White Christmas comes to Larchmont!

We started out our Christmas activities most successfully by constructing gingerbread houses. We had tried this a year or so ago with considerably less success - starting out trying to construct Buckingham Palace and ending up with an A-frame cabin that Ted Kaczynski would have turned his nose up at. This time we were armed with lessons learned from our first attempt and everything went much more smoothly. The one on the left below is a joint family effort; the other was made by Toni's friend Irene.

L-D family residence

Irene's dwelling

Santa made his accustomed deliveries. The girls got cards from their current celebrity squeezes, Jimmie Fallon and Vin Diesel. They also got assorted books, games, DVDs, candy and clothes.

We spent our customary Christmas eve in Paramus at the house of Alyce Stein. As usual, we had a truly wonderful meal, cooked by the combined gourmet chefs of Alyce, Bill, Tom and Victoria. We encountered a few flakes of snow on the way home, but they tapered off when we reached New York. We pronounced that it wouldn’t amount to anything and the kids were disappointed.

We had been planning to eat our Christmas meal at home and had bought a nice capon for the occasion. However, our good friends the Roques called us and urged us to join them for a joint meal. We accepted with pleasure and piled into our car for the half-mile drive over to their house with our food steaming in the back of the car. There were about a dozen of us there, including an uncle of Jorge's from Portugal who spoke little English but could converse with me in French or Louise in Spanish. Barbara's mother was there, who speaks excellent English but whose first language is French. To cap the international flavor, Barbara's brother called from Riyadh through the Internet which was cool and free, but very hard to hear.

At some point, Barbara pointed out that it was snowing. Yeah, yeah, we said. No, I really mean it, she said and led us to the front porch where we saw to our amazement that our car had turned into a large white lump. Do you really think that you will be leaving for St. Louis first thing tomorrow morning? Well, we had been planning to fly to St. Louis and drive over to Mt. Vernon Il, to celebrate Louise's Mom's 85th birthday, but we had to admit that the prospect of being able to do that tomorrow morning seemed remote now.

Rather than worry about tomorrow, we decided to return to the table to eat ourselves silly. The food was excellent, as was the company. We ate the gingerbread house which had taken so long to make. Finally, the time came to leave. In the fog of departure, I managed to forget that I had brought a coat with me, so I left without it. The snow was deep and wet and driving was tough. Our house is on a little hill - not much of one under normal circumstances, but it turned out to be insuperable under these conditions. After slipping and sliding and being pushed and trying everything else we could think of, we just abandoned the car where it was and walked the couple of blocks to the house. At this point, I realized that I didn't have my coat, which was unfortunate as we were fighting a hard wind and driving snow. By the time I made the house, I was fuming and cursing and looked more like a snowman than a man.

Louise called the airline and they were happy to reschedule us for the following day, the 27th. We all breathed a sigh of relief and turned off our alarm clocks and went to bed.

Next day, we enjoyed our stolen hours and slept late. When we finally got up, the weather was fine and the snow-scapes delightful. All was not well, however: one cypress we had planted eight years ago in front of our house and which had grown to about 12 feet couldn't stand the weight of the wet snow and the trunk had snapped, and a neighbor's tree had shed a limb into our yard. We went to get the car but to our dismay could not find it. Perhaps it was towed in order to get the snow-plows through? We called the police to check this possibility but they said they had no record of towing it. Finally, we were able to reconstruct what street we had left it on and we went and dug it out and were able to get it home OK. Soon after we returned, we got a visit from the police, who had been driving around looking for our car too and were not amused to find it sitting in our driveway.

On the 27th, we got up at 4:30 and set off for La Guardia. The streets had all been plowed and the drive went smoothly, as did the flight except for Toni mysteriously throwing up on the plane. In St. Louis, we rented a car ($20 a day from Avis - what a deal!) and drove the hour and one half to Mt. Vernon where we checked into our hotel. The hotel was a former Holiday Inn that had seen better days and was now slowly decaying. After quickly unpacking, we went over to Louise’s family for lunch.

After lunch, Louise suddenly had an attack of nausea. (Is she sick of her relatives? Or is this a continuation of Toni's stomach bug? If the latter, who is next?) She took to her bed for a couple of hours while Toni tried to learn a few tricks from Dan as a future pool shark.

Later in the afternoon, Phyllis, Louise's Mom, arrived from Greentree, which is the assisted living place where she now lives. First, Rick took innumerable pictures of the family group in various configurations. Then Christmas presents were exchanged, with Louise getting this fine multipurpose shawl/boa/neck-warmer thing modeled below by Louise and Toni.

Family group

Louise models scarf

Toni models scarf

Following Christmas presents, Phyllis got to open her birthday presents, and then we turned our attention to dinner. George and Rick cooked a genuine Polish meal – delicious mushroom soup, followed by kielbasa, pierogies and veggies. At the end came a huge birthday cake covered with black frosting roses.

Kathy shows Picasso scarf

Peter looks disapproving


Phyllis opens presents

Phyllis seemed frail and was constantly tiring and wanting to rest, none of which is surprising in a lady of 85 years. The general level of jollity might have made things a little worse for her and she was relieved to go home once dinner was over.

Wrapping up the festivities, we drew for the grab bag for 2003, resulting in the following:

and returned to our decaying hotel.

The next day, the 28th, we hung out at Paul and Roberta's. In the late afternoon, we went over to have dinner with Phyllis at Greentree with the old ladies. Suddenly, a disturbing question occured to us: What have they done with all of the old men? After pondering this issue for a while, we concluded that they are probably just being used as sex slaves and are resting up in their bedrooms. What a life! Anyway, the food is OK and the facilities very nice, including a room with a cage full of colorful tropical birds.

Finally, we said our good-byes and returned to the hotel to pack. Now comes the part we had been dreading - setting a wake-up call for 2:30 a.m. so that we can drive to St. Louis, turn in the rental car, and run for the plane, which departs at 5:45. We ran into a hitch going through security - both Louise and Peter were singled out as potential terrorists and had to fork over their shoes while their kids looked on, vastly amused. (Perhaps because we flew out on American but were returning on Delta, so the computer though we were suicide bombers with no need for a return flight.) But we made the flight, which goes to Cincinnati where we had to change planes, and thence to La Guardia. Everything went smoothly back to the house where our cats gave us an enthusiastic welcome.

The year finally ended with the customary excess of food and drink. Below, Toni and Win get into the spirit of things and Jorge and Bill engage in intense philosophical discussions at 2 a.m.

Toni and Win

Bill and Jorge

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