Monday, December 31, 2007

A Family Reunion for Christmas!

Christmas in the Rio Grande Valley is not your white Christmas. Instead it is almost warm. Because the Valley is semitropical, the temperatures were in the high 60s. My sister, nephew, Dad and I went to the high school tennis courts Christmas afternoon. I'm not a tennis player but Dad won awards when he was a young man and my sister played with him and then with her kids for many years. It is a pretty good way to spend an afternoon.

The trip down to Weslaco was not as long as I had thought it would be. Instead of the 5 and a half hours I predicted it was just over 4. Stopping by the grocery store after gassing up, I left town at 7 AM and was home by 11:30. Was Mom ready to feed me? LOL No, she and Dad had eaten early and she was getting ready for her afternoon nap. Never the less she managed to get out some cheese and slice it for me and I added some bread with butter to that. A light lunch to be sure but I had snacked on a couple of candy bars on the trip down and wasn't ravenous.

My sister and her kids, having flown in from Asheville, NC, were shopping at a local outlet mall that has opened up since the last time I visited the Valley. They spent way too much on gifts for an aunt they hadn't seen in quite a few years but also got stuff for Grandmom and Granddad. I was surprised when I looked out the window to see their rental vehicle park near Mom and Dad's apartment. My nephew has his Dad's profile but my sister's eyes and smile. He had grown so much. The last time I saw him he was in elementary school. Now here he was at 20, a tall, handsome young man. If I start to sound like a proud Aunt forgive me. I come by that pride rightfully. My niece and nephew are both smart, fun young people and absolutely the most beautiful kids I've ever seen. I'm not exaggerating. They could model for a living. My nephew has this wonderful magnetic personality and a great sense of humor. My niece is a quiet leader who has lots of friends and a nice way with people.

Dad took us on a nice tour of the retirement community they live in. It isn't your typical retirement home. There is a very active community of intelligent senior citizens there and most of the residents have either apartments or small houses to live in. The community is owned by the residents and their new manager is doing a lot to make the place lively. They are having a New Years Eve dance tonight with a band. Here's a picture of Dad.

For gifts this year I couldn't spend much but got the kids Barnes & Noble gift cards. Jill received a hand held labyrinth that duplicates the one my church just built. That went over well. Dad received a new computer from Jill and I helped by getting him the dial up modem he needed. Apparently the Rio Grande Valley is hurting for high speed connections in many of its smaller towns. I wouldn't have called Weslaco small but I guess compared to McAllen it is. That's the town we go to when we want to do large city shopping. Mom got sweet smelling bath and foot stuff from her grandkids and I got her a bit of quality chocolate. What I got for Christmas was a great time with my family, some candles from my niece, a huge bottle of this nice liquid scent diffuser from my nephew, some cash from Mom & Dad and an absolutely great digital camera from my wonderful sister. My family is also in the habit of sharing books with one another so I went home with two more to add to my reading. These are books of a meditative nature and I'm sure I'll enjoy them very much. Dad gave my sister and her kids the tennis ball machine he had which shoots balls across the court for you to hit. They will put that to good use.

Here is a picture of my beautiful sister and her handsome son. It was dark in the living room and I don't think they expected me to be taking images that quickly. The camera came with a really tiny memory card. A bigger one is on order thanks to the great post Christmas sales and some good advice from David McMahon of authorblog. While we were spending time together I got to teach Nate how to work Sudoku. He really likes them so I hope he keeps doing them. It was so wonderful to find out that he and I have lots in common. Jill took time to teach me how to hit a tennis ball. Maybe on the next visit I can improve on what she started.

Monday night we had a wonderful family music session. Music has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember. My sister has a new electric guitar at home but brought Dad's old folk guitar with her. My nephew received Dad's soprano Ukulele and we played and sang a few well remembered folk songs from when Jill and I were teenagers. Tuesday night Dad brought out his slides from when the family backpacked and sailed. We all enjoyed revisiting Colorado and the Bahamas thanks to his good photography. Because Dad's new computer came with an all in one printer I hope to be able to get some copies of his slides. There were some of the beautiful sunsets and scenery that I'd love to share.

The early mornings were quality time between my sister and me. One of us would go down to the cafeteria and bring back coffee and we would sit on our beds, reminisce and catch up on what was going on in our lives. I missed that from when we were growing up in the Valley and it was so special to be able to do that again.

This one on the left is my niece. Isn't she gorgeous? She plays soccer and also field hockey at her local high school. She has spent time working in her fathers veterinary hospital and loves animals as much as she loves people. I think she plans on going into some medical field but at this point I don't think she knows which one she wants to practice in yet. No worries, she is a sophomore and will have several years before she has to decide.

Last but not least, here is the reason for the visit to the Valley, my wonderful Mom. She is what makes our family the close knit and caring group it is. She was a teacher when she was younger and is responsible for my love of books. She is also a really good cook and sewed most of my clothes for many years. Mom can paint, do counted cross stitch, and plays a mean hand of bridge. Her present memberships include weekly bridge games and a monthly study group which she is preparing a presentation for in a few months.

My sister and I have decided to try to stay closer to home since this visit went so well. That means that I should be able to see her and various parts of my family from time to time. I'm really looking forward to the next trip. Nate said his Mom had to bring him down too so I think that everyone will be benefiting from this time we shared together and life will just get better for all of us from this point forward.

Merry, merry Christmas to all and may your New Year be all you could hope for.


murat11 said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip, and a wonderful Christmas present in itself. Great photos.

Happy New Year to you, Lee.

Lee said...

Thanks Paschal! It was a great Christmas gift. I am so blessed to have such a loving family.

May you and your family have a wonderful year in 2008.

San said...

I loved seeing the pictures of your family, Lee. Your mom and dad are real cuties. Everyone else is attractive too.

A hand-held labyrinth--what a great gift for your sister! She sounds like a very special person, as do her kids.

I'm so glad your visit was so perfect. May 2008 be VERY good to you!

Lee said...

Thanks San! Both my sister and my niece tried out that hand held labyrinth. My sister is indeed a good'un. I don't know what I'd have done with out her at times.

May your 2008 be awesome as well!

Peace! Hope! & Joy!

jsd said...

I'm glad you had a fantastic time with your family, and a beautiful family at that.

Lee said...

Thanks JS! I'm thrilled it went so well too. Its also nice to hear that in this case the beauty is not just in the eye of this beholder. :)

Thanks for taking me to the movies with you guys! What a great way to start the new year! Now I need to decide if that movie is one I want to add to a collection in the future.

Happy New Year!

david mcmahon said...

Dear Lee,

Thank you for that wonderful depiction of a great time spent with your family.

I guess the greatest Christmas gift of all is family - so we are incredibly blessed to have a clan to spend special moments with.

Nice to see the results of your camera work - believe me, it wouldn't hurt to display some of your pictures a little bigger, Lee.

Yes, you do sound like a proud aunt, but as a proud uncle myself, I give you the big thumbs up.

God bless and all the very best for 2008


Lee said...

Ah, Dear David,

Thank you for your lovely and thoughtful comments. You're right! Time with family at Christmas IS the best gift.

Ok, next time I'll set the image size to the larger images. :-) I was just nervous about having 5 images in one post.

Way to go proud uncle! Extended family has its own delights!

God bless you and yours, my friend!

Peace! Hope! & Joy!

Sandi McBride said...

What a wonderful reunion! It sounds as though you all had a wonderful time of it! I wish I had met you sooner, Lee.

Lee said...

:) I wish I'd met you sooner too, Sandi. But we've met NOW! And that's absolutely great!

Hugs till you don't need any more. :)