Today Scott and the boys and I drove to Modesto.
Modesto is the town that my mom grew up in and
where the Blakeley clan resides.
And as we turned off of highway 205 onto 99,
the anticipation began to build in me.
And it brought a million memories flooding back.
They all run together, one year melding with the next.
But the turn off to Kiernan road meant one thing...Christmas was about to arrive.
It seemed like it took 7 hours to get there (2, in actuality.)
The joy began as we turned down Carver Road.
Lined by peach and almond orchards, the trees were bare limbed,
reaching up into the Christmas sky.
Dad would begin honking the horn as we passed Uncle Carl and Aunt Joanna's house.
More honking ensued as we passed Uncle Phil and Aunt Lana's.
Still more as we passed Uncle John and Aunt Neva's
and pulled into Grandma and Grandpa Blakeley's driveway.
The door would open and we hurried inside for hugs with
one question on our lips,
"Where are the cousins?"
We cousins were 20 strong.
Once the Inmans arrived we were complete.
As soon as the cousins were located, the fun began.
The house was filled with the sound of the aunts and uncles laughter.
Sometimes we would try and listen in...
especially if they were telling stories.
There were presents and food and sometimes a new baby to inspect.
On Christmas morning there were stockings and toys
and Grandpa's scrambled eggs for breakfast .
There was Christmas service complete with new Christmas dresses.
Then we would all pile into the church bus to go caroling.
Uncle John would try to pick up speed when we would go over bumps,
sending us thumping up and down in our seats.
I never knew who we were singing for but we always sang full voice.
Aunt Neva hit the high notes.
Grandpa could be counted on to fill in the bass.
I always stayed up late talking and laughing with my cousin Beth.
We would take pictures of each other,
modeling our new clothes that we had just gotten.
There was always a lot of lip gloss involved.
I think one year I wore a beret...I'm not sure where that came from
but that was some high couture photography.
It always seemed like something good was right around the corner.
More chocolate. More playing. More laughing.
Now I know that there is no such thing as perfect.
But in my minds eyes, those sweet long years ago,
surrounded by family and almond trees,
it seems to me like we got pretty close.