For the first time since we married 30 years ago, we went somewhere for Christmas. With Kate back in Iraq, the notion of just the two of us here for the holiday was not at all appealing. Fortunately, Deb’s brother John was more than happy to host us.We drove up Friday morning and after settling at the hotel, met John for lunch. Afterwards, he needed groceries for dinner but no real sense of what to make. Deb mentioned that our family had fallen into the vaguely Italian tradition of seafood and pasta – shrimp cocktail and tortellini. He thought that sounded good so stocked up on the ingredients and we headed for his house.Where our family had a series of traditions for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, John and family tend to play things more by ear. This year, with our niece Julie and her husband Matt handling their six month old, it certainly made for a fuller house. As a result, there was hanging out, chatting, noshing, and the like until we finally had the meal. Then, the first wave of presents for young Cooper began and the kid was inundated with toys and clothes and gear.We wound up going to Christmas Vigil on our own and then crashed at the hotel. In the morning, after restfully sleeping in, we had the wonderful strata Deb had made in advance. The hotel room had a kitchen so we brewed coffee, heated the strata and relaxed. We also exchanged gifts and I received the new Bruce Springsteen CD set, pants for schools, socks (of course), a new clock radio, and the coolest travel mug of all. Deb bought one that she could decorate and with glee, she created a pattern featuring many of my book covers on a black background. It’s unique and one-of-a-kind and just plain cool.We chatted with Kate by phone and later by Skype, the first real chance to see her since she deployed. In between, Deb and John took his dog for a long walk and eventually we settled back at his house before heading to our niece Monique’s for the family party. She hosted both sides of her family and her 18-month old, Addyson, was adorable when not overwhelmed with her own mountain of presents.The food was good, it was felt great being surrounded by family, but by 8:30 or so, we found ourselves exhausted. So, rather than watch a movie with the remaining family, we headed for the hotel where we did some packing in advance of an early getaway. We had been tracking the storm pattern just in case we needed to bolt to make it home (but also packed extra clothing, just in case).We were up at 6:30 and on the road by 7:40, arriving in Fairfield just before 11. Seemingly, as we crossed the border into Fairfield, the snow kicked in and began to stick. After unpacking the car, we considered ourselves fortunate to time that so perfectly. Everything is now put away and the snow can pile up for a while. We have plenty to occupy ourselves and enjoy the peaceful period before shoveling must commence.