Food poisoning. Of course. I've had so many occasions this year to observe that we make plans and the Gods laugh, I'm seriously considering having those words tattooed on my body.
In any case, it wasn't so much Christmas we celebrated, since hardly any of the relatives involved regard the occasion as a religious holiday. We celebrated Averymas/Calvertmas with my parents, my aunt, and my cousin purpledice. My parents haven't been to Christmas services in years, and at last count my mom's folks were leaning sort of vaguely in the direction of Paganism maybe. We celebrated Davismas with Dan's folks, who always put up a tree and exchange gifts, but who regarded Dan's childhood curiosity about religion with slightly aloof amusement. We celebrated Dakenmas with Dan's sister and her in-laws. Her in-laws are Christians of some variety, but they were in town mostly to worship the new baby, who is now three months old and smiles brilliantly. When my sister got back from spending Christmas with her husband's folks, we celebrated Uptonmas--you know, that astronomical date after which the Uptons are present for more and more hours of the day.
It's a good thing Dan and I had already observed our actual holy day on the Solstice proper, because we'd never have been able to fit in one more thing on this visit.
Things were a bit tight spatially, too. When we celebrated Uptonmas, we somehow managed to fit eight adults, a toddler, and four dogs into the room. We must really like each other, because it was a great evening.
The highlight of the trip was getting to see my niece's preternatural verbal development firsthand. At seventeen months, Kate intersperses her telegraphic utterances of single nouns and verbs with complete sentences. Not just subject-verb-object sentences or imperatives, either. She's starting in on pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, and prepositions. At one point she and I were playing with a puzzle, and I was marveling over her grasp of the abstract concept of almost, when she looked up to see Dan putting on his coat to leave the house. "Where's he going?" Kate asked. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said, "Out to the car. He'll be right back." Satisfied, Kate returned to rotating her puzzle piece until it was almost aligned with its space, so that she could wave her arms in the air, declare "Almost!" and giggle with delight at having a new word to play with. She has the abstract concept of funny, too. Seventeen months old! She may be a space alien or fairy changeling, but she's our space alien/changeling/whatever.
Tomorrow, Dan and I are off to Rochester to see my grandmother. She's pushing ninety, recently widowed, and not in great health. It's sort of a pilgrimage for us, because we never know when the last time will be. I was terribly worried that she would follow the family tradition and die on December 26th--several elderly members of my family held out for one last Christmas and, in their respective years, checked out once they had the last holiday they'd held on for. We seem to be in the clear this year, for which I am immensely grateful to the universe.