Monday, January 3, 2011
Time (off) well spent

Yesterday marked the end of our shared winter break (Kelley's back to work today, me not so much), and before "life" resumes in full we wanted one last stroll through what was a thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable couple of weeks...

We left town about as soon as possible—Kelley's semester ended on a Friday afternoon, and we were in Chicago by Saturday evening—for visits with family and various friends. Kelley always comments that these December trips to the Midwest are great because she gets the experience of winter without the reality; she can watch for a week the cute and glistening white flurries from the warm side of the window, and not have to mess with the daily shoveling and scraping and mushy gray muck. This was neatly encapsulated in the evening we drove out to Karl and Kristen's home for dinner. A storm whipped about and dropped four inches of snow in the span of a few hours; the drive was a bit perilous—visibility low and tires' grip poor. While I drove and, before the return leg, defrosted and deiced the car, Kelley sat comfortably and toastily watched it all unfold. Of course, the weather was secondary to the company: it's a great joy to catch up with an old friend and to see how he and his wonderful bride are getting on.

We later met up with Anne in the city and coursed through Evanston and the surrounding towns in which she grew up and now works. The attraction for Kelley was the chance to see and strike a pose in front of the house from the "Home Alone" movies. Me being me, I was less giddy, and when a car pulled up and parked behind us I was sure that out would step some annoyed neighbors to tell us to get. Instead it was a trio of teenaged tourists from (presumably) Germany there to take a snap of the house, too. So perhaps it is something to see. After that we stopped in at the place Anne was housesitting—or rather, mansionsitting. Eight bedrooms, seven bathrooms, wallpaper that matches the upholstery that matches the carpet in that creepy old manor sort of fashion. I asked why such a family would have all this but skimp on the television sets; the ones I'd seen were of average size. "You haven't seen the basement yet," Anne replied. She guided us down the stairs and into what looked like the front room from "Silver Spoons"—a vast space full of games (pingpong, pop-a-shot, foosball, air hockey, as well as the more modern video-game consoles) and a second kitchen. Still, the TV was pedestrian. Then we entered a side room to find, in two rows of four, brown leather recliners facing a movie-theater screen, the sort of thing that likely measured in feet rather than inches. "Oh, right," I mumbled. We could have stayed there for hours, not just for that but to be with such a gracious and fun-loving friend. Knowing Anne is right up there with my degree as the best thing to come out of my time at college.

Then there's my family. (sigh) I do so love my family, and seeing them this time of year is bliss. We go out to dinner, we catch a movie, we sit around the house and chat—being around them is the best, and doing nothing is as good as anything. Christmas Eve saw the Hutchisons and Wiedemans and Hartlers together for a scrumptious dinner and some present swapping. The Kindle and Giants World Series DVDs and ornaments and Jon's magic red manila folder were all lovely. These people, though, are the real gifts. I am lucky to have been raised and be loved and supported by such a group.

We flew back to California on Christmas night, and this past week spent loads of time with Kelley's friends and family. I joked about staying in one night after our return to rest, and Kelley chided me: "Don't you know this is my favorite week of the year?!" With so many from the old Sunnyvale crew now working as teachers, these school breaks are the only extended periods during which they can get together. And, boy, do they have fun. On Monday evening we gathered at Alison and Adam's new place to eat well (yummy lasagna, Kevin!) and play a few games (nice drawings, Scott). While we're on the subject: the hybridization of Pictionary and the telephone game is ingenious and fall-out-of-your-chair hilarious, and recommended to all. Tuesday night some of us bowled (badly), and then on Wednesday we caravaned to Napa. This day trip is fast becoming a tradition: the scenery and the wine cannot be beat. Like last year, Peju was the most fun (with the most-fun pourer), but no matter where we went, there were stories and snapshots and laughs. It was a real, er, corker.

The topper tends to be New Year's Eve, once again hosted by that dapper chap Michael at his place in San Francisco. Kelley and I went up early to dine with Shelby at a place called Park Chow. At the party, there were drinks (including the same champag—I mean, sparkling wine the Giants celebrated with), food (including Rice Krispies treats made with Kix cereal instead), more games (Ten Fingers, or See Ya, Sara), and, for a brief time on the television, the entrancing moves of NKOTBSB. The night did not end till 4am, after a maddening time trying to hail a cab to Lauren's place across town. Five hours later Kelley and I were up and heading to Oakland for a day of college football and meat and sloth with Chris and Tiffany and, in from Washington, TBall. Michigan was garbage, but the mimosas and sausages and ribs and RichRod/Groban weirdness were terrific. This past week we were all too aware that we do not see this array of close friends nearly enough. If ever there was a resolution for 2011...

On New Year's Eve, Eric shared his notion that 2010 had been his best year—he and Kim were married, and the Giants won the Series—and reckoned that 2011 would be mine. The Cubs surely won't fare any better than fourth in the division, but he is nonetheless correct. After all, in July, barring an arrival at her senses, I will wed the most loving and beautiful and fun and selfless and just darn cute woman in the wide world. Wait ... July ... that's only a few months away—and there's much work yet to do. While Kelley resumes the teacher's grind, I have a comparatively light semester ahead and will be doing my best Franck Eggelhoffer impression. It promises to be a great weekend, and indeed a great year.

Here we go.

Posted by Chris at 9:49 AM | 1 comments