Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Good Food, Great Entertainment and a Bit of Mystery: Christmas Dinner at the Old Folks Home

For Christmas, our family went to visit my parents. My parents live in an extremely nice retirement community that consists of a section of villas (where they live), a clubhouse, and an additional building that's both independent living and a nursing home. The community boarders on a large state park.

All those factors combined make visiting Grandma and Grandpa a true adventure to my children, and this time it was even more so.

On Christmas eve, we were invited to a Christmas Brunch at the Independent Living Center. Since it was a potluck buffet brunch, my youngest son (who must have a hollow leg he eats so much) was especially excited. The more variety the better, in his opinion.

Our older son, however, is a different story.

First, of all, he's 11. That, in itself, says a lot. I've figured out that having an 11-year-old boy is probably the number one source of gray hair in our nation. Monday morning proved it.

The brunch was held in a beautiful dining room in the center. After navigating our youngest daughter through the sea of elderly people -- remember, she's driving her own wheelchair -- we arrived at our table. Tables had been reserved according to the number of guests people were bringing. Since there were 11 of us, there were two tables reserved for our group. We placed the three big kids at one table, and the rest of us sat at the other (yes, that was intentional on our part).

When it was time to start, the lady leading the brunch announced that the tables would be called by number. My three big kids looked for the number at their table.

Total terror filled their eyes (especially my youngest son). There was no number on the table. Certainly no number meant no brunch! Of course, they were going to the buffet when our table number was called, but that wasn't apparent to them.

There was no need for son #2 to fear, though, because the 11-year-old instantly slipped into his alter ego: Lawyer/social advocate.

"Hey! We don't have a number!," His voice rising above the din, "That's not fair! What are we supposed to do?!!!"

That fire was quickly put out by my husband. However, the family lawyer soon found another reason to raise the alarm. He has a severe food allergy to tree nuts and shell fish, and nothing on the table had ingredients listed.

"I can't eat any of this food because I don't know the ingredients!"

"I think you can safely assume there's no shellfish in any of it, " I replied, noting our current geographical location (a good thousand miles from the sea).

"Yes, but I don't know about nuts." He replied.

"Well, I know alot about nuts." I responded, but it went over his head.

After that, things went pretty swimmingly. Until the first nose bleed.

"Where's the bathroom?" the 11-year-old asked. So, Dad and he went off to find a bathroom. About 10 minutes later, when Dad's food had pretty much hit room temperature, they returned.

"We don't have any Vaseline for my nose" the 11-year-old told me (mom hint: Vaseline works great to prevent a nosebleed from returning).

"So," my husband said, " We'll be headed out again, I'm sure."

"Hey! What's this?" Asked the 11-year-old as he picked up a packet of papers left by his plate.

"We're going to have a carol sing." I replied, with a smile that I hoped would induce some enthusiasm.

His eyes widened as he flipped through the packet.

"Mom, there are 30 songs in here!"

"I'm sure we won't sing them all." I responded.

Just at that moment, the song leader got up.

"We'll start with number 1 and then work out way thru. We won't sing all the verses of all the songs, just verse 1 and 2. And, kids, when we get to "Up on the House Top" I expect you all to come up and lead the audience in the motions."

Nosebleed number two.

As they headed out, I heard the 11-year-old whisper to his dad.

"Can we leave before #12?"

"What's #12?"

"Up on the House Top."

This trip took a while because they also looked for the nurse's station to see if she had any Vaseline. They returned with a tube of lip therapy which my son claimed he couldn't use because he didn't have a Q-tip. The excitement just doesn't end.

Well, we managed to hide the 11-year old during Up on the Housetop, and our younger son and oldest daughter did enjoy leading the audience in the motions -- which was pretty good considering that they didn't know the motions. Our oldest daughter also played "The First Noel"on the piano for the crowd, making me a pretty proud mom.

The excitement came to a head, though, when we got back to my parents place. A body had been found in a field near their home! A 91-year-old man, after presumably arguing with his fiancee, took a walk in the state park. Taking a short cut home he must have fallen or something and passed away in the field. The mystery has yet to be completely solved, but the events certainly support the idea that weddings sure can be stressful.

Several weeks ago my husband came home from work and told us about a patron of his that shared his secret for a great Christmas dinner.

"I have Christmas dinner at the hospital -- it's great food at a great price!"

And, I have to say, we did have a great Christmas brunch at the old folks home. I enjoyed the shellfish-free food, learned that there are some kind of nationally known motions to "Up on the Housetop", learned the 2nd and 3rd verses to "Up on the Housetop" (although I wonder how Little Nell can have a good Christmas when her brother, Will, is getting a ball and whip), and we probably provided entertainment for a large number of people.

And, once again, a trip to Grandma and Grandpa's House appears to be an adventure!

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