lights, ornaments, glitter, garland, and a gift tree. The good news is that it didn't rain. The bad news is that it turned out to be one of the hottest and most oppressively humid days of the summer... temps in the mid 90's and dew points in the mid 70's... heat index of 105... in other words, tropical. But because we're hearty northerners and because weather is always messing with us in some way, we made the best of it and had a great time anyway. Did I mention that this was an outdoor picnic-like affair??  It was warm (Dar says "frickin HOT) but manageable.

We talked, we ate, we had fun. Here's a sampling:  a "sleigh ride" (hay ride) through the fields singing Christmas carrols as we traveled to and from the magnificent and very secret nearby WRP research facility. We had gotten approval (paperwork, signatures, fingerprints, background checks, and more ...) from the Director for one quick pass past the normally secluded and well-hidden complex. The heat may have been stifling but the spirit endured as everyone was giddy with enthusiasm for the opportunity for a brief view, a mere glimpse really, of the cutting edge science that's going on here. Let me tell you, the cameras were clicking like crazy during the quick drive-by pass. I've probably said too much already... but let me just say the sequestered WRP occupants really enjoyed the holiday spirit as much as we enjoyed sending it their way. We all hope that some of them will be set free during the upcoming year... and will be able to find peace, independently, on their own... without the imposed order and institutional constraints of a facility like this.

Loaded up and ready for the hay ride/sleigh ride.

There's an old, retired, (dead, really) motorhome out on the edge of the property here at the farm. Sadly, it will never see the road again... except for that last trip... to the scrap yard. Someone had the idea that we need to re-create a scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (with Chevy Chase, Dennis Quade, et. al.)... specifically, the "shitters full" scene. (If you haven't seen the movie, rent it... it's one of our favorite Christmas traditions.)

Merry Christmas Clark...  Shitter's full!

We exchanged gifts, grilled burgers and brats (hey, it's Wisconsin, don't yah know?) and lingered until near dark. Eventually everyone was driven off by mosquitoes... but I don't think our first annual Christmas in July will fade from anyone's memory anytime soon.

It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Not a bad looking group... eh?

Dar has a few more photos already uploaded to our online photo collection... check them out if you get a chance.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Beyond Branson; Pondering Future Travel

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