I arrived home from work a couple of weeks ago to find a packet from our friend Hilda that contained some of my father’s old Christmas letters circa 1988–2008. Talk about a trip down memory lane. Some of that stuff I’d forgotten about (perhaps purposely?), like Dad calling himself “Old Wounded Hand” from having to reach into his pocket so often for money and the summer he silvered the house with insulation and siding and for-got to tell us about it. Then there was Stub, the wandering cat and barometer that only deigned to come in when it got really cold out. A neighbor down the road claimed that she ate her kittens, but in reality Matt and Dad had spayed her several years earlier. There were jokes about New Year’s Eve knitting videos, Matt forgetting the car at the airport, and when we might graduate. I only hope my letters stand the test of time so well. And that I remember to turn off the caps lock button.

The Holy Land

Erin and Joel, Jerusalem 2010

Erin and Joel, Jerusalem 2010

Joel and I noticed a big space on our calendar last year, so we convinced my parents that nothing said “Happy New Year!” like a trip to Israel. We borrowed a car from some of my mom’s friends and then proceeded to wedge in ourselves and our lug-gage. I have to give mom a lot of credit, as I don’t think that I would be brave enough to drive in Jerusalem (talk about a city not based on the grid system), yet Mom managed to do just that. It’s too bad that Saturday only comes once per week as the Jerusalem streets are bereft of traffic—with the exception of visiting American goyim. We had a great week together as we walked through the old city of Caesaria, hiked Masada (down, not up), found that the Garden of Gethsemane is at the base of the hill, that antique coins start at $75 but can be had for far less if you walk slow enough, and learned once again that all guides have cousins with curio shops. They always do, don’t they.

I Really Hate Lynyrd Skynnard (And Yes, Garth, I Had to Look That Up)

Mom and I spent a bendy week in Sayulita, Mexico, at a weeklong yoga-surf camp in April. (You can only imagine the amount of sun block required for me to be in Mexico. Now square that number, then cube it.) Yoga and surfing are a lot of fun, provided that you’re in someplace relatively beautiful, and Sayulita is. How-ever, if you think yoga is challenging, wait until you try to learn to surf. My neck still hurts from trying to look up and having to paddle paddle paddle. The kicker was the last night, which I spent with Montezuma while being serenaded by a Mexican wedding band performing “Sweet Home Alabama” and two feral cats fighting outside our door. Sadly, not kidding on all counts.

The Hamburglar…

When most people think “home security,” they think electronic monitoring, flood-lights, and vengeful hounds. Not us. We just get Muddy another squeaky toy like her hedgehog or her hamburger. Reba is thought to be the guardian, but in truth it is Muddy that barks her fool head off at anyone who comes within sight of the front door. So when you look through the window and see this face, be afraid….very afraid.

Muddy as the Hamburglar

Muddy as the Hamburglar

Scene and Overheard…

  • “He’s like Otto von Bandido!”—You don’t know fear until you’ve awakened one fine morning only to be greeted by your father wearing a woolen poncho and what we’re hoping is more than your imagination. (Maybe I don’t need to tell Oscar’s pantsless story after all.) About the time I whipped out my iPhone to capture the moment, only a puff of smoke remained where my dad had just stood. I had no idea Dad could still move that fast without a buffalo chasing him.
  • “I can’t drink too much now or I won’t be able to knit later!”—SalsaFest was at my cousin Sarah’s house in Bozeman this year, and a few of her friends dropped by to see what the fuss was all about. Once they made it past Dave, Nolan, and Clint try-ing to blow up the driveway with a multitude of propane tanks, they were greeted by the stink of thawing habaneras and serranos and the sight of women with bottles in hand at 10 a.m. When we asked Debbie if she’d like a bottle of her own, we learned of her afternoon knitting plans. If she’d weakened and had a margarita with us, she might have given new meaning to knit one, hurl two.
  • “You touch my toys, you get a timeout!”—Apparently, Matt must have been eye-ing Colton’s Thomas the Train a little too enthusiastically, which caused Colton to issue this warning to his daddy. I must confess that I snorted with laughter when I heard this. No word on whether or not Matt is out of his timeout yet.
  • “Not a lollygagger? She has her own Wikipedia entry!”—In Reba’s defense, she is old, and old dogs tend to be slow dogs. We’ll be out walking, and before you know it, they’re dragging behind like furry, leaden dirigibles. Reba still views walks as her opportunity to roll, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll get to see her do the famed Golden Sombrero. You know, when she rolls three times during a single outing.
  • “Man, it’s Cirque du Toi-lay in there!”—For those Cirque du Soleil fans out there, Cirque du Toi-lay (go for the French pronunciation of the commode) this is the contortionist bathroom where you can use the facilities, wash your hair, and curl your eyelashes at the sink—all at the same time. These types of bathrooms are often encountered while traveling.
  • “It was a nudist potluck!”—The best story I heard all year belongs to our friends Cori and Shana. They decided to go to a raw food pot luck and cooking demonstration only to find out the hard way that some of these raw foodies were nudist raw foodies. Imagine making small talk with new acquaintances only to have them get naked and play the tambourine! They should at least warn you that this might hap-pen. I laughed so hard that I cried when I first heard this story, and it still gives me the giggles, in fact. Bet you’re all eyeing that church pot luck now with a little bit more interest, eh?
Mom, not the fire hose--I'm not THAT dirty!

Mom, not the fire hose–I’m not THAT dirty!

We hope this letter finds you and yours happy and well. And should you find yourself down this way, the beer is cold, the salsa mind-blowing hot, and it now has tequila in it! Should you need the spare bedroom, it’s all yours—we’ll even try to keep the dogs off the bed for you.