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  • Writer's pictureKimberly OLeary

I'll Be Home for Christmas....after more than a year away, we rediscover the energy of being in the same spaces as our family & friends

In October, 2022, Paul & I boarded a ship and headed to the other side of the world. We had many wonderful adventures, saw fabulous sights, and met wonderful and interesting people. During our 14 months away, we kept in touch with family through frequent Zoom calls, and with friends through this blog. We made a lovely entry back into the United States through Hawaii, spending time in Honolulu & Maui with friends. You can see pictures of that trip here. As beautiful as Hawaii is, the highlight of that trip was spending time with my music teacher, Pamela Polland. We've been Zooming for several years - both ukelele and voice lessons - but only met each other once before in person, in 2018. I was again reminded that there is energy between people in person that is not replicated over a screen. We walked, talked, laughed, and enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal together looking out over the ocean.

We also met my cousin's cousin, Beth, who has lived on Maui for 20 years and shared her insights in a lovely day on the mountain called Haleakala.

From Hawaii, we traveled to California to visit our son, James, and daughter-in-law, Maggie. We spent a magical week in a redwood forest, talking, laughing, hugging, and philosophizing. Maggie & James made us a second Thanksgiving meal, and they BBQ'd burgers in a redwood forest. We went to Sonoma and tasted wine (and bought a case to send on to Michigan). We had dinner at our favorite restaurant on the ocean at sunset. But most of all, we enjoyed the company of these two delightful people we are lucky to call our children.

In early December, we returned to our home base in Michigan. We were greeted by our daughter and her fiance, who welcome us into their home when we are here. The month we've been back has been a reunion of hugs and laughter with visits to friends and family. We went to a wedding of a dear family friend in Detroit. There, we saw many friends and got a chance to hear our daughter play her cello at the wedding. It was a beautiful event. We even caught up with a former student over a meal.

Our next stop was Louisville, Kentucky, where we celebrated the 11th birthday of our cousin's daughter, enjoyed food experiences (including a Japanese-Kentucky fusion restaurant called Enso,visits to Shapiro's deli in Indianapolis on the way to Kentucky and back, and breakfast at Toast on Market in New Albany). We were privileged to celebrate in the honor of our uncle's induction into the hall of fame of the high school where he taught for 45 years. We made great strides in planning Kate & Ben's wedding which will be at the home of my aunt and uncle and reception at the Ali Center overlooking the Ohio River. We tasted a preview cake. We visited the graves of family and placed pine wreaths there. We soaked in the joy of conversation, music, and laughter.

But the heart of our home base is at Kate & Ben's house in Lansing. Here, we prepared for Christmas. We decorated their living tree, spoiled their two cats, Pickles & Ziggy, cooked meals, baked cookies, made truffles. We found our winter coats in their closet and sweaters and sweat pants in our storage unit. We ate at Sparty's and the People's Kitchen and yes, the portions are too big but the bacon is crisp and the bagels taste like bagels. In Lansing we got a glimpse of snow before the weather turned warm. We made plans, but had to cancel most of them due to the presence of COVID in the household, but we've weathered that together. It's been kind of peaceful. We'll reschedule the plans. We've enjoyed just being together.

Kate and I have been listening to a lot of Christmas music. The one that speaks to me the most this year is, "I'll Be Home for Christmas". Written in 1943 by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent, it was made famous by Bing Crosby that same year. It's main audience was service members and their families. Hearing it, I felt the warmth of being home for Christmas this year.

Paul and I have appointments with doctors and dentists - overdue "tune-ups" as we're in our mid-sixties. We'll be staying in Lansing through the end of February. We'll probably buy a car since we'll be in North America for a while. After Lansing, we're considering staying in Louisville mostly until the wedding, looking for a place in the downtown area. In June and July, we'll be in Toronto. We'll likely head West after that to Banff and Vancouver and maybe Alaska and maybe Seattle - we'll see. We can't plan that far ahead. But we'll soon be back on the road. In the meantime, I'm planning to get in a lot of face time with our family and friends, cuddles from the cats, and enjoy the bacon and bagels!

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