Sunday, January 8, 2017

Happy Holidays, Part 1: Christmas in Philadelphia

We normally go east to see my side of the family for the holidays during odd years, and my the jokes just write themselves, don’t they?

On even years we are usually here in Our Little Town, or visiting Kim’s side of the family in their various locales (once even as far afield as San Francisco, which was a treat).  But last year was a hard one in many ways, not all of them political, and it was generally felt that heading east would be a good idea.  Sometimes you have to be in the same place with the same people just to be in the same place with those people, and that’s enough.

Although whether this is the beginning of a new cycle, where we are in Wisconsin on odd years, or just a blip and we go back to Philadelphia again next year, or the beginning of something else entirely is just one of those things we’ll have to work out later – probably on December 19th, given how well I plan things.  Life: it’s an adventure!

We picked the girls up from school on the 20th, piled an immense amount of stuff into the minivan (because that’s what minivans are for, after all), and turned our back on the sunset, or we would have had the sun not set sometime around noon or so that day.  Winter in the northern hemisphere is a dark place.  We made it to our usual stopping spot at the Hampton Inn in Maumee, Ohio, where the next day we ate breakfast alongside a young lady in a full unicorn onesie before continuing on to Philadelphia.

“You rock, girl,” I told her.

The first thing we did once we got to my mom’s, of course, was have cheesesteaks.  Because that’s what you do in Philadelphia.  There’s a law or something, or maybe it’s just that if you don’t do that three random mooks from South Philly knock on your door and suggest rather strongly that you do.  Not that they would have had to make the trip for us.  We were looking forward to our cheesesteaks starting around Johnstown.

We spent the next few days hanging out with my mom and generally getting things ready for Christmas.  My brother had been down a few days earlier and had gotten the tree up, for example, so the girls decorated it.  We got a few poinsettias to give some color.  We hit the grocery store for supplies for holiday dinners and a ravioli festival that we had just because we could.  Everyone needs ravioli.  Yes, you do too.

We also went to see Rogue One at the same local movie house where we saw the previous Star Wars franchise movie last year, which wasn’t particularly Christmassy but was a fun film – I’m so glad that Disney has liberated this franchise from the dead hand of George Lucas’ mythmaking.  Disney exists to separate you from your cash in exchange for a decent bit of entertainment, and we were happy to make that bargain.  I personally would have been even happier had the curb outside the theater been maybe a quarter inch lower, though that’s hardly Disney’s fault.  I ended up with a scrape the size of a business card on my knee, which then spent the next week or so protesting angrily whenever I tried to bend it.  And since bending is one of those things that knees are tasked with doing, it was a never-ending chorus of snit from down there.

Merry Christmas.

Aside from that minor annoyance, we had a low-key but enjoyable holiday.  Instead of the normal swirl of visitors, we limited things pretty much to just family.  We did go visit my friend Jenny at her parents’ house for a bit on Christmas Eve morning – where we had a wonderful time catching up and generally being sociable – and the neighbors across the street came over for a bit later in the week, which was nice (they’re lovely people) – but once my brother and his crew came down from NYC it was pretty much just us.  Rolane and Steve came for Christmas Day, and that was lovely as well.

The girls and their cousins slotted back into their accustomed places as if they saw each other all the time and not just once or twice a year, and many a Pokemon was captured.  There were all sorts of new ones there that are less common in the midwest and in New York City, and some of them even invaded my mom’s house, much to her amusement.  I’m not sure that we ever convinced my nephew Josh that going outside in the suburbs was a non-creepy thing to do – he lives in Manhattan, and deserted streets are not anything he’s used to dealing with at any hour of the day – but there you go.  Lauren and Sara spent some time baking Ninja-bread cookies, and Tabitha and Josh even explored the wonders of higher math for a while, because that’s the kind of thing we encourage in our family.  

Hey, you have your things, we have ours.

It was a lovely holiday.

And then you’ve got a few days where you can just hang out with people without having the holiday looming over you.  We made the most of it, really – we enjoy each other’s company, for one thing, and for another there’s plenty to do in that part of the world.

We took the kids to the trampoline park, for one thing.  If you’ve never been to one of these places, they’re giant warehouse-sized buildings stuffed to the gills with trampolines and other bouncy surfaces, and you drop the kids off at the entrance and let them have at it.  Brilliance!  

After the NYC crew left, we headed down to Center City to wander around a bit.  We went into City Hall, a first for me – I’ve been under, through, and around the place any number of times, but I’ve never had any particular call to go inside until we were there as a group and noticed a sign advertising bathrooms available to the general public.  Philadelphia’s City Hall is a great granite pile of a building plopped squarely in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in the city – which probably made sense in the 1880s, when they were building the thing – and they’ve done a reasonable job of keeping the place up.  That’s nice to see.

We also went to Reading Terminal Market, which you need to do if you’re ever in Philadelphia.  It’s a 19th-century street market in a building, filled with more places selling more food to more people than you can conceive of without chemical help.  I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that my children love that place as much as I do, crowds and all.  Life is good, really.

Before we left, we made sure we got a Stair Photo.  Because you have to have traditions.

And then we headed north for the next leg of our holidays.

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