I spent the holidays, from Christmas Eve through the New Year, with Gail. I was too busy to write while I was there, and too sick to write when I got back, so - I'm going to start catching up, before I forget any more details.
December 25th, The Christmas Program
My travel tribulations are detailed elsewhere; luckily, I got in by late Friday night, so we were able to see the Christmas program at the church which Gail's family attends. This was my first meeting with her family, although I spoke to her father once on the phone; most importantly, my debut with the "kidlets" - Gail's four nieces and one nephew, all under five. We picked up her sister-in-law Cheryl and the twin babies, 10-month old Megan and Maribeth, since their minivan had broken down. (Gail's employer had loaned her HIS minivan, which turned out to be a huge favor to us for the week. I, in turn, had loaned my car back in Pennsylvania to a friend, so everybody got where they were going!)
The Christmas program was nothing less than great theatre. Older children and a visiting choir sang songs, but the spectacle for the day was the young ones - 30-odd little kids from 3 to 10 or so, including the oldest three Edwins. They sang songs, read parts from the Christmas story and went through several costume changes (from bathrobe-shepherds to white satin angels) in a state of high pandemonium; all of them fidgeting with their costumes, the microphones, each other, the stuffed sheep... I was in tears, trying to laugh quietly. Madeleine's shepherd costume was her brown bathrobe, complete with teddy-bear head sticking out from under the mantle. Just one of many priceless moments: at the end of a song, all the children fall quiet. The very patient woman organizing this program motions for the children to exit to their left, so they can change into the angel costumes. In the silence, Michael calls out - like the leader of an expedition - "COME ON EVERYBODY! THIS WAY!"
It was priceless, but very cute. (Gail's photos here.) During the presentation I got to sit with Allan for a while and hold Megan (or Maribeth, we traded off) and also talk to Gail's father for a while. He is an elder of the church, a small Filipino Seventh-Day Adventist congregation that is leasing space in a church until their congregation grows. After the pageant, everyone went downstairs for a good old church-basement supper, Filipino style, and we all sat (on teeny tiny preschool chairs) and ate and talked. I've been to a good many church suppers, of many faiths, and this was as warm and welcoming a group as any.
After the pageant we went off on our own for a while to let the kidlets have a nap. Gail and I took a drive in our borrowed minivan and she showed me around Allan and Cheryl's area, rather than go back to Vancouver. We did some final work on the wrapping paper and gifts for the kids, and then went back and spent a few more hours opening presents and playing with the M's. They had hand-made some gifts for Gail and I - literally, their hand-and-foot prints in paint on a t-shirt and a handkerchief. And I had a grand time playing with them, as is my wont with little people.
Next installment: The Big Ball of Science!