So, Philadelphia. Or more precisely Chestnut Hill, where the Bushnell/Toner household is now located. What a week!
Emily and I arrived at the train station late friday night –so late that it was, in fact, saturday morning –to be picked up and given a ride home in a sleep-induced stupor. The very next morning, things picked up.
The main event on saturday was the Cutting of the Tree. Much anticipated, it was, as my prowess with axes and other shafted instruments had already gained a small amount of notoriety, in no small way thanks to a certain crate-smashing video once posted upon this very blog. Alas, it was not meant to be: only pre-cut trees were left to be sold so late in the year, and the axe never left the inside of the car. Oh, well. The tree, at least, was a pretty impressive one almost 3m tall, wide and green and healthy. It even survived the trip back home in a net secured to the roof of the car with string.
This day also saw the beginning of what would be the major theme of this visit: family reunions. We stopped shortly on our way at the Toner grandparents’ place, just the time to say hello, invade the solarium and steal a box of blueberry muffins. Yum!
The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to resting and eventually decorating the tree. It shone, it glittered, it even had birds, potatoes, bubbles and ocean liners. What more can one ask of a single evergreen?
Sunday, things got more serious. In the morning we headed up (quite early) first to the Bushnell (uncle) house nearby to meet with this side of the family, then to the Farm, and then on to Mercer Street, the amazing grandfatherly home/museum now devoid of an occupant. That house is really something else. It is filled in every corner with memorabilia, art, stuffed animals and collectibles of various natures. It will now have to be emptied before the house itself can be sold, an undertaking one of Ruth’s uncles is spearheading, probably for the next few months at least. Good luck to him!
In the afternoon, we headed to the Toners’ this time where a turducken had been cooking and waiting for us since morning. What’s a turducken you ask? Why, obviously, it’s a turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken, with sausage to fill the gaps. A delicacy from Lousiana or so we’re told. With 14 people I think we managed to eat almost two third of it before the last combattant gave up in the face of unsurmountable meatiness. It is a safe bet that everybody slept soundly that night.
Monday was already Chritmas eve! Morning quietly spent relaxing at home, we went back to David’s (the uncle above) to have hot cider and cookies in the early afternoon (also: to steal chopped wood). Then… church! Presbyterian church to be exact, with hymns and choirs and sermon, the whole deal, and even an interactive allegoric candle-light show at the end. I would lie if I claimed that was just like usual. Back home as night was falling, I proceeded to start a fire in the main room’s fireplace. Mmmm fire… Then, pesto fried gnocchi for dinner! And apparently for the first time this side of the atlantic, the opening of presents on the night of the 24th. Ooo…
And boy, did we need that whole evening. A mountain of wrapped boxes there was, with Rebecca on dispatch duty and little kitty on recycling. I was, for lack of a stronger word, utterly spoiled. Embarrasingly so, as I had more boxes with my name on it than anyone else. Eep! At least I had brought decent gifts of my own. Among the spoils: a lot of tea and associated pots, various books, tee-shirts (from the sister), a sushi set and its rice/steam cooker, a laptop cooler tablet, a short camera tripod… even a bright yellow tachikoma plushie! I’m probably still forgetting some more.
And yet, the list was not over. For the very next morning we were visiting the Toners again, and I received: gloves, scarf, teas and pastries… There must have been a leak somewhere that I liked tea, I think. 😉 Not complaining though. Back home for lunch and a quick rest, and in the afternoon we were hosting the Bushnell. After a large dinner in the main dining room, more presents were given (not to me! phew), another fire was started and marshmallows were experimentally roasted, as demonstrated by Ruth just below.
On the 26th, we actually pretty much stayed home except for one trip to get me a presentable shirt and another to the theater to see National Treasure II. The later was visibly thoroughly enjoyed by most, which in turn caused a certain amount of intrigued besument in others. Hmmm… 🙂 That night was also the occasion to demonstrate one of the gifts I’d made and thus a little more than one hour was spent making crepes! No complaints were heard afterwards, except that maybe there could have been more. But ain’t that always the case with crepes?
Thursday was the official funeral ceremony at a church in Princeton. Garbed in my new shirt and a jacket lent to me by Ruth’s father John, we attended the office punctuated by a very powerful speech by Rebecca and her brother. In the reception afterwards at a nearby lounge, more relatives were met and, for a few of them, introduced to the glory of astroparticle physics. They insisted. Back at the Farm, pizza and beer was had in a last gathering before going back home to an attempt to roast chestnuts in the fireplace. This ended up a mild success, edible but not very presentable.
Ruth and I took a train back to providence the next morning, to rest and relax and await the new year…