I was excited to go to Beaufort for Christmas this year. We've been a ton since we moved south in June, which has been fantastic, but I was really looking forward to this trip because I hadn't been home for Christmas since 2008. That was before I met Carson, so obviously he hasn't partaken in Norman or Conners family traditions ever. We certainly talked up the tamales to him, and he loves being with family for holidays too, so he was equally excited to make the trip.
I will note though... he missed having a white Christmas. He might have been a little won over by the weather in the mid-sixties and pretty sunsets and the ability to wear short sleeves when it was sunny, but apparently, he still missed that white stuff. I still don't. I feel like I'm still thawing out, and I'm definitely back to my wimpy ways, where anything below 55 feels miserable, and I am not ashamed. (PS- Carson has gotten a little wimpier too. Warm weather will do that to ya.)
When I got off work on Christmas Eve, Carson and I hit the road. It was pouring rain when we left and the rain had been falling for several days, so there were cars that had hydroplaned into the median and were stuck in mud. Everyone else was going about 20 miles below the speed limit because it really wasn't safe to drive. About 45 minutes down the road, things cleared up and we had a safe, delay-free drive up to South Carolina. If you look closely at this picture, you'll see the funniest thing we've ever seen on the road: a dead deer strapped to the back of a tiny car. It's the silvery-white one in the picture, and a terrible picture, but the close-up would have been worse: the thing was not only strapped there but bleeding all over the back of the car. It was also weaving in and out of traffic at just under 100mph so it wasn't exactly a great idea to speed up and catch a picture.
We thankfully made it in time for the Christmas Eve service at 5pm. Went to Nana's first to freshen up a little bit, and then headed over to the church. We read scripture, sang carols, and listened to a message before we lit candles all over the auditorium.
Following that, we went back to Nana's house to eat too much food. Nana makes tamales, chili and pasole every year for Christmas Eve, and so for years, I'd spent time eating other things because these weren't my favorites. I did eat a few tamales this year, and they were great! Carson enjoyed his first tamales and was happy to eat chili that was adequately spicy.
We lounged around for a little after eating, full and sleepy. Eventually, we got ourselves up to a seated position and opened presents. Scott played "Santa" as he has for as long as I can remember, and passed out presents.
The highlight of the evening was little Luke, my cousin Amanda's son. He's 18 months old and such a character. He didn't get a nap that day, so he was exhausted and overwhelmed by all the goings-on. He provided great comedic relief for us though, body-slamming gift boxes and being confused by everything that was happening.
Here's a family picture by the tree, minus my sister and her husband because they were at their own Christmas-eve service.
Nana and I - nobody here is wearing heels.
My cousin Morgan (fun fact: I have a cousin named Morgan on both sides of the family) and my brother Scott. He's the only grandchild and she's the oldest of my uncle's kids.
We slept in reasonably late the next morning. I woke up before Carson did but didn't get up. When he woke up, he got super excited that it was Christmas and truly jumped out of bed, shouting "Merry Christmas!!"
My dad didn't hang my sister's stocking or my stocking this year because we no longer live in the house. We thought this was terrible, but no one fixed it. Carson put his and my stockings up there on Christmas morning.
My brother got this tree from a farm he works at during the year.
Real fireplaces are overrated when it's in the 60s during the day.
Tamales and fried eggs (tradition) and orange monkey bread for breakfast.
Before Becca and Thomas arrived, we opened our stockings. Carson and I waited until Christmas morning for that as well.
Proof that life revolves around Oscar the dog: new toothbrush for dad, tainted already.
Aaaaand he's nice to us, but please don't steal his spotlight.
We watched Peanuts Christmas after unwrapping.
I gave Carson the game Wits and Wagers for Christmas, and we introduced the family to it before Becca and Thomas showed up.
Once they arrived, we exchanged gifts. In Dad's gift, we included this pack of rubber balls for Oscar and Dad to play with. Oscar smelled them through the bag, waited until they were unwrapped, and carried the whole thing around, before chewing the package open and playing with them. Guess it was a successful gift.
Thomas and Becca got stockings that Mom made from an old sweater!
Becca got a piggy bank shaped like a dog, and we immediately let it take a nap with Mini.
Scott wrapped up jars of honey and presented them in a bed of pinestraw to his immediate family members.
After gifts were open, we let the mess linger while we enjoyed our gifts and got lunch ready.
Becca was excited about the pound of shea butter she received from Nana.
If you recall, Dad gave Mom a huge disco ball for her birthday. It was maybe a little too huge, so he purchased a second, smaller one. Now they have twice the light reflecting capabilities.
Our family doesn't have traditional Christmas lunch food. Christmas dinner has never been a thing to us, so we had hamburgers because we all loved having them on Sundays after church when we were growing up.
We haven't been to South Carolina for Christmas since I've known Carson, so this was the first year we got to participate in the annual gingerbread house making contest. I don't think it's a contest so much as it is an activity, but it got pretty creative. Here's Carson's and my house... the pavement is made from the included gingerbread men.
Thomas and Scott went for a very creative castle, complete with alligators in the moat.
Becca and Dad created more of a woodland hut, decorated with greenery.
Following the gingerbread creations, we got sleepy.
And then it was time for family pictures. I made that horrible rodent Scott is holding. More on that in the future.
I don't think this was posed, but I don't know what they were looking at.
This picture was Thomas' idea. The best picture of us yet.
We introduced Becca and Thomas to Wits and Wagers for a quick round before they had to leave to be with the Mole family. Afterwards, the rest of us got in the car to go to Granddaddy and Grandmama's house. Dad and I tested out the DVD player in the back that nobody uses anymore and lo and behold - Elf was in the player! So we watched most of it there and back.
This plane at the MCAS air station has been lit up like Rudolph every Christmas since I can remember. At Thanksgiving when we were here, the lights weren't on it yet and I was concerned that a budget cut or something meant that they wouldn't... guess they just wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas too!
Christmas sunset on the downtown bridge
After Christmas dinner at Granddaddy and Grandmama's which wasn't traditional either due to the exchange of turkey for pork, we introduced Carson to fruitcake and ambrosia, which he'd never had but enjoyed. Those are not his fingers in the picture, in case you were worried.
We rifled through a box of Dad's old school pictures, ribbons, newspaper articles of his golf wins, report cards and various art projects after dinner, as well as a little Facebook stalking.
No aunts, uncles or cousins were there this year, just us, which didn't feel that strange, since I haven't exactly made it home for Christmas in forever, and since they're on a year-on, year-off Christmas schedule and my family is the only one that still lives in Beaufort. It was different thinking back to past Christmases there when we were little and could hardly wait to gulp down our food while sitting in the foyer, stealthily shaking boxes in hopes of new Barbies and Beanie Babies as we impatiently begged our slow parents to please finish eating so we could rip open presents. It was quiet this year at Grandmama's, but full of memories.
That's enough pictures for one post, right? More to come of our trip in another post.