Monday --- New Year's Eve --- the story starts getting a little complicated. The first part is we were to go visit my sister-in-law and her daughter, to exchange presents and have a late Christmas. My mother was going to be up there too, because she had a doctor's appointment in the morning nearby and would stop in. She'd be going up too early for it to make sense for me and bunny_hugger to come with. My father would be going up with my mother because that's what he does anymore. My brother would not be there as he had to work, but if he got off work early and we were there very late maybe we might catch him. I figured, at least, we'd certainly be up there before my mother's appointment was done with and we could visit.
It took longer than I figured to drive up; a bit of a slow start, yes, as we were tired, and the traffic was worse than anticipated, and there just wasn't much to be done. My parents were both there by the time we arrived. My niece was delighted to see us, though, and was putting up with a lot less of my general nonsense than usual. Well, she (and her mother) have been sick. Hard to analyze.
We went to lunch at a nearby diner, which was the easiest way to figure out what everyone would want to eat. To my surprise, certainly, my parents went home right from the diner, asking nothing more than photographs of the gift-unwrapping and such when we had them. This reminds me, I have to send my parents pictures of the gift-unwrapping and such, as we have them.
Apparently since the last time I looked My Little Pony: Deep Space Nine has hit my niece in a major way. She had, I estimated, 88 of the major characters of the show, in twelve variant forms each, as well as a number of the props and houses and other stuff. She'd had a lot more Strawberry Shortcake and ... everything else ... when I was there as recently as two weeks before. This apparently isn't just people who only sort of know her thrusting Pony upon her, either, as she was quite conversant with every bit of every one of the ponies, and her mother had gained, she said against her will, the encyclopedic knowledge of ponies and their stories that comes from watching them 26 hours each day. There were topics of conversation, with my niece, and with my sister-in-law, other than the Little Ponies. But for about five hours, it was largely a My Little Pony chat session, so it felt a lot like hanging out with our friends online.
My brother was able to get home from work early, and so we were able to start talking about opening presents with him there. My niece asked me if we can start opening now, and I said I didn't know, looking to her mother for permission; for some reason, this set my niece off on a crying jag. Possibly she was tired, possibly she thought felt the suspense of gifts, there, wrapped and sitting under the tree for hours, which is like for years, was going to go unresolved even longer while her Silly Uncle played word games. (bunny_hugger feared I was going to do that irritating ``I don't know, can you open gifts?'' thing, which was not in my mind. I only wanted to avoid contradicting her mother, even by implication.) Possibly, she's five years old.
Well, we gave stuff. Mostly coloring books, to our niece, which is a safe bet as a general rule and a pretty good one for her as she really likes putting color into things or telling other people how to color them. (She is a bossy five-year-old, but there is a good side to that, as when she apparently told the new kid in class, ``OK, you're my friend now,'' and acted it.) I also gave her a little doll of Langnek, from D'Efteling amusement park, who's rather a mascot of the park and part of a really complicated legend bunny_hugger and I never got straight. He's a fellow with a really, really long neck, so he can look out over the forest, and he always looks worried. He fits pretty well atop most Little Pony dolls and my niece was glad to put him into play.
Last year, bunny_hugger was surprised that my brother and his wife wanted to give her something. This year she was ready, with a nice little bird ornament to give them. They hadn't realized we were exchanging gifts this year. Next year, we'll have to coordinate e-mails ahead of time.
It was getting near sunset, but we had to get going, as bunny_hugger and I had plans for how we'd ring in the New Year, and we had to get to them.
Trivia: In October 1664, John Bailey, Daniel Denton, and Luke Watson, on behalf of a group of settlers for New Jersey (coming from Jamaica, Long Island), purchased from the Leni Lenape a region from the Raritan to the Passaic extending roughly thirty miles. It was paid for with twenty fathoms of trading cloth, two coats, two guns, two kettles, ten bars of lead, twenty handfuls of powder, and 400 fathoms of white wampum. Source: New Jersey From Colony To State, 1609 - 1789, Richard P McCormick.
Currently Reading: Great North Road, Peter E Hamilton.
PS: Returning to Arthur Christmas, to return to the question of the fate of uncontrolled reindeer.