I left Salem and continued my drive up I-81 through the Shenendoah Valley. Unlike the night before, I had some time and could enjoy the drive a bit. I got off the interstate several times and followed Route 11 as it meandered through small towns. Then at New Market I veered off on Route 211 and wound my way up through the mountains and through Shenendoah National Park. This road is full of sharp turns and switchbacks, and was much more fun to drive than a boring old Interstate superhighway. I eventually made it to Warrenton, where I headed up Route 29 to I-66, and then into downtown DC. I could have looped around the city on the beltway, but I grew up hardly ever driving through the city itself, and I'm determined to improve my navigational skills. So I now tend to drive straight through whenever I get the chance. I passed all the obligatory monuments, and made it to my parents house just after dark.
My first observation was that the ouside of my parents' house wasn't looking very Christmassy. So I whipped the assembled brothers into action and we quickly strung lights outside. (My parents were already at church -- Xmas eve is a working holiday for a pastor.) After the lights were up, I quickly changed clothes and we headed up to church for services. We then adjourned to a parishoner's house for a party, getting home around 1:00 AM. After a few more hours unpacking and wrapping presents, I finally got to bed in the wee hours of the morning.
Christmas day was pretty predictable. Everyone finally woke up and staggered downstairs sometime around noon. (Santa Claus no longer comes in the middle of the night at our house -- he now staggers in and drops off stockings around 11:00 AM, cleverly disguised as my dad.) We ate brunch, opened presents. My mom and I got my dad a turntable so that he can reopen his long-dormant record collection. My parents got me a flatbed scanner so that I can finally start scanning some of my old film.
I gave each family member a framed enlargement of one of the photos I took this year. This was not all that expensive -- I got mats and frames at Michael's for under $15 each, and I printed the 8x10 enlargements using my photo printer. Some of them came out remarkably well -- I'll try to post links here when I have a minute.
Later we piled into cars to go visit my dad's parents in southern Maryland. Got to see my cousin Steve again, and had a big Christmas dinner. We arrived home late at night.
The next day we all piled into cars again and headed for the farm where my mother's dad lives. We were meeting up with the other set of cousins in a massive event masterminded by Laura after her visit to Nashville in November. We were supposed to bring various food items, so my brother and I made a grocery run in Warrenton and bought a cooler-full of ingredients.
We managed to cram about 11 people into my Grandfather's house, including my cousin's newly-announced fiance. We made good use of sofa's and air mattresses. It was the first time we had all been there together in years, which was great fun. I'll try to post some pictures soon.
Tune in next time -- same bat time, same bat station -- for more in the continuing saga of my Christmas vacation...