We flew back to Virginia for Thanksgiving this year. Aside from the flights themselves, the trip was wonderful. We flew out on Thursday night (arrive at midnight EST) and returned 10 days later on a 7 am Sat morning flight. During the trip we got to experience some snowfall/sleet-fall, spent lots of time with cousins and visited the zoo on a beautiful fall day and the natural history museum on a chillier one. The Friday after Thanksgiving, we braved the crowds to fulfill our yearly pilgrimage to see the Christmas trains at the Botanical Gardens. Afterwards we headed to the National Gallery of Art where we ate lunch in the Cascade Cafe for a thousand dollars and then dragged the kids away from the gift shop and through the actual exhibits. The boys actually did enjoy some of the war-oriented art and a painting depicting a young man being attacked by a shark while men in a boat attempted rescue. Apparently the painting was based on an actual event (the kid lost a leg). Claire managed to step into one of the fountain displays due to my lack of proper supervision but was pretty stoic about having a drenched leg in jegging. If it had been one of her brothers we would have needed police and ambulance assistance.
Thanksgiving itself was the typical chaotic scene of kids everywhere, parents trying to coax their young into eating, etc. I made two pies: cherry and pecan. The cherry, with its homemade crust and multi-step filling, was a labor of love and did not disappoint. The pecan was good, too, but even I preferred the cherry. Mom's butternut squash soup was delicious but we will never know how to make it since there is more butter and cream in it than she wants to admit. I also made rolls but since we had only one oven and some had to be frozen the night before and baked that day after the turkeys were out they were a bit of a disappointment to me. Katie's beast of a dog Milkshake only managed to eat one when she jumped up on the counter. Small price to pay for the reminder to keep food well out of her broad range. Brigham and I made sure to have the stuffing he loves so much and made enough to last for weeks. It probably got tossed by my carb-avoidant mom after we left. I realized not for the first time that I put way too much stock into how good the food tastes. We forgot to sing any Thanksgiving hymns until later that night (but we did it!) and I found myself thinking that someday when I had kids of my own I would dress them up as pilgrims and Indians. Yep. Maybe it'll be a grandma thing. I will be a great grandma after having practiced on my kids.
I had a few specific goals for our trip back home. I wanted to see friends, which I did; I wanted to eat with Brigham at Coastal Flats, where we both ordered the shrimp and grits; and I wanted to spend time in DC. Overall I would say I felt like we did a decent job of using the time wisely. It was hard to return back to Houston, but I felt a redoubled sense of determination to integrate myself and the kids as fully into our lives here as possible. At the wreath-decorating event the Mc2nd RS held the first Sat morning, I was reminded of how many wonderful people were all around me for so many years and it was so nice to see them again and I wished I had better taken advantage when I lived here. The same is certainly true anywhere, and I hope that it tears our hearts a bit to leave Houston someday, too. I am so grateful to the friendships I have forged over the years and am regretful about the ones I allowed to lapse a bit through inattention. It doesn't take much--a dinner once a year, even--to keep people in your life. Wish I'd figured that out a decade ago.
We arrived back in Houston at 9 am, trekked back to our house and immediately departed for our Christmas tree hunt. I am glad we chopped our trees in the past when we could bc that isn't happening here. We found a nice big one and had a lot of fun starting our Christmas season with getting it up and strung with lights. We have decorated it over intervening days but there are more ornaments and thus opportunities to capture attractive photos of the children with a real, as opposed to a phone, camera.
The one overarching feeling I had during the entire week in Virginia, though, was one of deeply noticing the absence of my dad. Something about returning after being away made me miss him even more. I think he would be really happy to know where we are all in our lives but I think he hates not being here for it. In a way I am glad that the holidays, and trips to DC or McDonalds or morning breakfasts at 7916, have all lost a bit of their savor without him because it keeps him with us a bit more.