Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving In Minnesota

Our Thanksgiving weekend in Minnesota was too short, but it made for a wonderful break for us.

Joshua and I were halfway expecting the new baby to arrive while we were in Minnesota, but the baby was not of a mind, apparently, to arrive simply to accommodate Josh and me. However, the baby will definitely arrive soon, so we shall certainly see the new baby at Christmas.

This Thanksgiving was the opposite of the last two years’ Thanksgivings.

The last two Thanksgivings, Josh and I were living in Minnesota and it was my brothers who had to travel to Minneapolis to spend the holidays. This year, my brothers are living in Minnesota and it was Josh and I who had to travel to the Twin Cities to spend the holidays.

The last two years, it was Josh and I who helped my parents with the Thanksgiving preparations. This year, it was my brothers who helped my parents with the pre-holiday work. I am glad my brothers were there to help out.

My older brother and his family are living at my parents’ house for a couple of months until they get their own place. One of the reasons for this is the new baby—my brother did not want my sister-in-law to concern herself with establishing a new household while she was late-term.

Everything is working out. My parents’ house is large, and everyone can spread out and stay out of each other’s way whenever he or she wants to. However, trying to avoid the dog is virtually impossible, because he makes continuous rounds to see what everybody is up to. The dog prefers that everyone remain in one room—preferably, the kitchen, where food is always available—so that he can keep an eye on everyone at the same time without having to run all over the place.

My nephew is settled in, and thinks of his grandparents’ house as his own house. He has always been happy at my parents’ house, because he gets lots of attention, can spread his toys out freely and widely, and has a ready playmate in the dog. He’s happy as a lark.

He also likes having a large backyard in which he can run around. My mother and my sister-in-law bundle him up each morning and each afternoon and take him outside for fifteen or thirty minutes at a time, depending upon how cold it is. He runs around, kicking his balls and playing with the dog. On weekends, his Dad and his Granddad take him outside and play games with him. He loves it.

We stayed in all day on Thanksgiving Day and, between meals, caught up. We had a big Thanksgiving breakfast as soon as Josh and I arrived. We had a late lunch of Dutch Chowder right before my nephew’s naptime. We had traditional Thanksgiving fare for dinner.

Despite our instructions, my mother had baked a cake in honor of my birthday and Josh’s birthday, which we celebrated over Thanksgiving Dinner. I think she made the cake primarily so that my nephew could have a cake and blow out candles.

He celebrated his third birthday a month ago. He likes birthdays, and he likes cakes, and he likes blowing out candles on birthday cakes, so he got more fun out of the cake than anyone else.

He also likes birthday presents, and he received birthday presents on Thanksgiving Day, too. My mother got him a few things so that he would not feel left out when Josh and I opened our gifts. In fact, he helped us open our gifts in addition to opening his own. For him, it was just like having a second birthday celebration a few short weeks after his own birthday celebration, and he had a marvelous time.

On Friday morning, my brothers and I had to go downtown to address some business matters and to sign some documents. We got home just in time to eat lunch with everyone else. When it came time for my nephew to take his nap, my brothers and Josh and I went out to play basketball and swim.

Josh and I did something unplanned on Friday night. The Minnesota Orchestra was playing over Thanksgiving weekend this year—something the orchestra does not often do—and we decided to attend Friday night’s concert almost at the last minute.

My parents were not planning on using their tickets for Friday night’s concert because everyone was home for the holidays. However, two works Josh particularly likes—Berlioz’s Harold In Italy and Elgar’s Enigma Variations—were on the program, and Josh and I decided very late in the afternoon to attend the concert, but only if my parents attended the concert, too. My parents love the Berlioz and the Elgar, and Josh and I believed, correctly, that my parents might decide to make use of their tickets if Josh and I went to the concert with them.

I’m glad we decided to go. It was a lovely concert. Everyone at Orchestra Hall seemed to be in a relaxed, mellow mood Friday night, including the members of the orchestra, who did not force the sound and who did not overstate things, as they are sometimes prone to do, especially when Osmo Vanksa is on the podium.

The conductor was Yan Pascal Tortelier, the French conductor and son of the late cellist, Paul Tortelier. Yan Pascal Tortelier is pretty second-rate, all in all, but it did not matter Friday night. The Minnesota Orchestra can play Harold In Italy and the Enigma Variations in its sleep, and I actually found Tortelier’s music-making sort of charming. He brought a French objectivity to both scores, he was relaxed but kept tempos moving, and he did not try to score interpretative points. He also has an indefinable French “flair”, which was welcome even in the Elgar, which at no point devolved into heaviness (indeed, the Elgar was better than the Berlioz). It was a very successful concert, a perfect program for a holiday weekend, and we had a lovely time and a lovely evening.

The program also included the Overture to Mozart’s “Abduction From The Seraglio” and Delius’s “The Walk To The Paradise Garden” from “A Village Romeo And Juliet”. Neither work contributed to the concert’s success. Both works should have been omitted from the program. The Mozart sounded as if it had not even been rehearsed.

On Saturday morning, my brothers and Josh and I went out early to play basketball again.

After an early lunch, we did something special Saturday afternoon: everyone but my older brother and my nephew went downtown to see The Guthrie Theater’s presentation of “Shadowlands”, William Nicholson’s mostly unremarkable play about C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham.

The production and the performance were quite good. Simon Jones, a regular at The Guthrie (we last saw Jones at The Guthrie precisely a year ago in a Brian Friel play), portrayed C. S. Lewis. His performance alone made the trip downtown worthwhile. He is a splendid actor.

On Sunday, after church, my brothers and I took everyone to lunch at a nice restaurant in order to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary, which had occurred on Wednesday. We spent the remainder of the afternoon at home until it was time for Josh and me to go to the airport.

During the weekend, Josh and I decided how we shall spend our Christmas holidays. We shall fly to Oklahoma City on Christmas Eve, and remain in Oklahoma until December 28, on which day we shall fly to Minneapolis. Late in the afternoon on New Year’s Day, we shall return to Boston.

Happily, Christmas is only three weeks away!

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