December 31, 1996: New Year's in Dallas
November 23, 1996: My 50th Birthday Party
Return to the Index for 1996

December 22-28, 1996
Christmas in North Carolina


Fred and I talked about Christmas plans back around Thanksgiving, which we had at my house. While I would have very much enjoyed spending Christmas with Fred, he would be with his Mom for a couple of days and then with his brother Troy and their family at Christmas. So I thought that I would take some time off and go home to North Carolina to visit Mom, Judy, Jeffie and Ted- all of whom would be in Elon and in Charlotte over the holidays.

I left Dallas very early on Saturday morning and drove 1100 miles straight through to Charlotte. I have done this many times before and while it is a long day of driving, it is doable. The route is easy- I simply hop on Interstate 20 just east of Dallas and take that all the way to Atlanta, Georgia (taking one bypass around Birmingham, Alabama). At Atlanta, I get on that city's beltway, I-285, and head north around the city to I-85 north, which I then take all the way to Charlotte.

Once you get to the Charlotte area, then you have to work your way to the south side of town.

Here is a case where the maps currently available to me don't accurately reflect the roads as they existed in 1996. Back then, I-485, the loop around Charlotte, was not completed; indeed, only a small segment in far southeast Charlotte was open. Neither was the Billy Graham Parkway built and open in 1996. Either of these would have been a good way to get to the south side of Charlotte, but what I had to do back then was to continue to the interchange between I-85 and I-77 and then head south on I-77, which has been complete since the mid-1970s.

Once on I-77 south, there are a number of ways to get to my Mom's part of town; the easiest is to take the Woodlawn exit and head east. At Park Road I head south, crossing Sugar Creek and then taking a left onto Cranford Drive.

My Mom moved to the condo on Cranford Drive in 1977 when she sold my boyhood home three years after my father's death. She is quite happy there, having made friends with the residents of many of the eight units. All the units there are the same- two bedroom, two bath units, four per building, two up and two down with an open area between.

On Sunday, Mom and I played some bridge, and on Monday and Tuesday we did some shopping, played bridge, and then drove up to Elon to Judyís house.

Since Judy lives out in the country, I can take I-85 north all the way to the exit after Gibsonville and I can work my way north arount to the northwest side of Elon, where Elon University is. Then I can take Elon-Ossipee Road out to Lowe Road, hang a left and go a short ways down to the road to my sister's.

Judy and Bob have been living in their current house for twenty-five years now, having brought up both Ted and Jeffie there. Judy has done a great deal around the property, putting in gardens and such, and she and Bob have run fence, cut down trees and all the rest of what goes along with living in the country.

Jeffie works in Dallas now, as you may already know, but she could not leave her job until Tuesday morning, Christmas Eve. Her mother and I chipped in to buy her a plane ticket, and we picked her up in Greensboro on Tuesday afternoon.

When we got back to Judy's house, I let Jeffie bring in some of her Christmas gifts for the rest of us. She'd had me bring many of them with me, knowing that carrying them on the plane would be something of a hassle. Even so, she brought some of the smaller ones with her.

Jeffie is enjoying Dallas, I think, and Fred and I are happy to have the opportunity to see her occasionally. I had been giving some thought to bringing Mom out to Dallas as well, and she, Judy and I have been considering such a move for a while. Although Ted lives in Charlotte, his job as a police officer doesn't leave him much time to do much for Mom, and of course Judy is a hundred miles away.

At first we thought Mom would never want to move, but I think the enticement of having me to play bridge with and to do other things for her is having its impact. But we'll continue to think about it.

We had a nice evening Christmas Eve; Jeffie stayed with Judy while Mom and I got a couple of rooms at a nearby motel (I think Mom prefers having her own room where she can lay out her stuff).

On Christmas morning, Mom and I were over at Judy's house mid-morning. My sister, of course, had already been up for quite some time, and she and Jeffie had been dealing with the horses. In the picture at right, we are getting ready for the ritual ďopening of the giftsĒ.

I can remember that when I was a youngster I couldn't wait to get at the presents under the tree as soon as I got up. It seemed an eternity waiting for everyone else to get up and get ready; we weren't the kind of Norman Rockwell family that opens presents while still in their pajamas. But pretty much as soon it was me buying and wrapping presents, I wasn't in nearly so much of a hurry. By age 50, I was seriously considering calling a moratorium on gift giving- especially since most of us already had just about everything we needed. Ted and Jeffie can always use cash, of course, starting out in their careers as they are. I would be happy with a simple token gift, or homemade cookies or something else to eat.

We had a great day with the gifts and with Christmas dinner cooked by Judy (with some small amount of help from the rest of us). Ted was not able to come up from Charlotte; as a new policeman, he could not get the time off. Our plan was to do another Christmas on Saturday the 28th down at Momís place in Charlotte.

We ate, watched traditional Christmas Day television, and occupied ourselves with the gifts we'd gotten that day. For we adults, that meant reading the books or watching the DVDs or eating the food. My sister has a personal computer now, and we did quite a bit with that, too. My sister always has lots of questions, but she is taking to it quickly.

Of course, one activity that is always front and center during any visit to Judy's house is to take a tour of the barn to see the current roster of equine and feline and canine inhabitants.

Judy doesn't ride as much as she used to, but Jeffie does- every chance she gets. So on the day after Christmas we were out in the enclosed riding area with Judy, Jeffie and the horses. That's my sister in the picture at left.

We are out taking pictures of Patrikk and the other horses. Judy is understandably proud of them, and she is certainly in her element when she is around them.

Here are a couple of the pictures I took of Jeffie giving Patrikk (Judy's prize stallion) some exercise:

Here is Jeffie on Patrickk. Overcast, dreary and quite cool, we spent most of the day reacquainting ourselves with the farm and all that was going on. Greyfield Farms (Judyís name) doesnít change much- which is always nice.

Sometimes I wonder if Jeffieís relationship with her own horses is due solely to the fact that Judy kind of pushed her into it as she was growing up, or whether she has the same innate love of the animal that my sister does.

But when I see Jeffie on one of Judy's horses or on her own or talking horse stuff with her Mother, I am pretty sure that she does share that love of the animal that my sister does. I think that's true, since taking care of a horse (as Jeffie does in Dallas) takes a lot of time and care, and itís hard to see how anyone would put all that effort into something they didnít really love.

Mom and I left to go back to Charlotte on the evening of the 26th, after we had dinner with Judy and Jeffie and Bob. (When we got back to Charlotte, I realized I hadn't snapped a picture with Bob in it, so I resolved that I would at least get some with him when he and Judy and Jeffie came down the next day.)

I had Jeffie take the picture at right- brother and sister. Who would ever have thought, watching us grow up, that we would ever be close? (And I can definitely say that growing up I myself never thought so.) But our relationship improved dramatically when Judy went away to college and we weren't in the same house all the time.

Judy and I both instinctively realize that we need to remain close; Dad is long gone and someday Mom will be gone too, and then it will be just the two of us.

Mom and I had a good drive back to Charlotte, even though at this time of year the 2-hour drive was totally in the dark. We knew that the crew would be down in Charlotte before lunch, so we had a lot to do.

Back in Charlotte, Mom and I had a lot to do to get her condo ready for everyone's arrival the next day. Mom already had her tree up, and we got the presents for Ted put under it. I also planned to help Mom cook a Christmas dinner, so I had to go next door to the grocery to get some of the things we needed.

Judy, Bob and Jeffie arrived on Saturday morning for a second round of Christmas. They brought the opened gifts down from Elon to add to those already under the three; almost all of these were to/from Ted.

My nephew Ted (Well, I almost got a good picture of him, but at the last second he looked down to spoil things. Sometimes (actually, most of the time) I think itís silly, but maybe he has his reasons.) has gotten the day off from his duties as a Charlotte Police officer, and he arrived at my Mom's condo about an hour before Judy's arrival; he wanted to be able to put his gifts for them under the three, and I believe there was some last-minute wrapping to do as well.

Once everyone had arrived, we spend some time just talking. While Mom and I had seen Judy, Bob and Jeffie for a couple of days, Ted needed some time to catch them up on what he'd been doing lately, so we listened to some stories about his police work. Here are a couple of candid shots I took while we were visiting (in between checking on the ham in the oven):

My Mom and Bob in Momís dining room. It was my turn to cook and so I did a large ham for our post-Christmas dinner.

Jeffie, my Mom, Bob and Ted. You canít hardly ever get Ted to give you a straight-on picture.

Then we got to the business of opening the gifts under the tree. Most of them were for Ted, although we'd also held back a few for the rest of us.

Weíve started the ritual now, and Ted is parceling out the gifts to their intended recipients. He didnít quite realize that I was recording the moment.

A second later, Ted lunged playfully at me to get me to stop taking pictures of him. This ďthingĒ about having his picture taken can be humorous once in a while, but as a steady diet it doesnít wear well.

At left is Judy with the stuffed cat Jeffie gave me. The cat now has a perch of honor in my den here in Dallas- atop the chair behind me as I write this. It was a really cute gift, and Iíve had people come over who think for a moment that it's real.

Here's a nice picture of Jeffie. She's more amenable to having her picture taken, although she, like Ted, really prefers that the spotlight not be on her:

In this first picture Jeffie took of Judy and I, the flash didnít fire for some reason, so I had to try to lighten it up in post-production (which I have the tools to do now).

In Jeffie's second try, there was still no flash, so once again I did my best to make the picture passable, by using Photoshop to add in a simulated flash.

I only took a couple more pictures today as I was running low on film (too bad that digital cameras for the masses are still a good ways into the future).

The stuffed cat was certainly the center of attention, and at right you can see it with Jeffie.

And for our final picture of the day (and my visit) here I am with said stuffed cat:

Jeffie returned to Dallas via Atlanta the next day, while I took my leave of the family and drove back via my usual route, arriving home late Sunday evening. There wasnít much going on at work on Monday or Tuesday, as most people were gone for the Holidays, so all I had to do was coordinate with Lowery for New Yearís at his house on Tuesday.

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.

December 31, 1996: New Year's in Dallas
November 23, 1996: My 50th Birthday Party
Return to the Index for 1996