Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas in Ohio, not Killarney

(I'm sure a handful of you will recognize the Irish Christmas song referenced in the title of this post.)

"Antonio" and me with Santa
Just writing with a quick update of how my Christmas went.  I went to Ohio to be with my boyfriend's family and we had a great time at a variety of family celebrations up there.  Although I spent last Christmas Day in Texas, this year is the first time I haven't been in Iowa for all my family celebrations (we frequently would celebrate extended family celebrations on a date other than December 25, whenever everyone could be together). 

On the Friday before Christmas, my BF's family had a Christmas party at their house.  I had made a few recipes from home, to bring a bit of those memories (and tastes!) with me to Cincinnati.  The caramel Crispix, Oreo balls, and "crapper dip" (you throw a bunch of crap together and it makes a cracker dip, hence the silly abbreviated name) were all a hit.  A large number of friends and family poured through the house, excited with the holiday spirit.  The highlight of the evening was a visit from some carolers led by Santa Claus himself! I was beaming with holiday cheer as "Antonio" had one arm around me, another around his grandma, and we sang Christmas carols with Santa, who was surrounded by all the children at the party by this time.

Christmas Eve at Paul Brown Stadium, cheering the Bengals to victory!
On Chistmas Eve, the BF and I went to a Cincinnati Bengals game (we are both crazy about NFL football...I'm...well, actually, tattooed crazy about my team).  This year marked the first time I hadn't been to a Chicago Bears game in about six years, a tradition started with Brian that I really miss.  But the Bengals game more than made up for it.  We had shopped for Bengals gear at the pro shop as soon as Antonio and his sister picked me up at the airport, so we were dressed the part, and we didn't even have to cover up in coats the weather was so nice.  The Bengals played well overall (a couple missed field goals were frustrating), but it was a nail-biter 'til the last minute, when the home team walked away with a victory.  It was great to see the Bengals win, and we were really lucky to have a great view of Jerome Simpson's amazing flipping touchdown (and I don't mean "flipping" as a euphemism for another "F" word...I mean he literally flipped over a defender and landed on his feet in the end zone).  It was one of those football moments I will always remember (like the time I saw Devin Hester's two return touchdowns carry the Bears to overtime and eventually victory over the Broncos on a snowy Sunday night at Soldier Field). If that Simpson play was the icing on the cake, the cherry on top was the fact that we got to share the day with family.  Antonio's sister and her friends were at the game too, and Antonio's cousin got to go onto the field to be recognized for his accomplishments as a high school quarterback (his face was on the Jumbotron and everything!).  That night, the extended family exchanged presents with his grandma at her house.  From there, it was off to Mom's house for a Christmas Eve ham dinner (again, with the whole family) and then to late mass.  From mass, like many a good Catholic would, it was to the Irish bar for more caroling and some darts.
Me with the BF's family (sibs, mom, and Grandma)

On Christmas Day, we went to Antonio's stepdad's house for breakfast (he's Dad to the younger siblings and helped raise Antonio).  We had a great homemade breakfast and did gifts there, then it was back to Mom's house for immediate family gifts.  Antonio got me a Toshiba Thrive (a smart pad device), which will be perfect for me to use when I get started as a real estate agent early next year!  He also got me some nice polarized sunglasses.  I got him a range finder device for him to use on the golf course (it has a laser and detects how many yards you are from the flag).  I think everyone was pleased with their gifts.  That night, we had dinner at an uncle's house -- prime rib, cheesy potatoes, and specialty drinks were on the menu -- yum!  The night ended on a down note as the Bears-Packers game did not end with the Christmas miracle I was hoping for (a minor down note; still a good day).

The day after Christmas, Mom, Grandma, Antonio, one sister, one brother, and Uncle Mark all piled in to a couple vehicles and headed out for lunch and a trip to the conservatory.  We saw a bunch of really cool plants and flowers, a miniture train set-up made of all-natural materials that filled a whole room, and a life-size nativity scene (with actual animals).  We also got to drive around a park with some amazing views of Kentucky across the river, and some neat things to look at.  That night, we said our good-byes as Antonio and I marched to two fantasy football victories (and two championship game appearances).  I have an Iowa native, Darren Sproles, to thank for my last-minute victory over my father-in-law.  (Sorry, Steve.)

The trip to Ohio was fantastic.  I missed my Iowa friends and family, and our traditions, and I missed Brian.  But that didn't keep me from enjoying myself with people I love, in a place I love -- even if those people and places are a little newer to me, and even if it means recognizing that my life is forever different.  I had a wonderful time.  Besides, I carried Brian and his family with me, and my family, with me.  Even if we weren't physically together, they were all with me.  It was in me making caramel Crispix -- a Boka family recipe that we would make for Bears tailgating and holiday parties, and that Brian loved.  It was in me talking about my family, and Brian, even though no one there has met either (and will never meet Brian).  I still talk about him, because he was a part of my life and I love and remember him, and I can talk about him happily.  It doesn't make me sad to talk about him, and that feels really good.  I felt like I honored and remembered him very well when push came to shove on Christmas, instead of just being sad because I missed him (something I'd been struggling with lately).  So I'm glad to say that Christmas went very well.  Not that there were no tears -- there were, but they were a quiet sidenote to an overall happy time.

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