One year in Port Hope, with some of the kids coming home for a special occasion, I dubbed the parsonage the Party Plaza of Exitomania. A proper announcement with the tantalizing title was affixed to my office door, which was next to the foyer.
This year, that wacky Julie revived it, making a sign for our front door. We now live in the Party Plaza of Exitomania 2. I fully intend to have the sign remain right where it is. Let all who come to our house marvel at the sight of it.
Not only did our kids grow up and go out on their own, they spread out around the country. Family gatherings became a challenge. It was in 2009 that we last enjoyed having more than one of them with us for Christmas. This year, both Jackie and Alex would not be with their kids, so Jackie drove across town, and Alex came down from Michigan.
It has been years since Julie and I bought Christmas presents. Usually, our tree’s underneath is bare. One year, while in Port Hope, we didn’t even have a tree, receiving our enjoyment from the two huge ones in church.
To make special this Christmas-with-kids, we set out to buy gifts. Julie came up with some useful and fun items for both, while I purchased their favorite snack foods. All were wrapped, so they both had a half-dozen to open.
As usual, I didn’t buy anything for Julie, and I was sure that she had not purchased anything for me.
I would be wrong.
Being from Michigan, I have seen way more white Christmases than not. Among them, there was the one in Port Hope where we entered 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve worship from the grassy outdoors, only to exit worship just after midnight to a blanket of white and those so-romantic, huge, fluffy flakes. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it better.
This was our fourth Christmas in Indianapolis. Indy does not get many a snowy Yuletide. The day before Christmas Eve, we got a nice tease of snow to cover our grass. That was preparation for the two inches we received Sunday afternoon, providing us with an officially-white Christmas.
On Friday, I will post an updated piece about our family pizza recipe, and the reason my blog is called Eilers Pizza. This dish has become a holiday favorite. It’s not that we save it for holidays; it’s because it is a bit of a chore to create.
On Christmas Eve, we sat down to it. Then snacked on it in the evening. And for breakfast on Christmas. And for lunch the day after. And every bite was as satisfying as the last.
I come from a long line of card players. When family gathered for whatever the occasion, we found ourselves gathering at the kitchen table for cards, gathering into our hands one hand after another.
Thankfully, our kids fell for our card tricks. Where, in my youth, canasta was the game of choice, for years it has been shanghai for us.
Here is the version we play, except that we changed two of the hands because we found them too easy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_rum
Instead of the first hand being two sets and the fourth hand three sets, we play it as three and four sets. The four-set hand is cutthroat shanghai!
Each day of the three day weekend, Julie, Jackie, Alex and I found our way to the dining room table. Alas, I came up on the short end of every game.
The surprise gift
The kids had wrapped up unwrapping presents, when Julie slipped out of the room. She reappeared with a large, skinny, wrapped box, and presented it to me.
I asked her when she bought this. She said it was at least a couple of months ago, and that when it arrived I had brought it into the house and asked her what it was. She said that she played dumb and I didn’t press her, and then after she removed the box to the basement I never inquired. Now, yes, I recalled the oddly shaped box’s arrival.
I began to open it. I got the edge unwrapped, which was only visible to me, revealing “Skittle Bowl.” I looked at Julie. She smiled widely. I started crying. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
At once, I was the kid who got the gift which seemed that it would forever remain in the wildest of dreams.
Skittle Bowl came out when I hit the teenage years. I don’t recall the Christmas I got it, but I suspect I was fourteen, in 1971. I was the only kid in the house who cared for the game, and I played it like crazy. Because of the pins hitting the plastic tray, it makes a racket. I was never allowed to play it anywhere but in a bedroom, with the door closed.
I never knew what happened to that game. I grew up. I moved out. It stayed home. Mom died. Dad married Louise. Louise had a garage sale. That’s all I can imagine.
I don’t know what made me think of it a few months ago, but I googed the quest, to see if it were being manufactured. It is not. I showed Julie and told her of my love for the game. I especially like it for two reasons. First, I’ve always loved bowling. Second, I find this the best home version of bowling because it is contained in a small area.
Not to mention that it is extremely challenging. Strikes and spares are not gimmes.
When I showed it to Julie online, she acted unimpressed but, being the Jewelee that she is, she quietly went to work searching for the game at a good price. Hello, eBay!
Skittle Bowl capped off what was a marvelous retro Christmas, one with all of the elements of Christmases past—from kids at home, to snow on the ground, to Eilers Pizza, to playing cards, to wonderful surprise gifts.
Most importantly, it was all wrapped up in the reason for this pleasin’. We had Jackie’s kids with us long enough to take them to church with us, to sing Oh, Come All Ye Faithful, and O Little Town of Bethlehem, and close with candles lit for Silent Night. We heard the Christmas story, and our pastor told us what child is this we worship, the babe of Bethlehem who grew up to be the Christ on the cross and the Victor over the grave, the One who loves to bestow upon us His eternal life.