Christmas Reunions

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On Friday night, Vivian and I headed to Venice Inn to crash the Friendship Program Christmas party. Vivian hadn’t seen many of her co-workers since she left for maternity leave back in November, so every few minutes she was excitedly greeting someone. She also got to have her first official “drink” in about ten months (a chocolatini, of course). We filled up on meatballs, sausage, and toasted ravioli courtesy of Venice Inn in the meantime while Betty passed out seasonal door prizes to 80+ different people. Anthony accepted his ceramic snowman as if it were an Oscar and gave a stirring speech until Betty grabbed the microphone back.

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Friday night also marked our first trip back to Jitterbugs Night Out since the baby came. Friday was the Jitterbugs’ annual Christmas party, so they had the Stan Harper Experience drop by to belt out some swingin’ renditions of Christmas songs, (my favorite of which was that Peanuts’ Christmas piano song). There was a white elephant gift exchange later on, where a dozen or so guests got to receive random gifts ranging from a collection of swing music CDs to a can of Progresso soup. There was also a Jack and Jill competition toward the end of the night, but Vivian and I had worn out our feet by then and were ready to call it a night. I think we must be out of practice. Still, it was great to see several of our old swing dancing friends, and I’m sure we’ll still be coming back.

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On Saturday night, the whole family headed up to northwest Omaha for Jenny’s annual Christmas party. We put together “gingerbread” houses (with graham crackers) once again, and I took a stab at it this time, finding frosting to be a somewhat inadequate adhesive for constructing anything much larger than a graham cracker tent.

We had our own white elephant gift exchange, which enabled Vivian to trade in a star-shaped candle holder for a half-full bottle of washer fluid. I lucked out by swapping a kitschy “Have a Dickens of a Christmas” diorama for a set of “hobo tools” (consisting of a Swiss-army style fork and spoon), narrowly escaping the clutches of a stainless steel necklace holder in the process. Other noteworthy “prizes” included a copy of The Day I Shot Cupid by Jennifer Love Hewitt, a book Jon seemed to enjoy leafing through quite a bit.

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On Sunday, Vivian and I took our turn lighting the advent candles before the church (the theme for this one was “peace”). It also gave us the chance to introduce Hannah formally to the rest of the congregation, though almost everyone has had the chance to see her being adorable for just about anybody willing to hold her so far. That afternoon, Grammy and Grampy dropped by for a photo shoot with Hannah, and later on we took her on her very first walk around the neighborhood. She seemed quite fascinated with being outside for a change and looked up at the sky (or what she could make of it) with amazement.

That evening, a large group of us went by the Hillcrest home down on Harlan to sing Christmas carols to the residents there. Jessica Ritchie accompanied us on piano when we found one availabe, and we decked the halls together for a good hour making sure everyone possible got a bit of Christmas cheer. Afterward, we retreated back to Twin Valley Church to have some spicy venison chili courtesy of Jeff before heading home.

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Monday evening a big night for reunions for both Vivian and me. I took a trip down to Lincoln to catch up a bunch of my fellow Land and Sky “alumni” over dinner and drinks at Granite City. Joining us were (from left to right) Dan, Jeanie, Vanchessa, Julie, Paul, and Mark. It’s been a good three years or so since I’ve seen anybody from the old “gang,” and it brought back a lot of memories — most of which I probably shouldn’t repeat here. Thanks, Julie for getting us all together once again!

As for Vivian, Gail — her old best friend from high school and “Babo’s” previous owner — dropped by with her husband and little girl to pay us a Christmas visit. Vivian had been communicating with her online via Facebook for as long as I’ve known her, I think, so it was nice to finally meet up. They spent the day touring the Children’s Museum downtown, where Hannah got to “ride” on a slide and wiggle around in the “wiggle room.” We’ll have to take her back there older when she’d big enough to stand inside of a six-foot bubble. We had dinner that evening together at Carlos O’Kelly’s and then I took everyone downtown for some ice cream at Ted & Wally’s. The place still seemed to be packed in spite of the fact that it’s December, but we managed to beat the rush and have a scoop of egg nog, maple walnut, and “halva nice day” ice cream before calling it a night.

Christmas, here we come!

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