First we wapped presents. Now, we wrap presents *very* badly. I remember watching a Catholic friend of mine many presents in a very short time, using recycled wrapping paper that barely fit and doing a wonderful job. Me? I use brand new wrapping paper and it looks sloppy. It's lack of practice - we don't have to wrap scores of presents every year. This year, with six kids at the party, plus two or three extras, was an all-time record. And it's hard judging how much paper you need to wrap a large cube (or an even larger tub of Legos. He ended up using two pieces from a roll of paper.) So we had a fair bit of drama about that. (And I couldn't help thinking how this is a reminder that we don't have kids - while we're not the only childless people there, we are the only married couple without kids.)
Then we got into the rental car and ran a couple of errands before setting off for New Jersey. My car du jour was a Bonneville because I didn't reserve a car ahead. The dashboard of that car was like looking at an airplane cockpit, and the car itself was fully loaded. And huge.
Useful - the errand was picking up a set of Jerusalem Talmud and another set of Mishnah to donate to our synagogue - Jonathan got a special honor this past Simchat Torah, which usually entails sponsoring a kiddush the following Shabbat. However, we *always* sponsor the kiddush *on* Simchat Torah because that's my father's a"h yarhzeit, and it looks bad to sponsor two in a row. So, instead, we donated the books. Anyway, the trunk of the car was big enough for that. So, he dropped off the books and we were off.
And when we got to Jonathan's cousins' house, we found a minicrisis.
My in-laws had taken the train to the party - the idea was that we'd drive them home.
Minor digression here - the reason we were to drive them home was that my mother-in-law's eyes are so bad she can't see any distance, and so she can't give my father-in-law proper directions - especially since he's deaf on that side. And so she's convinced he can't drive anywhere new, especially at night.
I understand why this is so. It's not that Dad can't see - he can. He also is very intelligent and has decent reflexes. But he does what I do. When I drive alone, I'm perfectly capable of finding my own way and following directions and reading maps. When, however, my husband is in the car, I cede all of that to him, and just concentrate on driving. He can read the maps and tell me where my next exit is and keep an eye on the street signs (I do that, too. My eyes are much better than his. Which is one of the reasons he doesn't drive at all.) Dad does the same with Mom - and after 44 years of marriage, she now believes that Dad can't drive without that, even though she's aware he does - she just worries a huge amount when he has to drive without her. Because she's never seen it for herself, obviously.
That said, my father-in-law is over 85 years old, his hearing is very bad and his memory is getting worse. Thank God, he's in otherwise good health and his mind is still sharp, but it does mean that, yes, driving in an unfamiliar place at night is not a good thing, and he admits to that. So, I've been driving them in such circumstances.
So they took the train to Summit - and my mother-in-law remembered to pick up the cheesecake and the presents but forgot to pick up her purse. Which confuses me a bit because her purse is basically a wallet on a string that she wears across (strap on one shoulder, purse on opposite hip), so why would she take it off? I have a much, much heavier messenger bag, and it NEVER gets taken off if I'm in transit.
But she did, and left it on the train. So she spent the early part of the party calling NJ Transit to report that and then cancelling her credit cards (but not her bankcard in case the purse showed up) and the rest of it fretting (understandably - who wouldn't do that?)
Meanwhile, I stashed my own purse and my knitting bag under a table. I was a little...anxious because I'm getting close to the end of the current pair socks and I didn't bring the yarn for the next project or the nostpinne to wind it.
Turns out, I didn't have to worry, since the next time I picked up the knitting bag was when I ran back to the house as we were leaving, because I'd forgotten it. I'm glad I brought it, but I'm also glad I didn't need it.
As for the party itself - I'm finally relaxed around the relatives, the kids were great and the food was yummy. I brought two lasagnas - only one half of one was left, and my cousin Jackie wanted the recipe, which, now reminded, I just sent. And the present opening happened early - usually it happens after dinner, but the 2-year old didn't know the protocol and started opening them. The one year old had no idea at all, of course and the four-year-old and her mother are brand-new to the family and therefore just overwhelmed at all the presents.
As for the three older boys - they were playing football outside. They got to their presents later. It was fun. Both little girls were of an age to want to play with each new present right away as they opened it, and the baby - well. His favorite present was the *box* our present (a shape box) came in. That and all the wrapping paper. :)
My niece, the four-year-old, got books and two Woodkin doll sets - one a blonde and one a redhead. She spent a good fifteen minutes with the first one she opened. And her parents gave one to the two-year-old.
But. We gave her a huge tub of Legos, so I spent much of the time after dinner helping her to build a castle. The other big hit was Dora the Explorer Candyland. My hat and mittens? Well, her mommy was impressed and she liked the color, but hats and mittens do not compare with Legos. Which - she's four. I also expect the mittens to disappear before the winter is over.
As for the three boys - Benjamin, the 9 year old, immediately started reading the Justice League Unlimited trade I got him, to his mother's amusement, but the other two, who are brothers of 8 and 11 - well, first they got a giant Lego Viking set, which their father (who also wanted to play with it) predicted would take over their living room, and that was cool. But better still were my brother-in-law's walkie talkies. The three boys played with them all over the house after dinner. "Who shall we ambush next?"
We also took presents for each other - I gave Jonathan The Encyclopedia of New York and he gave me a book on molecular gastronomy, which I loved.
And then the parents all gathered up kids and loot and everyone else drifted out. The ride home was uneventful, and I negotiated the Manhattan traffic with no problems. There was a scary moment when we dropped off Jonathan's parents and his father tripped and fell, but between my husband and the doorman he got to his feet safe and sound. And then the doorman said that Mom's purse had been found and delivered to Penn Station. So all was well in that department, too.
There had been a candlelighting ceremony at the party, but for whatever reason, they chose to have the kids do the lighting. Kids should light for educational reasons, but adults can't fulfill their obligation through them, as they can other adults. So we lit at home for ourselves - it was still early enough to do that. Saying something at the party would not have helped anything, so we along with the others who knew, just said modified brachot and sang Maoz Tzur along with everyone else.