It is all over, for another year, all bar the shouting on Monday at midnight. We have been studying the turkey carcass and deciding whether we can salvage any meat, so as not to waste it, or put it back in the fridge, and go through the same procedure tomorrow. Only another 359 shopping days until next Christmas.
My final week of 2012 at the office was a mixed bag. We were all waiting for the winter solstice, to see whether the Mayans had it right, or whether they had, indeed, run out of stone (or wall!) It appears that the Mayans, themselves, were the only people who paid no heed to the prophesy. The knitting frenzy continued. I had seen people knitting on aeroplanes, but wanted to make sure I could take them through security. John, at Austin Bergstrom Airport, could not see that there would be a problem. However, to be certain, he put me through to Megan, who assured me that I would be allowed to carry them in my hand luggage; metal, wooden or any other kind of stick would be allowed through, with or without wool. I promised (or threatened) to call on her should I be prevented from taking my latest neck creation on board.
Work was very quiet in the mornings, and around 3pm everyone seemed to wake up. Between tea time and closing the doors, it was a mad panic. Samantha and I had asked that all orders be in by the previous Saturday, as we would have not time during the week to do any extra shopping. I had ordered several perfume items on line, and was tracking them with anxiety. Elise had asked me for four items, and I was hoping that I would not disappoint her because of the winter storms in the North East. One perfume company told me that I was 'cutting it fine' and should have ordered earlier. I was equally as 'cutting' when I explained that it was their lackadaisical attitude in getting the bottles to their warehouse. I was told there was no need for bad language! I apologised for using the word, 'warehouse'. One order arrived on Tuesday, and another that was scheduled for the same day, had been delayed. When the package finally arrived, I did not think before speaking (as is the norm) and the young, shy, relief driver for UPS, turned a very deep shade of red, when I told him, 'You have just made two ladies very happy'. He could not leave the office quick enough, as Samantha and Kelly appeared to check on the delivery. No offense to the two ladies, (who were not going to be the recipients) but with three of us standing there, the intimidation factor was obviously too much, as I had told him two days earlier that he would make a young man very happy!
My final package arrived at 4.55pm on Friday, and Dana and I shut up shop for four days. I finished my final pieces of packing, with one suitcase full of wool, to keep me occupied in the unlikely event that I would get bored while in England. The bathroom scales were abused several times, and having heard that the weather was going to be relatively mild, all my hard work the previous weekend was undone, and my cases were repacked with appropriate items. I finally collapsed into bed at 10pm, having told Dana at 7 those famous last words, 'I will not be long!' Dana and I shared breakfast on Saturday morning, before heading for the office (yes, closed office) to meet Samantha and Edward. Dana wanted to go straight back to work once we had been deposited. The knitting needles and I passed through the x-ray machine with no problem. Samantha's flight was delayed, but mine was on time, and we said our cheerio's until the following morning.
Fortunately, the flights were uneventful. I joined an older couple in the lounge, whose flight was about fifteen minutes after mine. Soon I spotted a seat by the window and bid my new friends, farewell, as we had got to know each other quite well in the first hour of our long haul wait! I moved a chair slightly towards the edge of the room, and was immediately tackled by the chair police. A hefty lady, snorted and moved the chair opposite into a parralel position. She dared me to move, with her eyes, and so I did. There was not a cheer, but several gasps were heard. She relented and went on to bully a family of four, by removing grandma's seat to another table, while she was fixing herself a cup of coffee. Although it was not said, I could almost hear grandpa say, 'I wish I were as brave as you'. I have come to the conclusion that trouble just follows me! My seat on the 'big' plane had been taken. As most will know, I don't do flying very well, and any upset sends me into a blind panic. A young man and his daughter were attempting to find two seats together. 'But that is my seat', I cried, as the six year old watched in horror. 'I get claustrophobic' was probably not a good excuse, as I was going to be hemmed in by the window. Fortunately, the gentleman and his son who were gong to sit in the middle two seats, split up and allowed the other family of two to sit together. The cry of, 'But I want a window seat', was met with a very unsympathetic, 'It's mine, precious!' She did not see the irony! Dana tried to make me feel better about not giving up the window seat, but failed. I started to feel a little silly, but the guilt soon wore off when I noticed the child slept from take off to landing. The sunrise was amazing as usual, and the rather 'fit' African gentleman next to me gathered his son, wife and several children, quickly, to avoid the further advances from the somewhat elderly air hostess. (Being politically correct, when she was younger, we were allowed to use the word air hostess! - for anyone who used to watch Victoria Wood, this was Mrs Overall!)
As I turned on my phone, I was greeted with a text, 'BA lost or mislaid baggage'. Ricky picked me up from the airport, and advised me that Samantha had been collected by her father, minus her case. Her comment last week, 'This will be easy to recognise' was irrelevant, as unless she was flying directly back to Chicago, she would not see it for a while. Fortunately British Airways have more than one flight out from the Windy City, and a very nice gentleman arrived on mum's doorstep at 11.05pm.
Christmas Eve was not very busy, but Samantha felt no joy on Christmas morning. Not being used to being in the barracks, she was somewhat slow to respond to reveille, but was soon whipped into shape. Having peeled my own weight in potatoes, which was somewhat more than when I left Austin, despite only been here for two days, I went on to prepare a year's worth of groceries for a vegetarian. The turkey was receiving the sun lamp treatment, and the pudding was boiling, Dinner was eaten in a fifth of the time it took to prepare, and the not so Secret Santa gifts were exchanged. The lounge and dining room, the following morning, looked like it was recovering from a hangover. Samantha had to rise and shine earlier than she anticipated, so I could start the recovery counseling, with the vacuum and duster. It took less time to make good than it did for Samantha to wake up, but she did not have much time to regroup, as we had been invited to Steph's grandma for lunch.
A sumptuous spread was demolished, and as usual Steph's grand-parents made us feel very welcome, and a good time was had by all. The comment from another guest, as she leaned across to help herself to some food, 'Sorry to lower the tone', was responded to, by me, with the answer, 'Too late; I was here first!' I told her that I really do strive to be a lady like my mother, but there is far too much of my father in me! However, time and tide etc, and we had to leave one party for another, and set sail for Bishop's Stortford, for our annual family (and ex-family) get together. Food and wine flowed, and Rose and I put the world to rights, undid it, and put it to rights again, several times. Although we do have contact during the year, the face time always brings out the best (or worst) and the alcohol definitely contributes to our conversation. Robin, Rose's husband, closed the fridge door with half a bottle of rose' in his hand, and said, 'We had eight bottles of this; two were drunk yesterday, and this is all that is left'. I told him, very sternly, that I had only consumed half a glass. My glass had remained at the 'half glass' mark for the entire evening! Being a 'light weight' (as my children remind me), by midnight I was about to turn into a pumpkin, and I blamed the mulled wine I drank at our previous party. 'There was no mulled in it', I insisted!
Having arrived home at 2am, and telling Samantha very loudly that she will wake Grandma if she breathes, I proceeded to stumble over my own feet and send the bunch of keys flying along the hallway. If there were skittles at the end, a strike would have been inevitable. Breathing was not a problem for Samantha, as she was laughing so hard, she failed to perform that function!
I joined Ricky to take my daughter to the airport on Friday morning, as she was flying to meet Edward in North Carolina. They were going to have post Christmas fun with the in-laws. It was very strange to wave her goodbye, as it is usually her doing it to me. Ricky treated me to breakfast at the supermarket, and we walked around the store for a while, before heading back. We had some quality time on Saturday morning at the mall, wreaking havoc in the pound saver shop, and I found some more wool! Not only will I have been considered a smuggler for bringing it in; I am now trying to get it out! With most balls of yarn now turned into scarves, I am going to have to find a cold place to spend a couple of months!
New Year's Eve will no doubt be completely uneventful, and it will not be long before I am winging my way back to the Republic of Texas. Will trouble become my middle name? That is.........