I have heard some people say before that with 11 people living at the same household, you shouldn't notice so much when one person is missing. I have never found this to be the case. Each member holds a special place in our household.
A large greeting committee gathered at the PDX airport on November 18th to await the arrival of their brother returning from a four month transfer to Malaysia. It was perhaps the largest group there, awaiting the homecoming of a loved one. Some people were amused by the enthusiastic waves coming from the youngest members of the family as the girls recognized the big bearded mountain man walking their way.
Austin recognized Jonathon's big flannel jacket but saw no familiarity in the face, hidden as it was behind all that scruff. Dad described Jonathon as looking like one of those faces you would see on the "FBI's top wanted list" :)
Annie and Ania were standing as close to the "Do Not Enter" sign as they could wanting to be the first ones to envelope Jonathon in a hug. The rest of us waited eagerly in line for our turns. Austin bragged to Jonathon that he was now officially taller then his big brother.
Even though Jonathon was a little dazed from his 24 hours of travel, he filled us in with stories the entire drive home. We had planned a special breakfast for Jonathon and were planning on feeding him with all of his favorite fall dishes whether he was hungry for it or not. Pumpkin pancakes with whipped cream were on the menu for his brunch, accompanied by a steaming hot cup of hazelnut coffee. Of course, the day's menu wouldn't have been complete without pumpkin sausage soup, bacon sourdough bread, and fresh apple cider. A pumpkin cheesecake was the last little touch to a lovely evening.
Much thought had been put into to the events of the day. Mom had purchased unshelled nuts at Winco and we had them sitting out in bowls waiting to be cracked later that night while we watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". Up in Jonathon's room, Austin had set up a Charlie Brown Christmas tree with Linus's blanket for a tree skirt and one lonely ornament hanging on the tree. There beside it was a Christmas mug with Charlie Brown sitting inside it...the first of the Christmas decorations to go up.
After a superb breakfast, Jonathon handed gifts to each of his family present. (Kayleen and Cosette were visiting Grandma and Grandpa in Redding at the time.) Each of us girls received a lovely Malaysian scarf from Sarawak and Dad and Austin were each given a souvenir from Germany to commemorate the Reformation.
Only three days after Jonathon's return, we made a trip to Redding to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family. It was the fist time in four months that we were going to be a complete family again.
We left a despondent Bear moping in his crate as we loaded up the van for the 7 hour drive.
Six of us adults camped out in Grandma's living room that week. Sometimes we would sit out on the porch at dark and enjoy months-worth of catching up with each other. Other times, we would stay up till the AM hours watching cheesy holiday movies together. No matter what we did, it felt so good to all be back together again!
It took Jonathon a little bit of time to recover from his jet lag...it was nice that he had a week to recover before returning to work.
Twenty-nine family members were able to make it to this Thanksgiving feast at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Before Dad said the prayer for the meal, he announced to everybody that this would probably be Charae's last Thanksgiving with the family. (of course making the acknowledgement that our family is a little bit of a late bloomer :D )
We set up the Thanksgiving feast in the garage and enjoyed a most delicious feast. With all of the cousins having new little babies, they were the center of the Thanksgiving Day for some people :)
The following day, boxes were pulled out of Grandma's shed and we decked her home for the holidays. Dad and Jonathon worked on hanging a shelf that Dad had built for her birthday up in her kitchen. Grandma had wanted an area to display the plates that she and Grandpa have collected over the years from all of their travels.
Grandpa enjoyed taking his grandchildren for rides throughout the day in his Model A. The model of this car is the exact model of the first car he purchased at age 14.
Our last day in Redding, the family came together once again for a very special celebration: Grandma's 80th birthday. It was a small way that we could show Grandma what a precious part of the family she is to everybody!
Sara had made an elaborate cake for her: apple caramel (Grandma's favorite ;)
The next day, Grandma's house was cleared out and it returned to its normal, quiet, organized state as our family returned home.
I am convinced that we will always have fond memories of the cramped seven hour drive to Redding, sharing Grandma's two bedroom, two bathroom house with 13 individuals, taking up every square inch of floor space with sleeping bags and luggage; the general chaos at lunch time when Grandma's kitchen is taken over by many different hands making a mess of her spotless kitchen, and the volume in Grandma's calm house increasing a great deal over those five days. Even though it can be kind of crazy sharing such a small space with so many people, it is a time filled with many memories for me!
Now, the Christmas festivities have begun in the Spafford household. We arrived home from Redding around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday and made quick work of unpacking and cleaning up. It had been the goal of some people to have the house fully decorated by nighttime....and so it was. By 11 that evening, the house was aglow with the warm gleam of Christmas lights. Garland was strung over every possible cupboard and fireplace. A collection of snowmen and other Christmas nick knacks were placed for display in little cubbie holes and stockings were hung from the balusters.
Christmas packages now arrive at the door almost every day and are immediately sent up to "Santa's wrapping workshop" and then placed under the tree to be counted and shaken every which way.
Christmas music is playing all hours of the day and the whole feel of the house makes it the best place to be for Christmas!
Our school projects now center around the holidays. Before we had even reached December 1st, the kiddos, Mom and I had read through Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", each one of us reading parts to different characters in the story. The other day, we went shopping for supplies to fill care packages for our soldiers as a thank you to them for the sacrifice they are making for our freedom. Christmas must be an especially difficult time for them to be away from their homes and families.
Merry Christmas, everybody!