2014 has not been an easy year. We lost my mom, and Laura’s mother has had serious health issues. I’m still trying to adjust to retirement, and Laura is trying to adjust to new work challenges. Even so, we were able keep some of our holiday traditions, and it was a good thing.
A Wright Family Christmas
I’ve already written about the difficulties with our time in Florida. I had begun my time down there with the Solstice Paddle, but there were multiple other kayaking trips. Usually I managed to get out on the water at about 9:00 am. At this time, the incoming tide was ripping from south to north, with an accompanying wind. My usual route was to paddle against the current, then come back with the wind and tide.
I managed to get in several trips, each for several miles. Most of these were trips out to the spoil islands. Occasionally I’d venture on over to the mangroves on the back sides of the barrier islands.
Here are some of the shots taken on those various outings. To be honest, they started to blend together, and I’m not sure which were which.
One thing I discovered was that there is a new bird observation tower at the Saint Lucie Nature Preserve on Torpey Road. I pulled up and explored it. The new tower looks out over the Indian River.
I didn’t see anymore manatees, but I did encounter dolphins several times. Once or twice I got rather close to them.
I made one trek out to the Fort Pierce Inlet State Park. This time I had my Nikon with the long lens with me. It had been quite windy all week, and the kite surfers were out in force. The wind also made for dramatic waves at the entrance to the inlet.
The big day came, and it was happy, tearful, strange and stressed all in one big bundle. Despite disclaimers about not having time to shop, there was still an overabundance of gifts and unwrapping. Laura got me an iPad for Christmas, and I got her earrings and a necklace. We were both happy. Starbucks coffee also seemed to be big this year, as did gift certificates in general.
After the wrapping there are usually phone calls to family. Without mom to call, and with our family dispersed this year, I felt a little…lost. Combine the sense of loss with an oncoming head cold, and I had a few rough patches throughout the day.
We left dinner preparations and took the whole family for an outing, first out to the Indrio Savannahs, then over to the Inlet Park to try out the new State Park pass we’d given Amy for Christmas. I also wanted to try out my new Nikon point-and-shoot. It’s a CoolPix L330 we found at Target for a mere $99 on a Black Friday deal. It has a long zoom, and at that price was something I didn’t mind taking on a kayak.
We had a repeat of the turkey dinner from Thanksgiving. I think these might even be the same poses.
The day after Christmas Laura and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary a day early – the 26th on the 26th – with dinner and a movie. The movie was The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies at the Majestic Theater in Vero. We decided we really liked that theater, especially since tickets were only $5 for each of us. Dinner was at Riverside Grill overlooking the Indian River. On our actual anniversary, the 27th, I spent the day driving back to Greenville from Fort Pierce, reluctantly leaving Laura to assist with taking care of her mom.
There were a couple of reasons for my heading on back. First, there were cats to attend to. But, more importantly, the Taylor Family Christmas Gathering was going to be Sunday, December 28. That was the time that all of us could gather. Especially this year we felt it important to keep this tradition alive, and not get scattered to the four winds.
A Taylor Family Christmas
I had left warm and sunny Florida for cold, rainy, and gloomy Greenville. This Sunday continued that trend. After getting a few things squared away from the trip, I headed down to our family home in Gray Court. All of our family was able to make it. The only ones missing were Laura and my niece’s husband, Daniel. With everyone there things got chaotic very quickly.
There was lots of catching up to do. My niece, Shay, has been on a reality TV show on TLC called “Risking It All“. We had fun talking to her about what that was like for her and her family. Her oldest daughter, Miriam, got a DSLR for Christmas, so we spent some time talking photography.
Dinner was BBQ and potluck, then we moved into the living room for the main event – the White Elephant Christmas Exchange. Gifts were limited to $15, and the rules were somewhat different from others where we had participated. First, gifts remained wrapped throughout. This meant that the strategy was in wrapping the gift. A gift could only be “stolen” a limited number of times so that the game wouldn’t go on ad infinitum. At the end we would open the gifts in the order that they had been selected.
The festivities began with our tradition of singing carols, led my by my sister, Susan.
Afterwards, Chip took charge and marshalled us through the process.We all drew numbers. I was number 20. Shay, sitting next to me, was number 30. There were numbers even higher than that. My sister, Beth, though she had number 61. She actually had 19.
There was taking of gifts and giving of gifts.
It was fun, chaotic, and probably very intimidating to those not used to such a large family.
Once the dust settled we decided to take a family portrait. Rather than gather everyone, just the sibling posed on the couch. It was bittersweet – without either of the parents there we felt a bit lost. We also wondered if we would ever have another Christmas at this house. As part of the estate settlement it will eventually be sold. At least, as we were posing and pondering, we could still laugh at the number of photographers our family seems to have engendered.
It was great being with family, and I probably could have spent all night there. However, I was still feeling under the weather, and needed to get home. A new year rolls in next week, and I’m hoping that it will be a bit brighter. I think I’ve given up on it ever being “normal” again, whatever that might have been.