John and I got up early on Christmas Eve, and headed into town for breakfast at Cypress Creek Cafe. Of course Miss Bobby, a local octogenarian, was already there in her favorite booth, as she is every morning, holding court. One of these days, I'm going to get my nerve up, go introduce myself, and ask her to tell me her story. I've always been the type of nosy person who wants to know how couples met, and that sort of thing. Now I'm dying to get the scoop on everyone in Wimberley - how did they get here, what did they leave behind, and how did they choose this particular place?
The rest of the day was spent in preparation for the big event, and introducing John and Austin to the wonder of the new Whole Foods store. We roasted a beautiful beef tenderloin and some broccoli that had been tossed with garlic and olive oil for our Christmas Eve feast, and served them with a nice horseradish sauce, mashed potatoes, hot curried fruit compote, and a luscious apple pie that John had nabbed on his quest the previous day. After dinner we headed into town to attend the candlelight service at the Presbyterian Church, then wandered over to the Emily Ann Theater to walk the Trail of Lights.
The Emily Ann is another one of those unique places that makes Wimberley so special. I believe it was established by a couple as a memorial to the beloved child they had lost. It serves a variety of purposes throughout the year. In spring it is the site of a huge butterfly launch. In summer it provides an open air stage for a play about the founding of Wimberley, as well as several Shakespearean productions. And best of all, in winter it is the place where all of the different organizations in the area set up individual holiday light displays, and you can follow a walking path through them all. My favorite this year was a scene where life-sized papier mache deer sat roasting huge marshmallows over an open fire, while big possums hung upside down from a nearby tree limb, looking on. Speaking of marshmallows, at the end of the trail, you come to the fire pit where they burn a huge yule log each evening, and visitors can sit roasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate. We opted to come home and make hot chocolate here instead, so we could try out the fabulous homemade marshmallows that we had picked up at Whole Foods. We took it downstairs with us to sip while we watched our annual Christmas movie together. Again, you are probably picturing "It's A Wonderful Life" or "White Christmas", but no, I'm afraid not. I don't remember exactly how it started - I think maybe one year someone gave John a copy of "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" for Christmas. Since most of my family usually spends the night with us on Christmas Eve, we often have some time to kill after all the festivities are over, but before we are ready to turn in. John stuck that movie into the VCR, primarily for the entertainment of the teenagers and the men in the family. They had such a good time watching it that the following year he went out and bought another bad Sci-Fi film for them to enjoy, and ever since, the guys have been competing to see who could come up with the most bizarre "B" movie for everyone to watch. This year it was "Reefer Madness - The Musical", which surprised us by being not terrible.
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Well, it's finally Christmas morning, and as usual, I am the first one awake. Up until this point, I haven't really minded not having a tree up, but suddenly I miss it terribly. This is the time I always enjoyed it most. I just love sitting here in the quiet, early hours, with everyone else still asleep, enjoying the beautifully lit tree in a darkened room, with mounds of wrapped presents underneath, and each person's stocking so full of goodies that they are overflowing into the chairs around them. To me, this is the magic hour, and it's all downhill after this. Other than missing the tree, I think this has been a near-perfect Christmas. Somewhat bittersweet though, knowing that my baby girl will soon be moving off to California, and might not be able to come home for the holidays a lot of the time. As much as I enjoyed having a small, simple Christmas this year, I also love having a large and boisterous family, and will be especially thankful to have them all around me on those occasions when the kids can't be here. Either I was extra sensitive to it this year, or else Wimberley just has more retired people than I'm accustomed to, but it seemed like every time I turned around, I heard people asking each other "Where are you spending the holidays this year? Will you be with your kids?" Way too often, the answer was "No, afraid not". It made me savor this time with them all the more.
Once the last package had been ripped open, John and I went into the kitchen to prepare our traditional Christmas breakfast of bacon, eggs, and those cinnamon rolls that come in the pop-open can with a little pot of icing in the bottom - not exactly a gourmet feast I'm afraid, but all efforts to upgrade the menu are strongly resisted. When we had finished eating, John and the kids wandered off to play with their new toys, and I tried to straighten up the disaster that was our living room. Then I couldn't resist going for a long walk outside, for it was an absolutely gorgeous day (probably in the 70's!). Mid-afternoon we joined up again, in order to enjoy our final family tradition - heading out to the movies to see a newly released blockbuster. Growing up, it seemed that more often than not, it was usually the latest James Bond film. This year it happened to be "Memoirs of a Geisha". After that, we wandered around town, as we always do, desperately hoping to find at least one restaurant open, so we wouldn't have to go home and eat leftovers. One year my whole family was visiting us out in west Texas, and we ended up at a big truck stop in Odessa. We had such a good time that it sticks out in memory as one of the highlights of all our holidays together. This year the only game in town was one of those all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets, which we usually avoid like the plague, but this time we weren't so picky. I thought everyone else in the world adored eating Christmas leftovers, but this place was bursting at the seams with people who obviously felt the same way as us. It turned out to be the perfect ending to a perfect day. The only thing that could have made it better, we all agreed, would have been some strolling waiters singing "Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra", as they did in the movie "A Christmas Story". We entertained ourselves by periodically erupting in contagious snickers, just at the thought of it!