Words, Words, Words

December 25, 2000

Today is not Christmas, or at least it's not the day I celebrated Christmas. That was Friday, when my sister and her family were in Maryland. They're spending the actual holiday up in New York with her in-laws, so we got together and opened presents early. (They don't always spend Dec. 25th up there; sometimes we get them, sometimes they do. No big deal.)

This year, I put off my Christmas shopping until the last minute, which meant I had to go out Tuesday and find presents for everyone. To make matters worse, neither of the presents that I'd ordered for Caroline had come. I decided that those could be birthday presents (she was born Jan. 2nd), but that left me with the task of finding quick replacements. I fell back on a simple plan: everyone gets chocolate. The adults got the good stuff, and the kids got to eat Santa. I then went to the bookstores, where I got Galileo's Daughter for my mother and a copy of The Chick's In The Mail for my sister. (The next day Marie saw me reading Asimov's and mentioned that she didn't usually like reading short stories. Oh well.) I quickly reallocated the Oz book I'd planned to buy from Heather to Caroline, and passed a children's store on the way to Borders, where I found a floor-sized jigsaw puzzle, so that crisis was averted. I was pretty cold and wet and sore by the time I got home, though.

I met Marie, Heather, and my mother after work Wednesday at a Chinese restaurant near Arena Stage, where we were seeing a musical adaptation of Twelfth Night based on the work of Duke Ellington. I found the music much more successful than the story; Vi and Rev (the analogs of Viola and Malvolio) were annoying, not a characteristic you want your romantic leads to have. (And from the fact that they turned Malvolio into a romantic hero, you can tell this was a very loose adaptation.) My mother and my sister both cared more about the music than the story, so they enjoyed it more than me. Heather was amazingly well-behaved for a six-year-old. She made no noise during the performance and only fidgeted a little bit. (The old ladies on the other side from me were another matter. They didn't heed the shushing sound I made early on, and with an empty seat between us it was hard to catch their attention without bothering the other patrons. When intermission finally came I leaned over and said, "Will you two please be quiet during the performance?", and they acted shocked, shocked!, that anyone could have been bothered by them. But they did shut up during the second half, for which I was grateful. Unfortunately there was nothing to be done about the perfumed lady in the row in front of me, since the Geneva Convention on chemical warfare inexplicably excludes theatrical performances.)

I was pleased to see Heather reading Ella Enchanted at the Chinese restaurant, a book I'd left at my mother's house last year. It looks like she's finally reading well enough to make shopping for her really easy, particularly since I know a lot of good children's books that the rest of my family probably hasn't read.

Thursday was devoted to last-minute Christmas shopping. John (my brother-in-law) and I stayed home with the girls, who were pretty active. I definitely do not have the temperament for fatherhood; I let John take care of keeping an eye on them and refereeing their arguments while I napped or read my book. In the afternoon John's older sister Barbara arrived, and in the evening everyone but me went to see The Nutcracker. I stayed home, watched television, read some more, and wrapped all my Christmas presents. There was a brief flare-up when the girls came back and one saw that the other had gotten a bigger present from me (actually, I'd tried hard to make their presents equal, but a couple of them were in a different pile). There were all sorts of jealous outbursts over what seemed like trivial inequalities this weekend, which I was glad not to have to deal with.

Friday was the day we opened presents, which took a while because everyone had to get up, and then we waited while John made some orange cinnamon rolls. Heather refused to believe they were home-made, just because they came in a cardboard tube. My mother tried to explain that they just poured all the different ingredients into the tube and shook it all up, but Heather remained skeptical. Caroline was willing to believe it, though, as long as she got her Christmas presents afterward. I pointed out that they had to be a traditional family recipe because they were burned on bottom, but Barbara blamed John for leaving them in too long. Finally we all moved out to the living room.

I did all right this year, in terms of what I got--a lot of clothing, a few books, and two games. We only had time to play one of the games, Quiddler, but it was a success. The idea is that you have progressively larger hands (the first round is three cards, and the last is ten) of cards with letters on them, which you have to form into words. Each card is worth a certain number of points when used in a word, plus there are bonuses for having the most words in a round and the longest word in a round. I did well when playing with just my mother, less well in a three-person game with my sister; there's a lot of luck involved, but skill also plays a big role. (There were complaints that I knew words like "quern", but there are always complaints. My family once complained that I was blinking too loudly during a game of Boggle.)

My father also promised to pay for me to go to one science fiction convention, which calls for some thought. I could have him pay for one of the conventions I was already planning to go to, of course, but that doesn't seem quite in the spirit of Christmas. I hadn't been planning to go to any conventions outside the East Coast this year, so perhaps something farther afield might be a good idea. If I went to a con in Los Angeles I could see some friends and try out for Jeopardy! on the same trip; on the other hand, the biggest L.A. con I know is over Thanksgiving weekend, which is not when I want to travel. There was a convention for online journalers which debuted last year; if that repeats, it might be a good chance to meet people. OTOH, I don't always like meeting people. It's a bit of a puzzle.

Saturday morning Marie, John, Barbara, and the kids left for New York. I hung around Columbia long enough to play games of Streetcar and Empire Builder with my mother, then went home. I didn't get to spend as much time visiting as I would have liked, but Marie and the others are moving to Maryland next year, so I should be able to see them pretty often. It was a nice enough Christmas.

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