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Christmas and More In Fresno

December 21-25, 2015
Written November 22+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

Now we get to start the real Christmas Season, with the arrival of little kids.  Somehow, it isn't the same without the small, excited voices.  This year, Gabby is bringing Sam and Ava down to Fresno to help us all celebrate Mamo's 95th birthday (23rd) and an early Christmas dinner/present-opening.  I'll try to record it all!

The crew arrived Monday afternoon under an unusual drippy sky.  In fact, rain is forecast for much of the week, the first time I can even remember that happening out here, and locals do find it encouraging.  For the kids, it means activities are limited to indoor projects, but both Sam and Ava are pretty good at that sort of thing.  Give them pencils and blank paper and they can stay active, for awhile at least.  Of course they brought a toy kit with them and within minutes, the clean and organized Trotter living room was wall to wall with small cars, dolls, and even a vintage puppy.  Zoe made her first visit and seemed to settle in as fast as the kids.


Pretty soon it was time to go pick up Mamo and drive over to Christmas Tree Lane for the annual viewing of the Old Fig Garden houses and their bright lights.  I suppose every city and town has their equivalent, but this has been a local attraction since 1920 and, rain or shine, we had to see the California-traditional decorations.


After the lights, we came home and found that neighbors had left us a personalized Christmas decoration on our porch.  Thanks! 

After that, it was pizza, salad, wine, cookies, movies, and bedtime.  I could tell this routine was not going to be good for the diet.  I just read a statistic that Americans gain one pound every holiday season, and "those pounds never go away".  We'll see.

d151222_04_breakfast.jpgd151222_02_zoe.jpgTuesday had no plan and that made it relaxing, unusual for a holiday visit!  Breakfast was Gigi's famous palacsinta (crepes) and cartoons, while Zoe enjoyed her favorite activity, resting on her pillow.  The little dog is getting old and it will be a very sad family when she passes, but a replacement has been ordered.

Gabby and I went off to my gym to use up some of the cookie calories we had the day before. It doesn't seem to keep me from picking up a holiday pound or two, but maybe it will keep me within reach of a reasonable New Year's goal.  When we got home, Marianne went out for her exercising routine and the kids were sent out into the backyard field to harvest oranges.  Last year, our old tree was completely bare, but it is a different story in 2015; we have more fruit than we care to eat.  At least it is healthier than cookies and pizza.
d151222_16_chillin.jpgAfter all this activity and after a quick and not-too-unhealthy lunch, Gabby and Marianne went out shopping while I stayed home to babysit the kids.  In fact, the kids babysat themselves by watching movies on their iPad and all I needed to do was say "hi" once in awhile.  I think all their farm work had tired them out.

d151222_20_dinner.jpgFor dinner we went over to pick up Mamo and then drove to a new-for-us Mexican restaurant, Casa Corona. Mexican food is not really diet material, but it's the holidays and the place was filled with happy noises and an endless supply of taco chips.  It looks like we will need more trips to the gym.

(I finally wrote this on Monday, December 28th, finishing this week-old story.  I'm sure if this was Facebook, I would have given up, but diaries have value even a little late.  At least that's what I believe for now.  So, on with the story.)
Last Wednesday (23rd) was going to be the big family day, celebrating both Mamo's 96th birthday and the family Christmas.  We started the day with normal play:  a gym visit for both Gabby and me, while Marianne stayed home to cook.  Sorry.  Ava and Sam conducted "independent study", one of their favorite activities actually.  For hours, they manage to enjoy themselves with everything from reading, iPads, and plenty of outside activity - despite the cool, gray weather.  Fun to have them around.

But the big action was over on Rialto at Mamo's house.  Daughters Marianne and Katinka, Henry and Gabby, her grandkids, and great-grandkids Kingston, Zaiden, Ava, and Sam all enjoyed celebrating both Mamo and Santa Claus.  The little kids were particularly fun and funny.  I know they almost wore me out rough housing!


On Thursday morning, Gabby and the family had breakfast with us at Mamo's before they headed back home for "real" Christmas.  We could tell right after they left that our Christmas was essentially over, even before the 25th. It was so quiet.  For dinner, Marianne and I went out for a Chinese dinner, a "tradition" we owe to Virginia friends John and Mary from years ago when they had invited us to their Christmas Eve family tradition of Chinese cuisine. Not as much fun as chaos with the little ones, but a tradition nonetheless.

Friday, real Christmas, was very quiet.   I had a morning Skype chat with Geoff and Sean and Ryan showed  their collection of Christmas presents.  They had done well and, like Ava and Sam on this coast, they still had more Christmas celebrations - and presents - to go!

Marianne took Mamo to church and they came back to whip up a batch of palacsinta.  I think Mamo likes the Hungarian crepes as much as the little grandkids do.   I tried to avoid them, this time, because they are a zillion calories apiece.  Mamo needs the calories, but I don't.

From then until dusk, we just hung around a quiet home, enjoying Christmas decorations I suppose. We particularly like grandson Rich's hand-made tree decoration.  It fits well with other memories, such as light pyramids from Bavaria, wise men from Kiev, and a new angel paining from the house artist.  

We still had some local traditions to mark the holiday.  First, were the luminaries.  Tradition has them lighted on Christmas Eve, but Thursday rain had moved the activity a day later.  Our block of decades-old houses dresses up very well.

The other neighborhood Christmas tradition is a cup of cheer at Nancy and Gene's house.  For years, they have hosted their kids and grandkids for Christmas week and, on Christmas itself, they invite Vern and Joan and their kids over.  Both families grew up on Cambridge and the youngsters have lots of annual catching up to do.  (One of the families created a new tradition of losing the Christmas drone over a neighbor's yard - at dusk, in trees.)  We are flattered to be included.

So, that was that.  Another Christmas behind us.  My diary record will make sure that all we remember is positive.  Which of course, it was.  My story, anyway.

What to do for New Year's Eve?  Or the new year, for that matter.  We'll see.

John and Marianne


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