I spent Friday night through Monday afternoon doing the Family Solstice Gathering. It looks a lot like a Christmas gathering, except it happens on the weekend before Christmas (so we don't have to compete with ten million other people at the airport), and we don't sacrifice anything (maybe that's just an Arizona thing). It went very well. You may have already read on the Internet (and if you haven't, check this out) that what I received in the Gift Exchange was this. Yeah, for real! I'm touched that they knew what I really needed, and that my family was willing to engage in Interstate Conspiracy to make it happen. Thanks, everyone!
I also got to be Uncle Evan for a while. Nephew C just turned 4, although he insists he's 5 (I suspect he's trying to double-up on his years so by the time he's 10, he can get his driver's license. He's a strategic, long-term thinker. I should probably get him interested in robots soon so he can help us with the Invincible Robot Army)). He and I played with his toys, he showed me how he could do dot-to-dot puzzles (he can count up to 100 already), and when he wanted to play with another toy that K had, I helped by distracting her with something shiny (a family trait). He seems to think I'm all right.
Toddler K (who is 2), talks like Boo and looks like Cindy Lou Who*, minus those weird antenna things. She'll say a few chirpy syllables like "Buh Ba!" while pointing at something, and even if you have no idea what she means, it's just Too Cute. Of course, she does have an Industrial-Strength Glower when you do something of which she disapproves, like trying to hand her the half of a pancake she previously rejected instead of giving her a new one. She can strike fear in the heart of anyone. I think she needs a Warrior Princess outfit (hey, I know what she's getting for her birthday)! Hopefully holyhippie and Valkyrie will find that amusing...
I thought the most notable airport story for the weekend would be when I went through Security. The woman scanning my bag took an interest in something in my bag, so one of the screener guys pulled it for inspection. Apparently I was carrying contraband. Item #1: A 1" metal disk with a hole in the center (imagine a washer), but the outer edge is of varying thickness, so it can be used as a screwdriver for standard screws. Item #2: A 2" metal case, where you can flip open each side and they reveal miniature screwdrivers. Each about ¾" long. He explained that I wasn't supposed to be carrying tools, but he wasn't going to take them away from me. I don't know to what I owe this blast of reasonableness, but I was grateful. (These items were next to useless as weapons; about the most fiendish thing I could do would be to take apart everybody's glasses.)
The big twist in my plans happened a while later. Instead of the boarding announcement I expected (about 3:00 p.m.), they said my flight was canceled. Naturally, there's a frantic buzz, and anxious passengers crowd the counter, trying to find out what's happening. Me, I wait. I read my book. After several "We don't know what will happen, we're trying to divert some planes" announcements, they finally say that an empty plane will arrive at 7:30 p.m. Those passengers who didn't flee to the main ticket counter to get rebooked on other flights get a voucher for dinner and boarding passes for the new flight. I get some food, finish my book, chat with other waiting travelers, and the plane shows up pretty much when expected. Yes, I got to Portland about five hours later than originally planned, but as Canceled Flight stories go, it was quite tame. It wasn't loads of fun hanging around the Sacramento Airport, but it wasn't unpleasant, and I was in a good mood. Not much to whine about at all.
And speaking of not whining and being grateful, I'm so glad that my family's holiday gatherings are FUN! I've heard such terrible horror stories about people facing Holidays With The Relatives From Hell, but my experiences aren't like that. Sure, my family spends a lot of time engaged with the preparation and consumption of food, but we also talk, play games, watch the kids and enjoy each other's company. I rarely look forward to traveling, but the people I get to visit make it well worthwhile. A good trip, all in all. I'm glad I went, even if there was that Ice Storm when I wasn't looking....