Christmas in Wisconsin

Mon Dec 30th, 2002 12:38:20 AM EST

Diary Entry 121
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In which I spend the week of Christmas with my girlfriend's family in Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, Christmas Eve, I flew from San Francisco to Madison by way of St. Louis. Weather in San Francisco was fine, but St. Louis was covered in snow. Only one runway was operating. When I arrived, three flights were listed on the board at the gate for my flight out; my flight was the third. All were shown ``on time'' at first. Then the first was delayed, then the second, then mine. Then the first was canceled, and I held my breath. And then we got on the plane. After a long delay for deicing, we took off, and finally arrived in Madison, where the weather was cold and clear and the ground free of snow. Kate and her sister Sarah were waiting for me right outside security. We picked up my bags at the carousel and they drove me back to their family's home in Reedsburg, about an hour's drive. I unpacked and set the presents I'd brought under the tree in the living room.

I met Kate's parents Dave and Pam. And of course there were the cats: Khayyam, the older and larger one, friendly, covered with narrow black and white bands with hints of orange, and Zoey, younger, small, timid and easily startled, white under the chin, black most everywhere else.

As part of the Christmas Eve tradition, we opened one present each. The first one had been earmarked by my parents to be opened that night. It contained a tiny fake Christmas tree and tinier ornaments, plus some mail. Feeling cheated, I opened another. It contained a book. It was one that I'd asked for, so this was good.

On Christmas morning Sarah woke us all up just past 5:00 a.m. We stumbled back into the living room with bleary eyes to open presents. Someone put on the Santa hat and grabbed a gift for each of us from under the tree, and then we opened them one after another. I received many books from my parents; from Kate, a sweater that I like and Kate loves to see on me, a bottle of massage oil (Kate gives the best backrubs), and a wonderful card:

It started with
    a look, a smile,

    a little talk,
a lot of fun,

and then it just
which is a perfect way to describe how our relationship progressed; from Kate's parents, a CD (The Best of Arlo Guthrie) and a pair of tickets to a show in Madison; and from Sarah, a nice pen-and-pencil set. I think that Kate liked what I got her: a tiny Corvette convertible like the one we liked so much at the S.F. Auto Show earlier in December, a Harry Potter Lego model, and a set of board games. I just wish that they had been a little more inspired, since none seemed as nice as my sweater, or even the card.

At about 8:00 a.m., after opening presents, we went back to bed for a few hours and got back up for lunch: strawberry crêpes, a Christmas tradition for Kate's family. We spent the rest of the day quietly, trying out our new games and toys, putting together Lego sets, doing crosswords, reading the newspaper, watching new DVDs.

Sarah left for Los Angeles on Thursday morning. Also that morning, Zoey turned up with cuts on her chin and one of her legs, obviously in pain. She was taken into the vet, who found other cuts on her body and evidence of internal bleeding and said that she had to stay in the hospital until Friday at least. Kate worried, but we went out in the afternoon anyhow. We did some hiking and we went into Reedsburg for coffee and dessert in the afternoon. In the evening Kate and her mom and I played ``NHL Original Six Monopoly,'' which is just like regular Monopoly except for street naming, and the four of us played ``May I,'' which I'm told is a kind of Mexican rummy.

Kate and I slept in late on Friday, and then we soaked in the hot tub for an hour. We did crossword puzzles until her dad came home for lunch, and after that we borrowed the car and went to Baraboo, where the vet clinic is. Kate visited Zoey and we both visited the cats at the Humane Society pound, since Kate wanted to get a new cat as quickly as possible if Zoey turned out a goner. We went into downtown, too, and visited a used bookstore, where I bought a pile of John D. MacDonald and Alistair Maclean novels.

The vet called on Saturday to tell us that it didn't look good for Zoey. The decision was made, with reluctance, that putting her to sleep was the best option. All of us went into the vet clinic. Kate and I sat outside anxiously during the procedure, and then all of us we went straight back to the pound and picked out a kitten. We had a late lunch in Baraboo and headed back to the house.

Kate and I left to go to our show in Madison a little while later (the one her parents had given us tickets for). The show was Guys on Ice, a musical about a couple of guys ice fishing. It was hilarious. Kate won a stick of beef jerky in the Wisconsin ``trivia'' contest after intermission, which was also hilarious. The show ended by 7:00 p.m., so we walked along State St. looking over the restaurants, and ended up at Chin's Wok noodle bar. My peanut sauce lo mein was too light on the peanut sauce, but otherwise it was good food. We grabbed coffee to go at a coffee shop and drove home.

Kate's parents returned home soon after us, with a surprise: a stray kitten that had shown up at the holiday party they'd attended. They gave it food and water and shut it up in the spare bedroom. Kate promptly dubbed it Hannah, and then changed her mind and renamed it Fiona. Kate and her mom played with it for a while and then left it to sleep. Kate and I talked until early morning and then turned in.

This morning, after a couple of waffles, Kate and her mom drove me to the airport. I checked in my bags and got my boarding pass, bought a Wisconsin baseball cap for myself in the airport gift shop, we had a drink in their coffee shop, and then it was time for me to go through security. I waved good-bye, and then I was off. I forgot to put my multitool and Swiss army knife in my checked bags, so I'm out $50 of tools, but other than that it was an uneventful trip home.

Last updated 03 Apr 2004 21:17. Copyright © 2004 Ben Pfaff.
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