Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Board Christmas.

The things I enjoy doing with my family the most can be ranked as follows:

1. Sitting around the dining room table sipping beverages, eating snacks, and playing games.
2. Sitting around in the living room sipping beverages, eating snacks, and chatting.

We got to do plenty of both while I was in Bradford, but we fundamentally redefined the first. Ever since my family started playing games--which was near the end of my childhood if I remember correctly :(--we have pretty much always stayed inside a pretty safe little realm of gaming. It started with Uno. When we got a little tired of playing Uno, it shifted to dominoes. And there the great experiment ended.

I love playing Uno and dominoes with my family, but those are both pretty passive games. You are dealt a hand which dictates your actions for you, and from there you have relatively little ability to affect the game in any significant way. Being with good company is what makes those games enjoyable more than the gameplay itself.

That said, my family always got excited by throwing monkey wrenches: failing to close a double domino, opening up the lines, and wreaking havoc on each other's plans in dominoes; stacking draw cards and watching the first person who doesn't have one squirm in Uno. Since Kerry and I got Citadels and Settlers of Catan for Christmas, we decided to push the envelope a bit and try to teach some new tricks.

I suppose it still just feels awkward to entertain the notion of actually teaching my parents anything, so I was intimidated...scared that they wouldn't like it or see it is not worth learning. But it ended up being a big hit. Loren was skeptical about Catan, Mom was afraid it would be too complicated, and Dad thought it wouldn't be fun. But once we got into the swing of things, we played it for...er...somewhere around thirteen hours over two days. And then we even played a hand of Citadels.

These are the kinds of games that I love. In one game, Dad and Kerry formed a solid trading alliance and collaborated to cut Loren off from her resources and destroy me and Mom's production capacity with the robber. In another, Loren managed to build three roads and a settlement in one turn in order to cut Kerry off from a port she was after. Loren and I ended up in a road building war and Mom managed to steal all the brick. It was down to her winning the game unless I managed to do it in one turn. I lacked some resources, but a very disgruntled Kerry did not. :)

Good times, great memories...I predict that Mom, Dad, and Loren will own their own Settlers of Catan within a month.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Almost Home.

Of all the potential problems I could imagine hampering our holiday travels, I never expected what actually happened. We drove from Worcester to Hartford with eight inches of snow still on the ground with no incident. We made our connecting flight in Baltimore without succumbing to the chaos of the Christmas Eve crowds.

But if you've ever seen one of those videos of crazy crosswind landings in the rain, that is what touching down in Little Rock was like. Rain and wind. Kerry's parent's picked us up and drove us home from the airport via the bypass as the interstate connecting the airport to Little Rock proper was shut down due to flooding. Even on the bypass, the water had already risen up across one of the two interstate lanes. We passed some road construction...all their machines were under water and their timbers floating around where the access road use to be.

Off the interstate, we passed spots where water was washing over the road two feet deep and cars were lining up to fjord the rapids. The interstate was flooded between Jacksonville and Cabot, cutting off that route to Bradford. And the windy little road running through the lowlands to Cabot was in no better shape than the road to Kerry's parents house.

So apologies to my family this Christmas Eve, but I'll see you tomorrow!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Words like snow, cold, and winter have taken on an entirely new context for me in the past couple of weeks. Snow, once denoting an occasional inch or two of white powder that would disappear before noon the day after falling, now means a foot or more of tenacious, heavy fluff that has to be shoveled, swept, and salted away. Cold, once hovering in the mid to upper thirties, seems to be leveling out at about eleven degrees.

And winter, which once served as a blanket term for the few months in which we could expect chillier temperatures, a bit more rainfall, and perhaps a snow or two, I now understand as a stretch from November to what I hear may be April of biting cold where snow is on the menu weekly (and on the ground permanently) and sunlight is gone by 4:15 p.m.

Yesterday, Kerry and I went to Rockport to do some Christmas shopping, and I saw massive plates of ice floating about in the ocean. I wore a massively thick sweater that my Mom gave to me back when I was in high school for the first time...and was still bloody cold.

Driving past historic towns like Lexington, Concord, and Salem, I saw what I'll call ice watefalls (for lack of a better word for them) poking out of the rock cliffs on either side of the road. And for the first time, I realized what winter really means in all the history I've studied--for the Native Americans, the Pilgrims, the colonists, the soldiers in the wars that made our nation...and so on. It isn't like Arkansas winter, where we can go outside before dawn and tramp around in the woods to hunt. I can honestly see now how without modern gadgetry, winter up here would be a time when all you can really do is hunker down and try to survive.

Its really, really freaking cold, and I love it.