We're back from our week in Iowa with Sam's family. Since Sam's work has really stringent time-off policies and the weather in Iowa is so bad during the winter, we decided to take some time off in between holidays and get all the festivities over with. This year, we had a full-blown Christmas. I am not a Christmas fan AT ALL, but it was nice to spend time with the family.
The drive down really sucked, though. Mike and Abi's home is about 8 hours from ours (with stops for lunch and gas). Half of that time was spent in the pouring rain, stuck behind semis carrying Black Friday internet purchases. My car has a horrible tendency to fog up when it's cold, and the only way to really take care of that is to turn on the A/C, so we were absolutely freezing to boot.
We did see some really beautiful scenery on the way there and back, though. On the way out, we saw the stormfront moving into flat Columbus. It looked like a distant mountain range made of clouds, there for a few minutes, then gone forever. Neither one of us had ever seen anything quite like it. A foggy windshield made Sam miss a turn outside Indianapolis, and on a suburb onramp, a hawk swooped down slowly, flying in front of our car for 30 incredible seconds. If it weren't for that wrong turn, we would've never seen that majesty. During the trip, I saw one bald eagle, six deer, countless hawks, crimson cardinals in profile against the snow, and one peregrine falcon.
On the way down and while at the Hutchison homestead, we talked about wikileaks, how technology affects cognition, what it means to be a radical (and how it has or hasn't changed between generations), new gender roles for men in western society, what being a cyborg might do to your soul, what a soul IS and where it's located, the existence of a higher power, the necessary components to have an urban culture, failed predictions of the future, our own predictions for the future, my after-graduation plans, and embarrassing/cute stories of Sam growing up.
We ate an entire ham (about half of which is still in freezer bags), my mother's recipe for raisin sauce, an obscene amount of fine cheeses, many different root vegetables, delicious goodies from a family friend, a clever ham/bean/collards soup seasoned with just hot sauce and chicken stock, dozens of homemade cookies, teeth-squeekingly fresh cheese curds, and gallons of tea.
The Hutchison Christmas traditions are not unlike those of most families, with a few exceptions. They watch Star Wars (IV-VI) as part of their post-feast chillout, and they go on a shopping spree with each other in lieu of a more traditional wrapped gift exchange (since everyone's too humble to ask for specific gifts, and/or too impatient to not just buy everything they want or need). In describing these traditions, I guess I should say "we" rather than "they," since I'm clearly an intimate member of the family now, but I still find these practices somewhat alien, though very enjoyable. We had gifts, we had a feast, and we even decorated a giant pine.
Sam spent a lot of time helping his dad with household chores and errands for Iowa Parrot Rescue. Mike and Abi are doing a lot of very serious and beautiful work, restoring their 110-year-old farmhouse. Sam will inherit it one day, so the work they're putting into it now is like the world's biggest Christmas present to begin with. I spent most of my time with Abi, talking while she spun wool and I knit a baby blanket (which I will show you only when it's completed). I made my obligatory trip to the cheese factory and Mennonite grocer, where I love scoring cheap organic herbs and dry goods. I spent some time with Elizabeth, a family friend of Mike and Abi's, buying yarn and decorating holiday cutout cookies. We got a little nuts with the decoration, partly due to an excess of caffeine. Abi and I also spent some time in a bead class, learning how to make earrings from wire-twisting.
We all spent an inordinate amount of time watching "The Wire" and "Pushing Dasies." Weird combination, that.
For gifts, Sam settled on a bunch of tools, which he'll use to build me a nice corner-shelf with. I got a few books: Classical Music: A Beginner's Guide
(which is much cooler than it sounds, and is wonderfully written) and Triumph of Music
(which is both broader and more in-depth on the development of western popular music up to today). Abi got an MP3 player and some wonderful speakers, which I expect she'll put to good use with epic loads of podcasts. (Since they live so far outside of town, they spend lots of time at home, where broadband doesn't exist. Radio and books are consumed more than food or electricity out there.)
We had a lovely time, but after a week, we're glad to be home in our own roomy bed with two snuggle-deprived cats. Last year, we didn't spend enough time on the ground in Iowa, since it takes so long to drive there. This year, I think we found out one week is just a perfect amount of time.
Some parting quotes, for your enjoyment:
Sam: "I'm just going to build some sort of mechanical device to do all the work for me."
Mike: "There's a problem with that."
Sam: "What's that?"
Mike: "We only have one roll of duct tape."
Sam (in abject horror): "WHAT?!"On missing Indiana's omnipresent Tom Raper Homes and RV billboards during the drive to Iowa
Lauren: "We'll just catch him on the way back to Columbus."
Sam: "Oh no, you don't catch Tom Raper, he catches YOU."On hearing Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl"
Sam: "I wonder what kind of girl Lauren is?"
Lauren: "I think I'm a mace girl."
Sam: "How's that?"
Lauren: "Sweet but very spicy, and if you piss me off, I'll put your eyes out."
Sam: "Lauren: apply directly TO THE FACE."