Schaefer Holiday Tour, 2004-2005

The Schaefer's just returned from our annual holiday pilgrimage. Each year we make the rounds to see the Grandparents and this year we even added in two stops along the way compared to last year to see some old friends. It's about 1,700 miles, four states, four Grandparents, three Great-Grandmothers and various aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

We left Christmas eve afternoon after opening presents from Santa (He comes early to our house because he knows we have to go to Grandma and Grandpa's) and got back late on the 2nd. First stop my family in Maumee, OH. Mom and Dad still live in the house I did most my growing up in, they've lived there for 28 1/2 years. Family traditions are huge in my family so Christmas there is full of tradition. It starts with a Christmas eve service at church. We got a late start from Columbus, the roads were bad and service was earlier this year, so we missed that.

After church we prepare for family and friends to arrive for snacks and Tom and Jerrys. A Tom and Jerry is a drink made with hot water, a shot of something (A whiskey and gin mix, I think. I drink mine sans alcohol and Dad mixes the drinks, so I don't know), hot water and a batter made with eggs and confectioner's sugar. (I can get the recipe if anyone's interested.) Good, sweet and warm. There are plenty of snacks (home made cookies, cheese balls, crackers, etc.) and friends and family. The festivities don't start until after the kids are in bed around 8:30 or 9:00. There's usually 14 or so of us and we all sit around the dining room table and laugh and laugh. My great grandfather used to do this years ago and my Dad took over after that. He's been doing it as long as I can remember. One day it will pass to me, hopefully long from now.

After our friends leave around 11:00 or so, the family cleans up a bit and then we gather around the Christmas tree to exchange family presents. Mom and Dad start by giving out one present of their choice. The recipient opens it and then chooses one of their gifts to give. We go on like that until about 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning. Fun stuff, lots of laughter.

The kids get up around 7:00, ready to open theirs. They take turns opening one at time, no chaos and flying wrapping paper at the Schaefer house.

This year was extra special. My Grandmother's birthday is on Christmas eve, so it's a part of the celebration too. This year, she turned 90 so my Mom threw a party on Sunday. Not a surprise party, somehow 40 or 50 people yelling 'SURPRISE!' at a 90 year old woman didn't seem like a good idea. But it was a bit of a surprise as she didn't expect so many people. The immediate family yes, but extended family and folks from her job, no. Yes I said job, my 90 year old grandmother works. nights. For about 40 years she's been the head usher at the Stranahan theater, the place where the Toledo Symphony plays, all the Broadway shows come and many concerts. My Grandma has seen more concerts than I have, by a real long shot. She saw Adam Ant when I was in High School. I didn't.

Grandma has always been a blessing to our family. She's always looking for some way to help. Even at 90, you're likely to find grandma at the sink doing dishes after dinner. If my Mom got sick, she would bring over her Chop Suey for us to eat. Even now, she's likely to be helping Mom and Dad by running to the store for them or something. In all my life, I've never heard her express any need or desire. Take her out to dinner and she'll order the least expensive thing on the menu. Give her a menu without prices (we tried it once) and she'll order chicken because she knows its cheap. That's her at the right with my uncle Jack. Uncle Jack would be about 71 now, so I'm guessing that picture is about 60 years old. Grandma was quite attractive in her day.

We left Maumee on Monday morning the 27th and drove to Peru, IL to meet our best friends who had left Columbus for Wisconsin about a year ago. We miss them greatly and they miss us too so we arranged to meet for a night in northern Illinois. During our stay, we had a scare in the hotel pool. Our youngest, Audrey sliped off of the pool steps and was under water for a bit until Maria noticed her and jumped in and grabbed her. She spit up water and cried a lot, but was fine. It gives me chills thinking about it now.

We ate take out and snacks in the room and played canasta with our friends while the kids watched a DVD accross the hall untill they fell asleep. One night in a hotel in the middle of nowhere, $78. Dinner and snacks, $50. Friends that will drive 4.5 hours one way just to spend 12 hours with you in a hotel in a strange town, priceless. We hope that this will be a new holiday tradition.

We drove the rest of the way to Moberly, MO on the 28th and spent up until the 2nd with Maria's family. Usually our family of 5 stays with Maria's Mom and Dad along with Maria's Brother's family of four. Her Mom and Dad's apartment is about 800 square feet. Cozy is a big understatement. This year, we stayed with Maria's youngest brother about 2 miles from her Mom and Dad's house while her other brother stayed with Mom and Dad. I think it was good for the sanity of all concerned. On Thursday we took a road trip to Rushville Illinois and back to visit Maria's grandmother, a Steeves (Maria's family) family holiday tradition. We did Christmas at Maria's youngest brother's house on Friday afternoon, throwing our crumpled up wrapping paper into the ceiling fan as is our tradition. Another tradition for Maria's brothers and I is playing capture the flag on Driver 2 on PS 1. We laugh ourselves silly.

On Saturday afternoon we drove down to see friends of ours who used to live in Columbus. They moved to Columbia, about 45 miles from Maria's family, about 3 years ago. We hadn't seem them for two years and it was good to catch up. They used to go to church with us and attend a sister church in Columbia. It was good to visit with them about all that our churches have been through in the past 2 years. We met with them and Maria's youngest brother and Mom for dinner at Steak and Shake and then headed back to Moberly.

On Sunday the 2nd we headed for home. After nearly 11 hours on the road, including dinner at Bob Evans, we arrived home at 9:45 PM and back to real life after a whirlwind tour full of driving, family, friends and laughter.

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