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Christmas in Fresno

The First of Many?

December 21-24
written December 22 and later

Dear Friends and Families,

So, we made it back to America and are starting to settle in Fresno.  The plan is to spend a few weeks with Marianne's mother, Mamo, until our furniture arrives in container #HDMU6777155 off of the MOL Endurance.  (The car is also floating our way, on the APL Melbourne.)

d131221_04_Pizza.jpgOur arrival on the 21st did seem a bit like being home.  We landed at SFO, got a Hertz car, and made the familiar three-hour drive to Fresno.  Mamo was happy to have new house guests for the holidays and we are quickly shifting into a routine, even after less than 24 hours.  It's OK.

Sunday was full of Christmas shopping, not so much fun. Of course shopping on Sunday is not what our German experience trained us for!  At the end of the day, tired, we swung past the new home for my first in-person view of the house and neighborhood.  Decidedly mixed impression.  The local Tower District seemed populated by "colorful characters" and tattoo parlors outnumbered fancy boutiques.  Lots of antique shops or, as one noted, "junktique".  It will take getting used to.

As for the house, I'll take Marianne's word that it looks better with the vegetation in bloom.  The impression with bare winter trees and shrubs was neutral at best, colored by the clear need for plenty of yard work.  Neighbor houses on Cambridge Avenue are quite nice, but I just watched Anthony Bourdain's CNN show on Detroit and I could not help but think of the thousands of nice homes that city once held.  Unfair comparison, of course, but it's the elephant in the room.

Monday saw a morning of moving business, mostly house, car, and health insurance.  I have to admit that I didn't mind doing these things, largely because I could deal in English.  Such administrative matters in Germany had always been extra stressful because we'd need to deal in a foreign language.  After these errands, it was more shopping.  I think I am reaching my limit, at least with the Christmas traffic and crowds.

The grand finale for the day was Mamo's 94th birthday party, combined with a bit of Christmas.  Marianne's holiday meal was up to her normal standards, thanks.  The chaos of two kids and four generations of folks made Mamo's day fun for her, even when it was shared with Christmas presents too.

Christmas Eve was quieter with some last-minute daytime shopping and an evening meal out at a Chinese restaurant.  This was a I-don't-want-to-cook tradition we had learned from friends Mary and John a few years ago.  We all hit the sack early to prepare for our Christmas drive.

d131225_02_XmasMamo.jpgChristmas started with breakfast at the Denny's in Mamo's neighborhood.  As a for-decades customer, Mamo received a proper Christmas greeting from her favorite waitress and others.  In her charming Hungarian lilt, still maintained after 60+ years in California, she issued her standard order: "pancakes, vell-done bot sides"; "cold vater, no ice".; "extra napkins please".  I am a sucker for tradition, so I like it all.

Then we headed out on the three-hour drive to the Bay Area.  This really is a boring ride, but I took advantage of Marianne's designated-driver day and snapped pictures out the window of most of what we see: farms and orchards.  Maybe with another hundred trips, I'll even recognize which trees are which. 
Acres and acres of nut and fruit trees.  Can you say which are which?  We were struck with all the new orchards going in where we used to see cotton or wheat fields.
Tall palm trees mark a few of the old roads and it was nice to see new palms going in along our newer route.  Eventually we hit the more-scenic hills and oaks of Pacheco Pass.

So that's it for our valley Christmas.  Now it's on to Monte Sereno and new kids, grandkids, friends, and family.

John and Marianne

ps: Midnight 12/22.   
APL Melbourne, bound for New York, seemed to be drifting in the English Channel. (Status unchanged 24 hours later. Made me worry, but in another day the ship was speeding at 19 knots toward New York.)

Meanwhile, MOL Endurance and our furniture were off the New York harbor.


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