Monday, December 26, 2016

Krakens, Krampuses, and Krankies

It was a fairly low-key Christmas for the Raineys, mainly due to Mum's ongoing health limitations. But it was generally good family time, with plenty of vittles, nice presents, and even a spot or two of exercise for the old man. For me, Christmas vacation began on Friday, which I spent on the hunt for a couple of caches in Burlington/Alamance County. Once home, I spent most of the rest of the day wrapping presents and preparing a big old pot of chili for Christmas Eve dinner.

Saturday, Brugger and I made our way to Martinsville by way of the nearby Grove Winery, same as we did last year on Christmas Eve. However, we didn't realize that they were closing at 3:00 PM this year, and it was 2:45 when we arrived. The proprietor, however, was kind enough to give us a couple of glasses, and I picked up a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for later. Nice lady and I decided to proceed to M'ville and enjoy a couple of glasses of wine at the bar at Rania's, which, as I have no doubt indicated in this blog before, served as the inspiration for the bar in my novel, The Lebo Coven way back when. Once at Mum's, Ms. B. and I discovered a special visitor on the back porch — a Christmas bat, which was hanging on the wall beside the back door. I suspect the poor little guy was old and/or infirm, as he remained back there the whole weekend, alive but seemingly only just. Kind of sad, as I do like bats. Anyway, Ms. B. and I at last proceeded to get the chili fired up, which turned out perfect, and then we worked off a calorie or two on a long walk through the neighborhood around Lake Lanier, during which time I regaled the lady with endless stories about my childhood, most of which she had heard umpteen times. But taking these long walks does bring forth many vivid memories, and most are entertaining, at least to one of us. To continue one of our favorite annual Christmas Eve traditions, we finally planted ourselves in Mum's sunroom and watched the 10:00 PM showing of A Christmas Story, which still turns both of us into madly laughing fools. To be sure, this year, we're needing as many mad laughing fits as possible, so this was time well-spent. Some Kraken rum with eggnog made for the perfect nightcap, and finally something akin to Christmas spirit managed to settle in.

Christmas morning came a bit dreary but not cold, and I spent some time listening to Christmas tunes and sending scary, animated images of the Krampus to friends on Facebook before returning to the kitchen to help Ms. B. prepare a big dinner of chicken-ham-swiss cheese roll-ups with cheese and mushroom sauce, fresh asparagus, smashed potatoes, and assorted pies and cakes for afters. Brother Phred arrived late morning, and we proceeded to hurl gifts at each other. Made out nicely, with a new shirt, a CD collection of Ennio Morricone western scores, Lara Parker's newest Dark Shadows novel, a Michigan-shaped cutting board, and lots of other items both necessary and fun — some Krankies coffee from Brother Phred being among the most necessary.

Following the feast, naps overtook at least a couple of the troops, while I went out on walkabout through the woods and about wore myself out going up and down many of Martinsville's rolling hills, which have apparently gotten considerably longer and steeper than they were just a few years ago. Then came one of the day's true highlights — a visit from Todd and Gretchen Wickliffe, of whom I see far too little these days, since they rarely make it up from Atlanta, at least when I'm at Mum's. We spent a good couple of hours talking about life here and there, then and now, and shocking Mum with stories about how certain of us barely survived our childhoods. Of course I'm referring to the Wickliffe kids, as I would never have taken brazen risks or done anything monumentally foolish when I was a youngster.

For our evening's viewing pleasure, Ms. B. and I settled in the den and streamed Don't Breathe and Insidious on, which kept us occupied until well past midnight.

We arrived back in Greensboro early this afternoon, and I immediately headed out after a new cache over at the Laurel Bluff trail head on Lake Brandt Road. Retrieving this one required a fun terrain challenge, which I made doubly difficult by attempting it the old fashioned way — by climbing the tree — before playing it the way it was more or less meant to be played: by getting a boost from an appropriate elevation-increasing device, in this case, my car (see the sequencing diagram below).

Later this week, I anticipate a bit more geocaching and probably an enjoyable evening or two with Ms. B., but there is more than plenty of work to keep me busy, including a new piece of fiction I'm laboring over. Overall, it's bound to be better than this time last year, when Mum's health situation reached a crisis point. It's still very, very difficult for me, and knowing that she simply will never get better is both emotionally and physically taxing. The past few days have been more melancholy than truly happy, but there were many transcendent moments, with Mum, Brother Phred, Kimberly, and the Wickliffes. It's these times of recharging that keep me going, I think.

And I'll keep going, as there are people to see, stories to write, and caches to find.
Christmas lights at Lake Lanier. What the L?
The cauldron of Christmas Eve chili
Our little Christmas bat, who seems to have seen better days. Poor chap.
The bonny swans down at Lake Lanier. They came to see if I had any goodies for them. When they
determined that I did not, off they swam.
The emblem of our Kung Fu club when I was in ninth grade, circa 1974, carved in a beech tree back in
the woods behind the old homestead. "Marakumo no Tsurugi," it says, which I think means pretty much
nothing, although I had intended it to mean "Sword of Swords" or something such.
Krank up the Krankies, men!
How to find a little cache out on a long, narrow limb, step 1
How to find a little cache out on a long, narrow limb, step 2
How to find a little cache out on a long, narrow limb, step3

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