Episode Twenty – Eleven

It had been several years since I had been unable to sleep from excitement on Christmas Eve. Those of you who know me well are aware of my affinity for sleeping and how anything less than nine hours of sleep in a night will leave me bleary and limp the next day. Well – on Christmas Eve of 2010 I had a whole new situation to contend with. When I woke up the next morning, I would be spending the holiday with a whole new family – a family who had invited me into their home to celebrate on the most family-focused day of the year. Well – I can’t speak for Thanksgiving, but in Scotland at least, Christmas is the humdinger.

So, in the basement of the Stubbins family’s home in Zanesville, Ohio, I’ll admit – it did take me quite a while to fall asleep. It’s a lot to take in. And even though a letter I received from Ohio early the next year recognised that I had made a “sacrifice” spending Christmas apart from my own family, I have to say it didn’t feel like that at all. Christmas with my “own family” isn’t the easiest of concepts for me anyway, since it’s always just the one side of my family involved, so whether I spend it with my mum’s side or my dad’s, I’m always missing out on one family Christmas. So, of course, I missed my family, and of course, I thought about my wee brother waking up and tearing open his presents excitedly, and my mum sitting with her sleepy morning eyes and her cup of hot water; but what I felt was warmth, not sadness or regret over missing it. I was growing up, I am growing up, and flying across the Atlantic for Christmas is a new and exciting development in my life. Besides, it would take a lot more than 3,000 miles of salty water to make me lose sight of my own family.

See?

This is what the room looked like in my spirit.

Except without the funny  lines around all my family members. And my dad was more in focus.

Anyway, so basically although I missed my family, I was very happy to be part of Christmas with Grant’s. I got up early(-ish) and went upstairs for present-opening. You’re probably not interested in a huge long list of what I got and what I gave, but here’s a short summary: see the top I’m wearing in the photo above? Uh-huh. And Grant  gave me the necklace I’m wearing too – you can’t really tell, but it’s inside of a watch, with all the cogs and stuff. Pretty badass. And the family had picked out some really pretty crafty things for my scrapbook, and some gift vouchers for TJ Maxx and Hobby Lobby!!! They know me so well. Since I felt a little bad about dragging Grant around the whole store with me last visit, Mrs. Stubbins took me a few days later to spend my Hobby Lobby gift card, and we meandered around the store together, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at all the ridiculously unnecessary yet irresistible trinkets. It was fun : ) As for the TJ Maxx gift card (Yes, it’s called TJ’s, not TK’s, in America. Why? Not a clue), Grant’s sisters and I went along to take a look, and I ended up bringing home a cute summery top and a pair of sunglasses. A pair of sunglasses which Grant later said he wasn’t enthralled by “because I don’t like bug-eye shades, as a rule”. Gee, thanks, honey.

The festivity in the Stubbins household was amazing.

Anyway, so my gifts rocked, and I think the ones I gave went down pretty well too. Blake liked his camo backpack and thinks he’ll use it for his paintballing gear, and Mrs. Stubbins liked the beeswax candles. And she thought the wrapping was cool, rather than ugly as I’d feared. The book of Awkward Family Photos which I bought for Mr. Stubbins provided a great deal of entertainment for all the family when they arrived later on for a buffet lunch. Grant’s mum’s side of the family arrived around midday or so, and tucked in to soup, salad, sloppy joe’s and the inimitable cheese ball. Num nums. Grant’s grandma and aunt Di stuck around for a bit afterwards, too, and Grant brought out the scrapbook I’d made for him for Christmas, and everyone got a good look. Di seemed super-impressed, as she does some scrapbooking herself so she knows how long the process takes.

So after the last of the guests had left, we more or less just took it easy the rest of the day, hung about in the house, ate dinner and went to bed. The sweater I’d received for Christmas was a size too big, so we took it back on Boxing Day to get it replaced at the Mall. Grant and I spent the rest of the day relaxing, playing video games and chatting. I blogged, Grant sneezed a lot. It was a very pleasant Boxing Day. However, on Monday (27th), the sneezing had turned into a full-blown cold, and the lunch we’d planned with his friend Kim (at Tlaquepaque, sound familiar?) had to be postponed. Shamelessly and cold-heartedly, I abandoned my life’s great love to his sick bed and went out shopping with his sisters. Hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right? That was when I spent my T.J. Maxx card on the top and the sunglasses – I guess Grant’s “bug-eye” comment was due in part to his misery from being sick all day. But he had to suck it up because we had been invited to his uncle and aunt’s house for a festive dinner that night. We got all dressed up, I curled my hair and inflicted third-degree burns in more than one location on my facial region, and we headed over there for a delicious dinner and more gifts. Grant’s aunt Susan had thoughtfully hand-made a wooden necklace for me, and bought me a notebook I’d been eyeing up in my local Paper Tiger for ages, which ended up being where I took notes on the stuff we did every day so I could blog about them. I’ve also started adding ideas for my Etsy shop (not up and running yet) in the back.

I know, I know, you’re all dying to know what the next big thing to go in The Notebook was: well, I’ll tell you. On Christmas Eve, I think it was, we’d been visiting Grant’s grandma and aunt Di, and someone happened to ask when our concert was. I was like, “What concert?” and figured they’d got Grant mixed up with someone else because we didn’t have a concert planned.

Or did we…?

Surprise!

In the car journey home that day, Grant spilled the beans and said he might as well tell me that one of my Christmas gifts was a pair of tickets for us to go and see House of Heroes, one of our favourite bands, in Akron on the 28th of December. What a stroke of luck they were playing there, of all places, during my three-week visit, of all times! They’re from Ohio, and apparently they play a gig in Akron every Christmas, so I guess not so much of a coincidence, but whatever, I was pumped. So on the 28th, after our rescheduled lunch with Kim, we headed back to Akron for a bit of House of Heroes, which was *awesome*. I spent the $20 Christmas money from Grant’s grandfather on a grey tshirt that made me think of superheroes. There were a bunch of support bands, not all of which were worth listening to, so there was a wait of at least an hour and a half until the band we were there for actually showed up; but whatever dude, they kicked serious butt. They were one of those bands who, after you’ve seen them on stage, sound even better on the album. I loved it. And they stuck around afterwards to chat to the fans, although I was too shy to go say hi. Anyway, House of Heroes are awesome; in fact, here’s a video.

So yeah, definitely one of my favourite Christmas gifts – they were a lot of fun! And it still seems crazy to me that I was in the right place at the right time to see them, what with Grant living there during term-time and all.

So, while we were in Akron, we figured we’d stay for a couple of days and do Akron-y things. We checked out Grant’s local gym, which I really liked, and he showed me how to work out. Apparently, not going to the gym for months and then showing up one day and doing two and a half hours of cardio is not how you’re supposed to do it – who knew? We also checked out the winter extravaganza at Stan Hywet Hall, which we’d visited during my autumn trip and the friendly helper man told us to come back at Christmas for the lights.

So magical...

The greenhouse, in all its glory.

The mansion itself looks somewhat eerie.

It sucks that we couldn’t take pictures inside the building, because it was incredible. Although there was an awkward Christmas Carol exhibition thing going on, which involved random actors standing in the rooms you wanted to look at and saying hello. What do you say to the Ghost of Christmas Past when you bump into him on a Wednesday evening? Exactly. But other than that, it was super-awesome – they’d decked the whole place out the way the Seiberlings used to decorate it for Christmas, reconstructed from photographs the older son used to take.

That was pretty much it for Akron – the next day, we went back to the gym to pick up Grant’s gloves (which he had sorely missed the previous evening while we wandered around Stan Hywet’s grounds in the snow for about an hour). We hung out, watched Bend It Like Beckham (one of those films I spent fifteen minutes assuring Grant he’d love and then sitting there watching it with him and realising it’s not as good as I made it out to be… Oops), and did a laundry in our jammies after Grant attempted some acrobatic twist on the act of passing me a glass of water, rendering our sheets unable to be slept in. Nice one. This was to be our last night in Akron, as I had specified that I wanted to spend New Year in Zanesville with Grant’s family – so we piled everything BACK into the car and did the two and a half hour drive all over again. Grant and I whipped up a spinach and artichoke dip for the party at Pat’s farmhouse that evening, and the family popped into Olive Garden for dinner before arriving at the farm mid-evening. We quit while we were ahead – the dip brought us fame and admiration from our peers – and made it home in time for the ball-drop, which was new to me since I’m used to watching Jackie Bird’s Hogmanay Live on the BBC. Well. TV is TV, I guess.

And that was the end of 2010. It had been a pretty crazy year for me – first time being in love, first time being out of Europe (unless you count the time we went over the river in Istanbul for a couple of hours), first time flying alone… A lot of ‘firsts’. I guess it was about time.

I’m going to leave this here though – I apologise for the length of this entry, but I had to make it to New Year to justify my immensely clever title, and we all know the value of a genius pun. I’ll post again soon – I’m currently in the Borders being looked after, following the extraction of my wisdom teeth (sympathetic comments permitted), so I finally have some spare time on my hands!

All the best to everyone. And… Happy New Year? : S

Megan

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