Tuesday, December 30, 2008

christmas vacation.

It was amazing. I'll just kick it off with that general statement. I missed my family terribly, but was so excited to meet everyone else in DK's family and learn more about him and his life.

I left early Christmas Eve morning from Houston for Chicago and though I totally overpacked, I felt completely sure and prepared. I felt rested, I knew I'd not missed a thing, felt sure that Kenai was so well taken care of, and was able to leave peacefully.

Despite the 4 hour delay in Chicago, I arrived in one piece to the Pittsburgh Airport with a message from DK saying he had butterflies in his stomach from excitement. As I stood with DK in baggage claim waiting for my luggage, I was overwhelmed with this nervousness and anxiety. It was so weird to be there, this place I seemed to know so well but had never actually visited. Within moments, the Kilgore family van pulled up, we hopped in and were on our way. Destination: Smock, PA. This town is so small, I can't even think of a place near Houston to compare it to. It was pouring rain, but Mr. Kilgore steered us through safely as we all chatted and caught up and shared travel nightmare stories.

Once we pulled on to Tippecanoe drive, my butterflies started swarming like a tornado - this is where DK grew up. At 19 years old, his father built this house from the ground up and has continued to build on and add to since. DK was born into this home, left for kingergarten at the end of this driveway, and drove away from here as a college freshman, never to return as a resident. This was a huge deal to me!
His younger brother Michael and girlfriend Emily were waiting inside with Ramekin, DK's old rescue pup (she's 11) and the local favorite, Pizza Wagon. We sat around and talked and discussed the next few day's plans. It was as if I'd been around for years! The Christmas village was in full effect and the tree was unbelievable. Kilgore's make a huge deal out of Christmas and I had no idea what I was in for. At some point I heard bells and some rapping on the back glass door and to my shock, saw Santa himself standing outside! He came to visit me in PA, I must have been really good this year! It was such a shame though, Mr. Kilgore had gone upstairs and missed the whole thing :(After Santa left, DK and I went upstairs to unpack and get settled in when around 11:30 pm, mom called up the stairs warning us it was time to go to mass. Growing up, I went to Christmas Eve Mass with my grandmother in Detroit and though I'm not Catholic, it's one of the most beautiful services and traditions I've ever known. We drove into Uniontown, DK and Michael pointing out the Burger King DK worked as his first job and so many memories along the way. We parked out in front of this magnifcent Catholic church and as we walked the steps to the front entrance, Mrs. Kilgore says "The last time I walked these front steps, I was about to marry Donald (DK's dad.)" And then we partook in Christmas Eve mass - in the church where DK's parents were married almost 40 years ago. Wow.

Now, I've seen DK silly and giddy, but Christmas morning revealed a whole new side to him that I'd never seen before. "Wake up beautiful, wake up, it's CHRISTMAS!!" He literally dragged me by my feet out of my bed and once in the kitchen, Kilgore's were rearing and ready to go. Christmas hugs all around, fresh coffee and I was swept downstairs to find that Santa did in fact get the memo I was in PA - I've never seen so many gifts under a tree! All of our presents were wrapped in personalized paper - DK's were to the left, my piles were in the middle and Michael to the right. I didn't even know where to start. It was an awesome morning, kind of overwhelming for me, and my favorite parts were when Kilgore's opened their gifts from us and when DK finally opened his main gift from me: SCUBA lessons. I think he even cried a little!
The rest of the day was spent with family and later Ed and Mary Lou came over for Christmas lunch. Kilgore's are like ninjas in the kitchen, I don't know where this amazing meal came from! And later, somehow everything was cleaned up! Incredible! We sat down around the table to eat and Ed gave the prayer. It was beautiful. And before everyone started to eat, I explained the Dutch tradition of wishing everyone "Eet Smakelijk!" (dutch bon appetit) in honor of Olden's, Dave and Kim. They all pronounced it very well!

One of the highlights of the entire trip was later Christmas Day when DK took me for a long walk around his "neighborhood". It was absolutely the coolest experience to put together so many puzzle pieces of his life. I love him so much and am blessed to grow in life together over the last 10 months, but to walk these roads, to breathe this air, his history and his very being... it was pretty overwhelming and beautiful. The air was crisp and the sun was just about to set. I met some Shetland ponies and some farm dogs, got to hold the fluffiest cats, ran up and down hills (he played here as a child, are you kidding me?) and talked to some stinky cows. Oh, and I climbed a hay bail too!
The next few days we relaxed, I finished and started some books, and drove around taking in more history. Highlights: dinner with Michael and Emily at Michael's new house, seeing the window of the room at DK's highschool where he discovered his love for video, meeting Jack Purcell, a 90 year old man who has been on the Brownsville Board of Everything, catching Mrs. Kilgore as she fell back from shock once walking in on her surprise birthday party, meeting our good Flickr friend themanilow, and watching DK with his parents, how well he loves them and cares for them. There are so many others, I'd be writing all day... and I'm sure I'll add them here and there in the future.
I pray your Christmas was just as beautiful and full of friends and family... I'm excited about this New Year and have some serious things to put into motion. I've got to get back to work, but I'll fill you in soon.

Love you much,


Natalie said...

I'm SO glad you had such a good time, Liz! I looked at the pictures in your previous post & almost felt as if I were there too! It sounds so amazing and beautiful!

All the best to you and DK as you ring in 2009!

Andrea Himmelsehr said...

What a great account! I can completely relate- as after 10 years of marriage I am still enjoying the idea that my kids are sleeping in the same room their daddy did when he was little. That the cookies I have been enjoying the last few days are made from the same recipe my mother in law used when she had kids the same ages as mine. My MIL has enjoyed taking out Christmas pictures of my husband and his siblings from years past, and the look of shock and awe is IDENTICAL to that of my son just a few days ago! My kids even got to sled on daddy's old sleds! It's a feeling that only changes perspective, and never loses intensity! Thanks for sharing, Liz!

Stacey said...

i am so glad you had fun and were surrounded by love this Christmas. kenai and I missed you tons and we are glad you are back!!

James ~n~ Amber said...

I'm glad you had a great time. Have a safe and blessed Happy New Year !

heather hub said...

sounds super! and what a great writer you continue to become! i felt like i was there with you, enjoying meeting the kilgores and getting to know dk's roots. what a wonderful experience!

holly becton said...

What a beautiful rendition! I feel like i was THERE. And that I know your sweetie :) So happy you guys had a great time!