In the afternoon, on Christmas Eve, we drove the two and a half hours to the valley for the annual Christmas Eve party with Sarah's extended family. I have come to love these large family get togethers down in the valley. Sarah's extended family is really awesome. In past years we have mostly gathered at Umpa and Grandma Fusano's house in Sylmar, although one year we all went up the Perito's in Acton, CA. But long, long before I became associated with Sarah, and by extension, the greater Fusano confederacy they all gathered each year in this basement. This is the house where Umpa and his siblings grew up, and for years and years (like when Sarah was a little girl) this was the family gathering place at Christmas time. The house is currently home to Umpa's sister, Aunt Ange, and just for old time's sake they decided to do the Christmas eve party down in the basement again this year. Literally, nobody had been down in the basement for over twenty years, not since the last Christmas eve party, and I'm told that when they went back down into the basement it was still decorated for Christmas just exactly as it had been over twenty years ago. They dusted everything down, plugged in the lights, and turned on the gas to the range. Presto! The place was ready to go. It was very, very, very nostalgic for Sarah who remembered the basement as a magical place from the tender days of her youth. I have to say I really liked it down there. Kind of close quarters, but somehow that added to the fun. It was fun to imagine Sarah as a little girl running around and waiting for Santa. Sarah kept coming to me all night with stories and memories, which the nostalgic venue had awoken in her. It was really cute.
Hanging out before the food. I can't tell you how many times I heard people say something like "It's just how I remember it." That's because, as I've already said, it was exactly the same as they remembered it. Literally nothing had changed in that basement since the last Christmas party more than two decades ago.
The Christmas Eve spread! I love that stuff. Sarah's family does food right.
Why are those kids above so excited?
Santa! This year (and last year) Santa was played by the incomparable Cliff Sutherland who is married to Sarah's cousin Diana. He did an awesome job. I especially appreciated his prayer before handing out gifts. Cliff's version of Santa is very Christ-centered. I liked it.
Sarah was the hottest girl there.
Here's everybody watching Santa and the kids.
All the kids got stuffed animals that are somehow interactive online. I guess you go to some site and enter a code and it will tell you all about your specific pet and how to take care of it and stuff, or something like that. I dunno. This year, Rosie and Justin, didn't want to rush up to Idyllwild late on Christmas Eve after the party, which makes sense, and they have been great sports making the exhausting late-night trek up to our house the past couple of years. So we stayed down in the valley this year so we could enjoy the holiday together. Nanny's house is a little too small to accommodate all of us so we asked Umpa and G.G. if we could sleep at their house, which is right down the street. On their suggestion, we ended up doing Christmas Morning at Umpa's house as well, which worked out perfectly. Lots of room.
Lots of screaming, oohing, ahhing, paper shredding, and delighted squeals.
I think Jack's favorite present was a cheap little dragon he found in his stocking. He more or less ignored with his bigger presents and just focused on that little dragon. Who knew? I love that little boy.
Nanny got the kids things to ride this year. Lucy got a fancy new bike with training wheels, Jack got a big wheel, and Bowden got a razor scooter. They were big hits.
Sarah was the hottest girl there.
We drove back up to Idyllwild on the morning of the 26th, and were delighted to find all of our gifts from the Tates back east waiting under our tree. With all of the excitement we had almost forgotten about them, and the kids were very excited to have a mini-Christmas to welcome them home. Christine, the sock toys were ridiculously awesome! I was impressed by them very much!