I tried to go out early to the farm to help, but events conspired against it and I wound up being right on time. Luckily, everyone else was late, so I got to be early by default!
When I arrived, I discovered that Matt had already made it in. He drove down from Atlanta as a surprise for the parents, but there was also an ulterior motive, which was revealed as more people arrived and then sat around talking...
The ulterior motive? To collect his birth certificate, his diploma and his passport. A headhunter has contacted him and offered him a job teaching English in Korea! As he is totally unencumbered, this opportunity is absolutely something he can do and it's right up his alley (Mr. English Major).
The folks have done Christmas Eve dinner for many years now. For most of the last 6 or 7 years, Uncle George has joined them. He's my Cousin Liane's father. In fact, as I was driving out to the farm, I called Liane and told her I was on my way to have dinner with her dad. She said to tell him "hello" for her... This year, we were also joined by Eric. He took our wedding photographs and he and his wife became family friends. His wife lost her battle with breast cancer late last year. This year, he joined our Christmas Eve gathering.
Good conversation, good company and good food goes a long way towards making a holiday less lonely.
Jerry arrived horrendously late (as usual). I called to see where he was when he was 45 minutes late and he was only just leaving his house which would put him at the farm another 30 minutes later. We started without him but left plenty. And as usual, Jerry's lateness was because he was helping someone out. He is a tow truck driver and an adept mechanic. And he was helping a friend trying to restore an old car that was meant to be a Christmas present but was delivered too late to get it in shape before the holiday. Jerry stopped by and gave the guy a few hours of help - and that's where he'll be on Christmas day if I know my brother.
After dinner, it was time for the gift-giving portion of the evening. ZBoy was quite excited and waited anxiously for people to meander towards the family room so he could play Santa.
He did a fine job, and soon every one was opening a package.
I found this book and couldn't resist. I inscribed the front: To Dad - 'Cuz you're Weird... and you're English. I had to get it for him - when I found it at the store, I sat down and looked at it from cover to cover.
Afterwards, there was coffee and pie and final conversations as people prepared to go home to bed or off to church for the late-night service.
Darling Man and Uncle George had their own little conversation.
At last, DM and ZBoy headed off for home claiming they had presents to wrap. I helped do a little clean up before going home myself (and yes, they were closeted in the computer room wrapping presents when I got home).
I have it on good authority that Mom collapsed in her chair and fell asleep after her incredibly busy day. Dad and George decided to forego church that night as they were also dead on their feet.
It was a most satisfying way to end a day.
UPDATED: I stand corrected. There were rumblings of skipping church when I left, but apparently Dad, George and Eric couldn't resist the lure of beginning Christmas Day on a spiritual note. All three made it to midnight mass and I am assured that it was a beautiful service - well worth staying up.