Merry Christmas Eve everyone and let the madness begin! I arrived at my parent's house late last night after a long drive through both sides of Dallas traffic (completely forgot that they like to get a two hour head start on 5:00 traffic), a stop at Whole Foods (where I spent an hour and a half talking to the super cool beer and wine saleslady), and several rounds of turtle-speed inducing sideways rain. As soon as I walk in I'm bombarded by "Aunt A!" screams from little ones who should be sleeping, and gut-wrenching barking from another room. My initial reaction is an enthusiastic "Hi and What the hell is that?!?!" I forgot they got a new pet. They call it a dog, but I'm not convinced. Anyway, it's a clear indicator of the chaos that's about to ensue over the next couple of days, so in preparation I quickly lug Henry (my dog that is unmistakably a dog)in, immediately pull him from the grasp of the unidentified screaming creature, and crawl into bed.
Several hours later, I'm up and on the search for the coffee pot. My parents are lovely and store a coffee pot just for me to use at Christmas because nobody else drinks the wonderdrink. How anyone survives a normal day, let alone the holidays, without coffee is beyond me! Anyway, I quickly find the pot and am excited to discover that the coffee filters are still in the cabinet since I forgot to buy any on the way down. So after chiseling out last year's used filter (yes, I forgot to take it out when I put it away and literally was chiseling it out with an ice pic), I start the coffee and oatmeal and shout out that I'm going for a run. I throw on some shoes (no socks because I forgot them), running shorts, a sleep shirt (yes, I forgot my tank, too), and head out. I did, however, remember to load my iPod with Christmas tunes and a few NPR podcasts.
Headphones on for the first time in eons, I latch the screen door, brush past the old, wooden swing, and hop off the porch. I'm moving at a slightly quicker pace than anticipated. It's a chilly morning, completely overcast and with slight breeze...almost too chilly for the little bit of clothing I've scrounged together. God, it feels good to have the legs moving! As my mind starts to wander, I realize that in over two decades of either living in or visiting that house, I've never gone for a run there. Sure, as kids we'd take off down the street, but it was always just to get to our destination, and we were so focused on what we'd get into once we made it that the world between those two points went unnoticed. So this morning, as I'm moving forward on my own to no particular ending point, I actually see how much the trees have grown. You used to be able to see paths through the bushes, but now it's a virtual forest. I pass by the ditch where we found my neighbor's cat who didn't survive the snake he apparently got too close to. I remember her older sister and I trying to keep her from seeing it as we bagged it up and brought it home to bury. Where the dirt road from my parent's house meets the blacktop is the little church they go to. I was dragged to that place three times a week until I graduated high school! Don't get me wrong...great people, but it just wasn't for me. Just about a half mile down the road is my step-grandparent's home. Papa died a few years back, but Mrs. Swearingen is still there running the show. She's good like that....always has something very grandmothery going and just likes to take care of things. Incidentally, everyone calls them 'Papa and Mrs. Swearingen,' related or not. Papa used to take us on wheelbarrow rides through that yard. He taught us to drive in the pasture next to the house. There were many weekends that he'd have us out there bailing hay all morning and after stacking the hay in the barn, we'd pile in the back of his truck and cut into a fantastically juicy, home-grown watermelon, and it would be gone in a matter of minutes! A little further up the road is an old shack that we'd venture into if we wanted a good scare. It was never very sturdy to begin with, but it really looks run down now. Years ago when you snuck in, you were faced with a wall decorated with satanic praises. As you make your way through it, you'd see depictions of devil worshipping rituals, heavy metal band names, and random violent-looking splatters of red paint. I don't care to be spooked today, so I speed up just a little bit. About three or four minutes later, I pass the house of a former classmate. I don't recall much about him...just that he was really quiet and for the first few years I was at that school, he was in the special ed class. I kind of think that he wouldn't have needed to be there if he had the proper help at home. I do remember, very vividly I might add, his crazy dogs! They would bark and growl at their first sight of you. Needless to say, we only ventured that far on foot once. Truthfully, had I remembered that I would've turned around at the satanic shack. Luckily those dogs are no longer there waiting to pounce. I'm enjoying this unexpected nostalgia and would like to keep going, but I know that there is a little red-headed fireball waiting for me back at the house, and I'm anxious to see what sort of mischief she plans to drag me into. So I start back, all the while looking for anything I may have missed along the way.