Thursday, December 23, 2010

Manville Family Christmas, Part One

Some of you know that I write a column for the Gering Citizen Newspaper. This is one of the stories I shared in my column a couple of weeks ago, but due to space limitations in the newspaper I had to cut the story down. But here on my blog, I can ramble on for ever and ever... So here is a little longer version of the story.

I will also be adding more to this story in the coming days, because there is more to tell!

AND... we will be spending this Christmas once again at the cabin so I will be sure to keep you filled in on the adventures that we have.

When I met my husband, Danny, 15 years ago I knew that my life was forever changed. I just didn't have any inkling at the time, just how much of it was going to change. When we met, I was a single mother of two young boys, living my single independent life, making ends meet and vowing that I would never get married again. I had been raising my boys by myself for the last five years. I didn't have much of a support system since both of my parents had passed away when I was in my early twenties. My mom died three months after my first wedding and my father died shortly after my oldest son was born.

One of the hardest adjustments of the “single and raising two boys” part of my life was the holidays. My mom died of a massive heart attack at the age of 46 just days before Christmas. So that in itself made the holiday just a little more bitter to swallow. I desperately missed the gathering of family to celebrate together. Now it was just my boys and me, or sometimes it was just me if it was the boys' turn to spend the holiday with their father.

The first Christmas I spent with my husband and his family was one I will never forget. Actually, virtually all of the holidays that we have spent with his family are ones that will go down in history. Have you ever seen the movie “National Lampoon's Family Christmas”? If you have, then perhaps you can relate when I say that his family is like the Griswolds. The Griswolds are the fictional family that star in the movie. They are an “average” family that are plagued with funny mishaps throughout the movie. Crazy things, that you wouldn't think could ever possibly happen to a “real” family, always seem to make their way into the Manville's holiday celebrations.

So begins the story of the first Manville Christmas for me. The location for this particular story was my in-law's house, more lovingly known to the family as “the cabin” which is nestled in the mountains of Colorado about 20 miles from the town of Walden. (Many of our best loved stories take place at the cabin.) Depending on the amount of snow received before Christmas, you can drive into the cabin, but more often than not, you have to snowmobile in the last few miles.

The cast of characters include the following: Danny's mom, Penny (Danny's father had stayed in Nevada for this holiday because of his work); Jim and Carla (Danny's sister) and their two boys; Danny, myself and our four boys; along with four dogs. So that's five adults, six boys, between the ages of 3 and 10, four dogs and a partridge in a pear tree. We all headed out from different locations to meet up in Walden to make our final pilgrimage into the cabin together. There had been a significant amount of snowfall so Danny was going to plow into the cabin and then come back to town to get the rest of us when he had the road open. Sounded like a good plan, but as with any Manville plan, that is not what happened. Danny actually got stuck before he even made it to the plow and was stranded for most of the day, trying to make his way back to town.

By the time Danny finally rolled back into town, thanks to his cousin, who had to go get him unstuck from a snowdrift in the road, it was too late to try to make it to the cabin that day so we ALL spent the night at Danny's cousin's house with plans to try again the next day. Did I mention that it was a single-wide trailer house which was now bursting at the seams with seven adults, eight children, four dogs, two cats and a partridge in a pear tree? The following day, Danny and his two cousins (twins Harry and Huey) went back out to try to plow in again with no avail. They returned back to town late in the afternoon and had decided that we would have to snowmobile into the cabin from five or so miles out. So into the storyline comes Plan B.

Close your eyes and picture this... five snowmobiles breaking trail, with each snowmobile operator thinking his route was the best route, therefore everyone going off into a different direction with any glimpse of daylight fading as fast as the snow was falling and the temperature dropping just as fast. Keep your eyes closed and picture some more of the story... every snowmobile has at least two people on it, some had three passengers (as in two adults and one child), other snowmobiles had two adults and a dog or two on them. Picture all the luggage for these twelve people who were spending close to a week at the cabin, dozens of sacks full of the groceries that were bought to feed this hoard, all of the Christmas presents, all of the dogs' necessities and the partridge in the pear tree which was all crammed into two snowmobile sleds which were being pulled by two of the “extreme” snowmobile drivers. This scenario should bring forth the classic scene from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” when the Grinch has loaded down his sled with all of the presents from Who-ville and he is wildly sledding back to his place.

Let it be known that the Manvilles were determined to spend the holiday at their beloved cabin. The snowmobiles and their passengers along with all the packages including the groceries, presents, dogs, kids and the partridge in the pear tree eventually began arriving at the cabin with harrowing stories of taking a wrong turn at the bottom of the hill, crossing the river at a soft spot and almost falling through the ice, getting stuck in the willows, dogs falling off the sleds and the youngest child crying the whole entire snowmobile ride. (Please don't report this incident to the animal rights activists or the child protection services.) Everyone did arrive intact and unharmed.

This was so unlike my family's Christmas. We usually just got in the car and drove the short distance from Mitchell to just outside of Lingle along Highway 26 to my grandparent's farm. No “over the river or through the woods” for us, just a paved highway and a straight shot west for about 40 miles or so.

Well, everyone arrived, but not everything... where was the Christmas turkey? After unpacking the sleds, the turkey was missing. So two snowmobiles went back out to retrace the snowmobile tracks and see if the turkey could be found. After an hour or so, the turkey was triumphantly located in a snowbank and brought back to the confines of the cabin. Now the only thing that we were missing was the Christmas tree. I was thinking... “Are you kidding me? Do we really have to get a Christmas tree this late, it's close to midnight!” The Manvilles assured me it just would not be Christmas without the tree and we could get one close to the cabin and it would be “no big deal.” Besides, we could put the kiddies to bed, go get the tree, decorate it and the kiddies would be so surprised in the morning!

Once again, so unlike the Christmases we had at my grandparents' house. The tree was ALWAYS already there, trimmed perfectly with all the presents neatly displayed underneath.

So after the boys had been put to bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, Jim, Carla, Danny and I took off on two snowmobiles armed with a flashlight and ax to cut down the tree. During the course of the adventure I dismounted the snowmobile which was parked on top of a willow tree and I sunk up to my armpits in the snow, we lost the flashlight (which, by the way, was found the next spring, and still worked), we managed to get our snowmobiles stuck a couple of times and the tree was lost once as well. We had the tree tied to the snowmobile and were pulling it back to the cabin. When we were almost to the cabin I turned around to look back at the tree and it wasn't there! After backtracking, we found the tree just yards from where we had cut it down. Obviously the tree had come untied shortly after we had supposedly “secured it” to the snowmobile.

After about a hour, with the Christmas tree in tow, frozen and worn out, we made it back to the cabin. Penny had made hot chocolate for us and we put the tree up with all the decorations. The gifts were neatly tucked under the tree and the stockings were hung. If we were lucky, we would receive a couple of hours of sleep before the boys awoke with tons of excitement in anticipation of the day.

You can read more about this particular Christmas and other Manville Family Holidays in the coming days. I will be posting more stories about adventures I've had with my beloved in-laws. I wouldn't trade these memories for anything and truly cherish my husband's family. I'm blessed to be a part of their crazy, wonderful lives!

I looked all over for some pictures to post concerning this particular Christmas, but could not find too many. This was before the age of my digital camera, so I had to scan a few pictures to post.

Here is Dan the Man's dog Coalie (since passed) standing near the back door of the cabin. See the snow is up to the window!

Here is one of the kids by the shop. Snow is drifted so high you can not see the walk door that is just to the left of the overhead door. Notice the sled behind the snowmobile.

Carla, Kathi and Penny

It would appear by the look on my face that I was thinking...

"What have I gotten myself into?"

I can't wait to share more stories of this crazy, fun loving family with you and their humorous adventures.

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