2016 saw a multiplication in our grandchildren, from one to three. Sennen, born in January, lives with older brother Benjamin just a couple of hours’ drive away in Northampton, so we get to see them quite a bit. Vivien, born in March, lives in Virginia, so we need to make the most of a visit there, given the time and expense involved in making the trip.
We were able to get out there in May to see the relatively new-born, but never having visited our daughter, husband and family at Christmas, it seemed like a good plan. And think of the money saved on Christmas trees and decorations, not to mention winter heating!
Virginia in winter is much like Cheshire – just that the colds are quite a bit colder, and the warms a bit warmer. We went from around -9C one day to + 15C just before we left. We did get one good snowfall, though, which we seldom see around here. I even cleared snow from the driveway with a shovel, while other neighbours joyously started up their snow blowers and mini snow ploughs.
It wasn’t quite what we experienced a few years ago in Chicago, with their biggest blizzard in ten years filling the streets, covering the cars and closing the airport, but you can’t beat a blanket of snow for making the world look crisp and fresh for a few hours.
It being the right season, we got to go to our first hockey games. (That’s ice hockey, of course, but it’s just called “hockey” in North America: “field hockey” is less of a thing, I guess.) Great evenings, as are most American sports, whether you can follow them or not – lots of music, cheering crowds, audience participation, hot dogs and beer. A couple of minor fights on our first visit, but not a glove laid in anger at our second, which was a bit disappointing.
Our other American first was a rodeo. Many of the surrounding states had experienced a snow storm, so many of the competitors couldn’t make it, but there was enough to give a flavour – calf-roping, bull- and bronco-riding, and a couple of young women who did trick riding, including standing up on a pair of horses, Roman-style. Impressive, but impossible to photograph.
As often happens, I was struck more than anything by the opening of all of these events, with everyone standing for the national anthem. Patriotism is a serious thing in the US, especially, I suppose, among the people who attend these kind of events. The rodeo even began with a heart-felt prayer, of which the last line was “I know it’s not politically correct, but here in Virginia we can still say ‘One nation under God'”. Trump’s triumph summed up in a sentence. (I’ve written elsewhere about Christians in the US voting for Trump in huge numbers; this is not the place for politics.)
The actual Christmas period was spent at Wintergreen, in a house belonging to our son-in-law’s family. At the top of a hill, nestled in forest, and with a ski-resort a short walk away – not a bad place to stay! Only no snow this year – that would have made it perfect. (They filled the ski slopes with snow from huge freezer/blowers, so at least we got to see some.) Turkey dinner, lots of gifts exchanged, interesting company (including some visitors): a good time had by all.
New Year’s Eve was curry night for Hannah, Aden and a few of their friends. Great to get back in the kitchen. Another curry night a week later for a couple of Hannah’s pub quiz friends, including a great singalong with fiddle-player Erin, learning a few new Appallachian tunes. Haven’t done that for so long!
We did a few other things – a couple of local walks, a drive out to Blacksburg, where Hannah works at Virginia Tech (freezing!), a trip to the Peaks of Otter in the Blue Ridge mountains – but mainly hung out (and tidied the garage).
It’s great to have another family in such a different and interesting place. Looks like our time is going to be divided between Cheshire, Northants and Virginia in 2017. Bring it on!