Another weekend has gone by, and Christmas rapidly approaches. I am always astounded at how quickly Monday morning arrives, especially when my alarm goes off. Today was a very good day in that I found a back exercise that gives me some relief from the pain of a recent injury. In the past ten days, I have experienced considerable pain in getting out of bed … my vertebrae seem to bitterly resent the transition from recumbent to vertical. It has frequently taken me 10-15 minutes of sitting cross-legged on the floor, rocking in pain, before I could walk comfortably to the bathroom or stand in the shower. Today I tried lying on my back and bringing both knees up toward my chest, holding them there for 45-60 seconds … hurray, it seemed to work, and I was able to get out of bed with nothing more than the usual morning sluggishness! How delightful that our bodies can heal, thanks be to God!
Our packages are pretty much all mailed off, except for one or two gifts that are not time-sensitive. Now our attention turns toward the impending arrival of the Kansas Edgrens. My brother is not able to get away from the demands of his job this season and so will remain in Korea … we will miss his sardonic wit and silliness, among other things. But Elizabeth, Timothy, Rebecca and Samuel arrive this afternoon, with much fanfare. I wonder how much it would cost to hire a small brass band to provide some genuine fanfare … I guess you need at least two trumpeters and a French horn … I’m not sure what the standards are for this kind of thing. It would be fun to meet them at the gate with a small celebratory band. Admittedly, airport security would never cooperate unless they were incentivized, but it could probably be arranged. Maybe I should have stuck with my studies as a trumpeter, even though I never got past third chair.
It is getting pretty grim as Kathy and I squabble with my parents for our fair share of time with ‘the cousins’. A lot of people think my Mom and Dad are sweet, godly people … but they don’t know the ugly truth. Last night I tried to put in our family’s bid for a few small social engagements with Elizabeth and the kids … but I was firmly rebuffed. My folks obviously intend to hog the Kansas Edgrens for themselves, abusing their position as host, with no regard for propriety or fair play. It is sad to see two people reach such depths of moral deterioration in their dotage, but I guess it is just a lesson to us all, to be on our guard. Even Solomon turned away from God in the last days of his life. But I’m struggling with the shame of it all … this is just not the kind of thing you expect to see in your own parents!
On Saturday I took the older kids out shopping … it was quite a madhouse out there. We were foolish enough to attempt Tacoma Mall as our first stop … it took 15 minutes to get from the highway exit to the parking lot, and 20 minutes to get out! The mall is a stone’s throw from the highway. It was maddening watching the traffic on the other side of the fence zip along as we sat motionless behind half a billion shoppers. The stores were crowded and the lines were long … my back was aching from the outset. But I was impressed with my older three … they were surprisingly generous in spending their accumulated wealth on their siblings and cousins, and not once did I hear the dreaded words, “Can I buy something for myself?” For reasons of secrecy, I went through the checkout line three times (once with each of the older three) … not my idea of a fun time. We moved on to visit Ross’, Bed Bath & Beyond, Barnes & Noble and finally Target, each time waiting through the lines. The line at Ross’ was so long that I ruthlessly abandoned Joshua to it and took the other two kids to Bed, Bath & Beyond … we made a circuit of the whole store and returned to Ross’, finding Joshua still in line. He was not particularly amused, but bore it without too many recriminations. I had fortified each of the children with a Slurpee after our harrowing escape from Tacoma Mall, so their spirits didn’t begin to flag until we finished Target (where the checkout lanes were blessedly short). Heading home, I began mischievously suggesting additional shopping destinations, while the kids chanted “Home, home, home” at the top of their lungs. A proposed visit to Ikea (40 minutes to the north, and known to be extremely crowded) brought out the most strident opposition, and so we returned home as conquering heroes.
The Bringhams came to visit us Saturday evening, arriving in time for supper and staying late into the evening, to celebrate Tom’s 50th birthday and to either celebrate or mourn the outcome of Tom’s recent application to the postmaster position in Brinnon. As we discovered, he did not get the job … I was encouraged by the way he bore the news cheerfully. It is hard when God says ‘No’, even when we trust Him to do the best thing.
Our original plan had been to visit “ZooLights” … an elaborate Christmas light display offered by the Point Defiance Zoo. So after dinner we all piled into our respective minivans and drove to the north end of Tacoma, only to find that the entire population of Pierce County was there before us. People were parking on the street a half-mile from the zoo parking lot (which was presumably also full). Wisely deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, we turned our minivans around and headed back to the house for cake and ice cream. Still not very familiar with Tacoma, I led us haphazardly through some of the less-well-known neighborhoods until we finally found our way to a recognizable route home. The Bringhams stayed and talked fairly late, considering they were facing a 90-minute trip home … Tom left with Jeremiah and Teddi around 10 pm, but Casey and Annjanette stayed until after 11:30 pm. It was a delightful visit that brought back many happy memories of late-night gatherings in the Duckabush.
Sarah and David have both been sick over the weekend, suffering from various flu-like symptoms, and so I stayed home with them and with Daniel while Kathy attended the Lake City church with the older two. In the afternoon we had the opportunity to go Christmas caroling at the nearby Veterans’ Hospital … I took the older three and joined my parent’s Sunday School class. It was very sad to see the people at the Hospital … they seem to be the wreckage and driftwood of humanity, cast up on a cold and uncaring rocky beach far from the warmth of home. Many of them showed little comprehension of the reason for our visit, staring blankly at us without expression as we sang. Our society is so shielded from any encounter with old or handicapped people … I was glad to have the opportunity to show this side of life to the kids.