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A snowstorm ended our plans for our annual Manzke family Christmas gathering Dec. 17. Weather reports kept us guessing until the last minute, but we decided to be cautious and canceled instead of sending everyone out on slippery roads.

Other family gatherings took place with in-laws closer to Dec. 25 — we have to share our children and grandchildren after all. Work schedules, vacations, and indoor soccer games had to be considered for our second attempt. We picked Jan. 7 at Rob and Tara’s in Plover. It would be the first big family event at their home.

Weather for our second try was dry but extra freezing cold. As for Rob and Tara’s wedding, I made sure we had bad weather gear in our car: shovel, blankets and Hershey bars. The thing different about this day is that I did the driving. The only slippery spot was at our destination. Salt thrown out on walks when the temperature is below zero doesn’t work at all. Stepping carefully was the only thing to do when entering the house.

Christmas started around 10 in the morning. Everyone arrived on time, knowing the event wouldn’t end midafternoon.

Excited children were everywhere, having a great time with all their cousins. Adults were everywhere, too, but not quite as excited. Conversations were taking place in the kitchen, family room, dining room and even in hallways. I wandered about trying to catch up with everyone. In the end I missed out on some news.

Bob and I ended up in different groups at different times. That worked well for us. Later we caught up with each other on what our children and their families were doing: jobs, kids, schedules and travel. Though once Bob tried to repeat something he heard from Russ and Dave, in the end, he gave up. “Really, I don’t think I exactly understand what they were saying.”

I understood what Rachel was saying. She gave an overview of her work travel over the year. She lost me mid-July. I asked Dave how he kept up with her schedule. He said their calendars were meshed together on their smart phones.

Lunch was lasagna, garlic bread, fruits and salad. Every family contributed something. I was treated to a special coffee. Yum.

After eating, we corralled the children so we could have our gift exchange. They had picked names at Thanksgiving, so only one gift was opened by each child — only one gift, except for the packages brought by Grandma and Grandpa. From us, they found pajamas, nice warm pjs, which they liked almost as much as the toys.

The adults had a grab bag exchange. Gifts had to have their origins in Wisconsin. Bob’s gift had wine and chocolates. My package had jars of honey and dill pickle lip balm — surprisingly good.

The two gifts we brought held an eclectic assortment of Wisconsin items. I had gone wild at a church ladies auction late last year. Everything I bought was made by area people: cutting boards, chocolates, pear wine (oops, I kept the wine), patchwork decorations, dry dip mix and such. I actually forgot what all was in the collection, but those receiving our two contributions seemed happy.

Besides, Christmas, we also celebrated Bob’s 74th birthday. He received finger painted art from Harrison and handmade cards from Eli and Arianna. The added special treat for Grandpa was that Arianna was wearing the Sunnybook Farm sweatshirt made for her mother 30 years ago. Hand-me-downs can go a long way when they are special.

It was a fun gathering and, as usual, ended too soon. Next up, Easter, and considering my fondness for winter, Easter and spring can’t come fast enough.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;sunnybook@aol.com

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