December 30, 2010

Christmas, Part 1: Waterpark! Family! Christmas!

Since T and I have been together, we've had a few Christmas traditions with my side of the family:
  1. The weekend before Christmas, either Friday or Saturday, T and I spend the day with my parents and my brother (and now his wife and daughter), exchanging gifts and eating nothing but appetizers. It's both low-key and lovely.

  2. The following day, we drive up that way again to celebrate with my extended family: Grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousins and now the cousins' gaggle of children. Big dinner, presents, games and talking afterward, a fire in the fireplace. Chaotic, millions of kids underfoot -- but lovely.
A few weeks before Thanksgiving, my mom called us at home. T answered, then quickly brought the phone to me on speaker.

"Dad and I were thinking: This year, instead of getting together with the whole extended family at our house, we would take everyone to an indoor water park!"

Silence. A moment passed. Neither Tommy nor I said a word, but we both looked at each other with our noses wrinkled. Um. What?

Doing our best to be supportive, we said, "O...K." And we found someone to stay with the dogs so we could spend an entire day celebrating a water park.

Now, before you start in with your "Ooh, water park! I would LOVE to do that with my family for the holidays!! Why the wrinkled noses?" let me say: I hear you. I know you water park enthusiasts are out there. We are just not part of your ranks. We are not water park people in the BEST of circumstances, and now we're going to celebrate CHRISTMAS there? In our bathing suits?!


The weekend before Christmas, T and I left the dogs in the capable hands of our neighbor and schlepped the hour and a half to Huron, Ohio. Which is, frankly, a completely unlikely place to have a water park, I think. And an entirely unlikely place to find the biggest water park I have ever seen in my entire life. As we rounded the corner into the Kalahari complex, our jaws dropped and the only word we said for five minutes was "...whoa."

"Huge" doesn't even begin to describe it. "Monstrosity" is getting a little bit closer. "Seven football stadiums stacked end to end" is probably more like it.

We managed (barely) to navigate through the enormous complex to our hotel and found the rest of the fam in one of three humongous suites my parents had rented for the night. (This was their Christmas gift to everyone.) Again: Insanely huge. And there sat my grandma, in her best Christmas sweater, surrounded by all the Christmas candy and popcorn balls she'd made for the occasion. In that moment, I found all of these things extremely comforting -- a little shot of something familiar in this anything-but environment.

Everyone started to arrive, and as usual, things...didn't get loud. See, half of my extended family is deaf. But in place of the usual din of a family gathering, we have even more hugging, signing and animated storytelling than your average clan. It all balances out.

And kids. Holy goodness and light, did we have kids. In addition to my niece, my aunt and uncle have four, my cousin S has three (including a be-dimpled six-month-old cherub named Gavin) and my cousin J has SIX, five of whom were present and roaming around everywhere, already trying to escape to the henceforth-forbidden balcony.

In the confusion J's second-youngest, Jaylen, ran to each person in the room and excitedly told them (in words and in sign language) that there was a BABY in the room, did everyone know this?! She immediately appointed herself guardian of young Gavin:

As said kids were starting to get antsy -- I mean, we're at a water park; let's get this swimming train out of the station! -- my dad disappeared for a moment, then reappeared with a huge box in tow, practically skipping with delight.

"As everyone can see, this place is really big," he understatement-ed as my aunt translated. "So I got us all a little something to help us find each other in this giant mix of people."

Oh, yes we did.

(As my brother so lovingly put it in a text he sent me surreptitiously: "OMG. We are those people I used to throw things at.")

So, yes. We all trekked, as one large, bright-red, frolicking group, down to the indoor water park. It was not at all embarrassing. (People seemed to like our shirts, actually.)

The indoor water park? One enormous room, about 90 degrees, humid and full of wet people. It did not smell...good. T had decided not to swim (party pooper!), but we didn't want to leave the herd, so we hung out in the middle of the melee.

"You're not swimming?" one of my cousins asked. When I responded in the negative, she handed me a frightened-looking one-year-old I had just met for the first time 10 minutes prior. "Here, can you hold Jazella while we swim?" she asked, ignoring my panicked look. Before I could protest, she had rocketed across the room to stand in line for a three-story-high water slide, and I was left with a terrified spider monkey clinging to my neck.

And so went the afternoon. Random confused children were assigned to me so their parents could go have fun. I love the little'uns, but...this was not what I'd signed up for.

At last, the parents came to retrieve their young, and my niece arrived, ready to take on the Lazy River with her Aunt Shan. Hooray! Something I actually wanted to do! :)

T and I eventually escaped the asylum and headed back to the sanctuary of the main suite, where we had a lovely (non-bathing-suited) time talking to my aunt and grandparents and putting a hurt on the Christmas candy.

Around 7, everyone returned. Pizza was ordered and eaten, gifts were distributed and all of a sudden, just like that, here it was: The Christmas I'd been mourning all day. Everyone in one room, talking and laughing and signing, eating and playing, hugging and napping.

And it was lovely.

5 backtalk:

Summer said...

This was fabulous.

Loved the shirts. . . loved the love.

What a great family you have and how wonderful are you to just go with it.

You seriously rock, my Friend!

65 Roses for Marcia said...

Your mom thought this was great, so much more relaxing for her not having to pick out gifts for everyone. I see more Christmas water parks in your future...better hang on to those shirts!!

Erika Jean said...

Very interesting way to spend Christmas, but I'm sure a Christmas experience no one will forget! Especially the kiddos!

Must have been nice for the parents not to have to clean, cook and have everyone over ;-)

Ky • said...

I read every word of this shortly after you posted it - just didn't get a chance to comment.

Shan - this

I could HEAR you saying so much of it.

I'm glad it all worked out. :) And, you deserve 10,000 points just for going along with this craziness. "Christmas at waterpark." Oy.

wrestling kitties said...

LOVE THE SHIRTS!!! No large family gathering is complete without matching shirts.

Even if it wasn't exactly what you wanted, it sounds like a very memorable and special Christmas!

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