Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Massmas 2007

As you may have surmised from the lack of posts this week, I have been on holiday. Kate and I flew to Massachusetts Friday afternoon. After a two-hour layover in Houston, we arrived in Boston just before midnight. After scraping several inches of snow off our rental car, we drove to Worcester and got there just before 2am. We stayed with Kate’s mom and her stepdad, Michael.

Kate spent Saturday afternoon looking for wedding dresses with her 12-year-old sister, Eloise and her stepmom, Phyllis. Meanwhile, I had lunch with Michael and his son, Patrick. Michael was kind enough to show me around Worcester, pointing out various historical and cultural places of interest. Worcester has a grand train depot and lots of cool older buildings, both of which are in short supply in go-go Austin. We even got to see a real live American bald eagle at the EcoTarium, where Kate’s dad was once executive director.

When Kate finished her dress hunt, we picked up her sister, Eloise and drove down to Rhode Island for the night to visit Kate’s dad and his wife, Mary. Poor Eloise was subjected to all eight minutes of “Free Bird,” courtesy of the local classic rock station. After arriving in Portsmouth, we sat down to a superb roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner. Then we had homemade brown sugar ice cream and conked out early.

Kate and I took a nice walk around the neighborhood with her dad and Eloise on Sunday morning. Although there was plenty of snow on the ground – at least by Texas standards – it really wasn’t all that cold. Being closer to the coast probably helped on that count.

We drove Eloise back to Worcester that afternoon, stopping at Weintraub’s Deli for an amazing corned beef sandwich and their house label birch beer. I also had a cup of chicken soup to ward off any pathogens inadvertently acquired during our travels. I don’t care what Marc Katz says – there’s really no such thing as authentic East Coast deli food in Austin.

Kate’s family has a long tradition of attending the Christmas Revels show at Harvard’s Sanders Theater. The Revels started back in 1971 and are now a venerated Cambridge tradition. Phyllis graciously took Kate, Eloise and me to the Sunday night performance. The Revels spotlight the winter solstice traditions of a different culture every year. This year’s culture was the Balkans, which offered lots of colorful costumes, acrobatic dancing and haunting women’s choral pieces. The entire audience was invited to sing “Dona Nobis Pacem” and I was vaguely able to follow along thanks to Kate’s pre-Yule tutelage.

Christmas Eve day was comparatively low-key. We wrapped gifts in the morning and had lunch with Kate’s mom and Michael. His two sons were there, too. Then we visited Kate’s grandparents and her Aunt P.K. in Paxton. We took a nice walk through Moore State Park as the sun was setting. There we saw an 18th century mill along a placid flowing stream. It was about the most picturesque thing I’ve seen all year, so naturally I didn’t have a camera with me.

Because Kate has three sets of parents, one set of grandparents and an extended family gathering to visit, Christmas was something of a whirlwind. I think we ended up doing seven separate gift exchanges this year. That’s a far cry from the sparsely attended Bloody Mary Christmas morning I typically do in Houston with my folks, but it was fun getting to see everyone and eating all that food. It was also my first white Christmas, though no snow actually fell during our trip.

Speaking of H-town, four of Kate’s cousins are planning to converge there in June for the big Red Sox/Astros showdown at Minute Maid Park. Now I really need to find a way to get good tickets for that game. Naturally, I’ll be the only ‘Stros partisan in the bunch.

We ended up at the Wellesley home of Kate’s Aunt Charlotte on Christmas night. Aside from the excellent food and company, Kate showed me the back garden where we’ll be getting married in September. It was covered in snow, of course, but I was able to imagine how it might look in late summer. We stood on the freezing cold porch and I remarked that next time we were there, we’d be just about married. That helped warm me up.

Kate’s mom took us to the Worcester Art Museum on Wednesday. Worcester has one of the best smaller art museums in the country. We spent a couple of hours there and had lunch. I’d like to go back sometime and see some of the exhibits we missed.

Just as we did last year, our final night in New England was spent in Petersham at the rustic family farm house of Kate’s friend, Caitie Huppert. Before dinner, Caitie had everyone join hands and told us how good it was to have us there. Although I’ve only known them since last Christmas, the Hupperts really have a way of making one feel welcome. In fact, the same can be said of Kate’s family. That’s just one more reason I consider myself to be one very fortunate Texan to be by Kate’s side.

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