Yesterday was our annual Strong Family Christmas. There are a few things that are always true of a Strong Family Christmas: It happens in January, it involves consumption of mucho food and alcohol, it includes a lot of laughter, noisy kids, hugs and kisses (on the lips, even!), and it will be punctuated with drama.
We used to leave the planning of this event to chance. A few years ago, we decided it would pass from the oldest wife, to the next, and so on. Our hope is that by the time we get down to the next generation, they will be getting married, so the tradition can carry on. This year was niece (by marriage) Darah’s turn.
Hotel stays are a favorite as we get extended time together and no one’s house gets trashed. (Trashed might be a little extreme, but I did mention the noisy kids and the alcohol consumption, right?)
In a departure from the normal abnormal-gift exchange (think ceramic snowmen and Apples to Apples Jewish Version), Darah suggested we spend the money on fleece and make tie blankets for the Union Gospel Mission. Remembering the hassle of crock pots and coolers, I suggested we order pizzas and forgo the awkward potluck.
So, 23 Strongs and their descendents from 60 years of age down to 2 months gathered for pizza and the hotel manager’s free two-hour cocktail reception. We brought our fleece, scissors and nimble fingers and we ate, drank, tied and talked. And then we tied some more, completing 15 blankets that will comfort homeless people on the streets of St. Paul tonight.
As we worked, the pre-teen contingent told us about school and after-school activities, while two-year-old Xander entertained us with his antics, and scared us half-to-death when he almost fell into the indoor duck pond. Watching husband Bruce and his brother Mike struggle with scissors, I shared a laugh with brother-in-law Tom about marrying into the family. (Thank God whenever someone says “It’s in the genes” we don’t need to worry.) And we all played Pass the Baby with two-month-old Greyson.
Jon and his wife Tonya announced they are expecting their first child in August. Our daughter Katie, who couldn’t attend with her family because Chris had to preach the next morning, called to say ‘hi’ as the announcement was being made. So she got in on the celebration long distance. Maybe Baby Jon-Ya will share a birthday with Katie’s Nolan, who was born this past August.
Minutes later, niece Rachel called from Alabama to say her water broke and they were off to the hospital for an emergency C-section. Grandma-to-be Patty took off for the airport, only to return on a roller coaster of emotion. The only flight with open seats that evening for anywhere near Huntsville was leaving in minutes, and she could not make the departure time.
Less than an hour later, we were toasting a new baby girl, parents Rachel and Kevin, and the new grandparents Tom and Patty, who, wiping tears from her eyes, proudly held up a cell phone picture of the minutes-old infant.
“She has the ‘Strong nose,'” Patty said. The “Strong nose” has a wide bridge, all the more pronounced on the scrunched face of a newborn. Our daughter Katie swears she carried clothespins to the hospital for the birth of her two kids in case she needed to right nature’s wrong.
That’s OK, Baby Girl. If you don’t outgrow the Strong nose, you can more than compensate for this little “flaw” as you are almost assured of also having inherited the Strong wit, a generous heart and a heaping helping of love!