The Patriarch and Matriarch (my mom and dad) were there.
Seven-of-eight children made it. The eighth child had a kid with the flu and decided that sharing was not the best option.
Eleven grandchildren showed up with half of them bringing a significant-other.
One great-grandchild made it.
By the time one counted "extras", there were about forty people there.
We stopped the gift exchange about 5 years ago. Most of the grand kids had graduated from high school and most of the no longer believed in Santa.
Now, we take the money we would have blown on cheap, plastic junk and throw it into a punch bowl. Then, somebody picks a charity, or several charities, to receive the loot.
The "planning" side of the family decided that it would be fairest if the choice of charity rotated between generations. This year was the siblings. Next year will be the in-laws. Then it will be back to my mom and dad.
The power of a vivid narrative
Getting agreement between seven strong-willed people can be a problem. One of my brothers came into the pow-wow selling his favorite charity. He found a local charity on the west side of Lansing. The other six of us gave him the gift of agreeing.
As near as I can figure this out, they are a childless couple in the mid-forties who decided it would be fun to walk through local stores and hand out $100 bills. They wrote multiple vignettes on Facebook about poor folks breaking down into tears.
My brother had their phone number. He called them. They came over, drank Pinot Noir and regaled us with tales of the difficulties of giving away money. Store security followed them around because the couple was not buying or pushing a cart. They were looking at people rather than merchandise.
I had a hard time listening to them. They came from a different universe. I don't think they work in the private sector. They both felt a need to repeatedly make the point that there are actually people out there who don't have jobs and are struggling (Duh!) and that to some people, $100 is a lot of money (Double-Duh!)
I cannot fathom an audience where it is necessary to make those points. Repeatedly. As if it were news or a revelation. I guess it is just the human condition. Our perception of reality is primarily based on the five work cubicles that touch ours. We extrapolate from there.
One thing about having kids is that, through their friends, it exposes you to a much wider swath of the human experience.
One of the logistical difficulties involved writing checks. Who were we supposed to make the check out to? That was before my brother called them up and had them come over.
The other disadvantage is that they are not a registered charity. Donations cannot be written off.
In spite of the difficulties there was over $300 in the punch bowl. They are going to have to hustle to give it away. They are flying to Florida Christmas Eve and won't be back until after New Years Day.
The upside is that Mrs ERJ made it back from the emergency room. She had sprained her wrist and now sports a lace-up splint. It had taken four hours because of broken bones, bruises and sprains from the ice storm + flu and a Noro-like virus that is sweeping through town. Word on the street is that several school districts "up North" have closed due to attendance issues.
It was great to see family again. It was particularly heartening to see some of the less socially ept nephews with girl-friends.
The food was good.
I had two adult beverages.
The TV was wide screen and football was playing.
The one great-grandchild is a cute guy. We need more of them.