Mom is flexible about where our travels take us, but one thing she insists is that we must be somewhere stationary for the holiday season to facilitate decorating our home-on-wheels on Thanksgiving weekend. Though it is half the size it was during our sticks-and-bricks days, our ornament collection is too extensive to limit to a tree. We tried that during our first Christmas as full-time RVers in 2012. We were so disappointed with the results that we immediately traded in the artificial tree for lighted pine garland. The pine garland worked perfectly for displaying all the ornaments, and we have used it every year since. It takes several hours to complete the adornment process, which is why Mom wants it done early in the season—if we are going through all the work, we want to enjoy it longer.
|All of these decorations date back to the very first Christmas my parents spent as hubby and wife. These decorations are almost as old as I am!|
|I think Santa hit the eggnog too heavily!|
Though the International Salvation Army received publicity this holiday season that they claimed negatively impacted their donation kettles, we continued to support them financially and volunteer our bell ringing services for the local chapter. You see, all the money raised within Polk County is used directly for the members of our own community. We are so proud of and thankful to the folks who shop at the Livingston Walmart. They demonstrated the fundamental principle of sharing and caring for our fellow men and women. Through their generosity, the Polk County chapter of Salvation Army SURPASSED its fundraising goal.
The Museum of East Texas in Lufkin resumed its “Festival of Trees” this year after COVID cancelled the event in 2020. I always look forward to this exhibit of various sized trees sponsored by area businesses and individuals, each decorated with a specific theme. There are old-time favorites of mine on display each year, while this year included many new entries. I have been spending my cheese allowance buying rodentia ornaments in the hopes to one day sponsor my own Rambling RV Rat tree. In the meantime, I “rent out” my rat/mouse ornaments to Mom for inclusion on our lighted garland for a modest price of 1 pound of buffalo mozzarella and 3 bags of cheese doodles.
|The What-A-Burger tree is my favorite each and every year...|
|...though the Chic-fil-A entry is a close second!|
|This was a new entry for 2021.|
|I think this "tree" wins the "most unique" category.|
|A sampling of my rodentia ornaments for my Rambling RV Rat entry in a future "Festival of Trees".|
On the first weekend in December each year the First Baptist Church of Livingston reminds us of the true reason for the season by presenting “Bethlehem” at Pedigo Park. The presentation recreates the town of Bethlehem that Mary and Joseph encountered upon arrival for the Census of Caesar Augustus. Pre-COVID, you would walk among bakers, basket makers, candle makers, shepherds, even Roman soldiers. However, since 2020 the Church performs only an abbreviated, 6-scene drive-through (thus socially distanced) version. It is still a remarkable re-enactment, as friends Rosemary/Jeff, who joined us this year for the presentation, can attest.
Pedigo Park is a fun place to visit for the holiday season even if “Bethlehem” is not ongoing because it is transformed by loads of colorful lights and animations. We glimpsed a fawn standing right next to the Grinch animation--even the animal kingdom enjoys the lighted displays!
|Friends Jeff/Rosemary enjoying Pedigo Park with my parents.|
But colorful lights and animations are not limited to Pedigo Park. You can view them all over the City of Livingston, from the Library, Police Station, County Court House, and City Hall.
|Light display outside City Hall, just one of many displays found on public properties throughout Livingston.|
After a hearty lunch at Golden Corral in Lufkin on afternoon, my family went to the Cinemark Theater to see “Christmas with the Chosen: The Messengers”. Though we have not watched the series yet, we found the Christmas episode to contain uplifting musical performances and inspirational messages of faith, peace, hope and love, perfect for keeping with the season.
We attended for the first time the Holiday House Tour fundraiser for the Mannafest Food Pantry. Four volunteer hosts open their Christmas-decorated homes for paid patrons to view and enjoy. The tour started at Central Baptist Church with a car show. Saw some beauties there! Then we received a map with the addresses of the 4 homes on display. Typically, you can drive yourself, walk, or get transported by mini-bus. But with this year’s homes all located in Goodrich rather than Livingston, hoofing it was out of the question. We opted for the bus since we figured none of the homes could accommodate Big Boomer in their driveway. We didn’t realize initially that 3 of the 4 tour stops were within one Ranch homestead consisting of 1,400 acres. Wow! What magnificent countryside! All 4 of the showcased homes were decorated beautifully, exhibiting each owner’s creativity as well as unique collections such as nativities, nutcrackers, even hunting “trophies”. A wonderful evening—well worth the $25/person donation to support a worthy cause. I can’t wait to attend next year’s event!
|Yes, please, I'll take it!|
|A gorgeous sunset over 1,400 acres of God's green earth!|
|One home decorated their bathroom tub...|
|...While another their hunting "trophies"!|
On another evening we joined friends Rosemary/Jeff for a tasty dinner at Joe’s Italian Grill. Then we all visited the Polk County Heritage Society Train Exhibit at the Good Golly Miss Molly Antique Shoppe in Livingston. The exhibit is usually on display Thursdays through Saturdays in December. This year they reinstated the treasure hunt where you must find hidden figures within the train display. The folks who set up this exhibit are mighty clever, finding new but equally imaginative hiding spots each year. They almost stumped me this time around, but Rosemary saved the day by finding the last hidden figure on the list.
I was thrilled that Livingston’s Annual Hometown Christmas Fair and Light Parade, held each year on the second Saturday of December, returned after a COVID cancellation in 2020. The cooler evening temps (48F degrees) and brisk wind provided a wintery atmosphere. I love a parade, and apparently so do most folks in Livingston. This year’s event was HUGE, with more entrants AND spectators than prior years. With Big Boomer all decked out for Christmas, Dad chauffeured me around to wave to the kiddies while Mom walked the route distributing candy. Reminiscent of Halloween trick-or-treating, the kids all brought stockings, buckets, pillowcases, or plastic bags for collecting Christmas sweets. So much fun for everyone and wonderful to see so many folks celebrating the holiday season!
|The parade was well over a mile long, with us right in the middle of the heap!|
Even Lake Livingston State Park was in holiday mode. On our final visit, we found a portion of Trinity Trail decorated with organic materials and offering nature trivia on Gingerbread posters. Did you know holly leaves are natural lightening arresters?
|Excellent presentation by these young performing artists!|
Livingston’s First United Methodist Church also presented “Appalachian Winter: A Cantata for Christmas”, which blended orchestra, choir, handbells, and narration of Scripture into a magnificent musical masterpiece. That young boy with Tourette’s Syndrome who played Charlie Brown that I mentioned earlier? Well, the finale of the Cantata was his recitation of the annunciation to the shepherds verse that Linus from Peanuts orated. What a challenge for this young boy to learn all new lines! He started off strong, then there was a long pause. You could hear a collective holding of breath from the audience, as each of us said a silent prayer and sent the boy telepathic messages of encouragement. God heard our prayers and looked favorably upon this youngster who though faced with an obstacle, worked so diligently to overcome it. The young boy returned to reciting his lines about the Joyous News, nailing them perfectly! There was not a dry eye in the worship hall, and he received a standing ovation. Yes, this boy, like Linus, knew exactly what Christmas is all about!
We had a surprise visit from Xscaper Kirsty, whom we met in Alaska in 2016. While at Delta Junction, Kirsty spotted our unique truck and snapped a photo to send to her friend in the lower 48. Well, it is a small world in the RVing community, ‘cause Kirsty’s friend was our co-worker Nancy from Amazon in 2015/2016, with whom we have kept in touch. That coincidence led to conversation with Kirsty and to additional chance meetings with her at Escapees/Xscapers events through the years.
In between all the holiday fun, we had Dad’s echocardiogram/stress test appointments and Mom’s dental work (Her emergency appointment for the abscess that disrupted our Civil War tour led to the dentist finding several other issues needing resolution).
We participated in the Wreaths Across America ceremony at Lufkin’s Memorial Gardens. It was like déjà vu: We laid wreaths in the pouring rain just like last year. But it is the least we can do for these men and women who served our Great Nation. We also joined fellow Patriot Guard members on a cold, windy Sunday afternoon for our annual visit/wreath laying with the parents of Army PFC Stuart W. Moore of Livingston, who was killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Though these parents lost their only child, God blessed them with a grandchild as Stuart’s legacy.
|Parents of PFC Stuart W. Moore.|
Did you have a Happy Festivus? Our Festivus for the Rest of Us has been prolonged this year, ‘cause Mom has been airing her grievances EVERY single day about CutNShoot Customs, the contractor handling Dad's trike conversion. She is not wrong, though. They told us on December 30 that Dad’s trike conversion would be completed for pick up on December 31, the drop dead delivery date we agreed upon. However, upon arrival at 11 a.m., the trike was not assembled and needed considerably more work. We wasted the entire day waiting for it, with Dad even doing some of the work personally. But by 4:45 p.m., there were still hours of tasks to complete, and we had plans with friends Rosemary/Jeff that evening. CutNShoot Customs professed they would get everything done over the New Year’s weekend. Any wagers?
Our Christmas was a blessed one. We received excellent news from Dad’s cardiologist: the echocardiogram and stress test results were perfect. The doctor was pleased with Dad’s plant-based diet and exercise efforts, and Mom and I were relieved that Dad’s ticker is strong, his arteries are clear, and that God-willing, he will be around with us for many more years. We enjoyed our Feast of the 7 Fishes, though it was divided in half: 1)mussels, 2)clams, 3)shrimp, and ½) faux crab cakes for Dad (which I generously counted as a half since you won’t find any REAL fish in them no matter how hard you try). We attended services at First United Methodist Church, then home for our Christmas Eve tradition of watching “A Christmas Carol”. Christmas Day was the customary watching of “A Christmas Story” and indulging in a full plant-based meal, including Mom’s faux cheesecake, which was a big hit with friends who visited with us the next day. Here’s another example of how it is a small world in the RVing community. While out riding their bicycles, CARE volunteers Anders/Arleen stopped to speak to us last week about Dad’s solar energy system. When they learned we hailed from New Jersey like they did, the conversation really took off. We all had lots in common, and they invited us to join them for Sunday Services on December 26. Well, it turns out our friends Rosemary/Jeff are well acquainted with Anders/Arleen! So, the three couples and yours truly all enjoyed lunch at the Whistlestop Café after attending church. The fun continued with desserts at our house.
|Christmas Eve Feast of the 7 Fishes, Divided in Half|
|Christmas Day Feast, all plant-based including desserts.|
|Me and Nezumi in our Christmas attire.|
We did enjoy New Year’s Eve at Joe’s Italian Grill with friends Rosemary/Jeff. It was the perfect antidote to the stress from the trike conversion issues earlier in the day. After dinner, my parents and I had an 80s dance party to ring in the New Year.
|Me kicking 2021 OUT THE DOOR!|
|We are true Texans now, eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck. Mom made an extra-big pot!|
I hope you aren’t a betting person, ‘cause you would have lost big time on your wager regarding completion of the trike conversion. When we texted on Monday, January 3 (yes, we had to initiate contact since we heard nothing from the contractor), we learned the trike was not completed. The contractor now said, “he cannot commit to a timeframe”. WHAT! He committed to delivery by December 31 back on September 20, reiterated it through October, November, and right up through December 30 he said he would “make it happen”. On January 4, the contractor reported he “ran into a problem”, which was a mantra we heard throughout the process. Bottom Line: We have taken the balance of parts and the partially completed trike home. CutNShoot Customs didn’t complete the job they were contracted to do. We have waited long enough and will not delay our travel plans any further. We have lost confidence in their work capabilities, communication skills, and their business practices. They charged boo koo bucks for this conversion, yet Dad must finish the job himself, troubleshooting on issues they did not resolve. But if anybody can fix it, it is my Dad.
And so, 2022 has started out rocky, but we are putting this disastrous experience behind us. We are blessed to have the shelter of our home, the love/support of friends/family, plenty of food to fill our bellies, and good health (although I think Mom almost lost her mind). As soon as Dad completes the trike build, we will hit the road and return to the desert lands of Quartzsite for the winter.
Stupendous news! I got 2 belated Christmas miracles on January 5:
1)Dad got the trike completed and loaded in the truck garage, seamlessly overcoming ALL the problems the contractor could not resolve, AND
2)I am current with my blog—FINALLY (though I am sure that won’t last long)!!!
God Bless Us, Everyone! Wishing peace, prosperity, love, and laughter to you in ’22!