It happened yesterday. I'll get my complaining out of the way first.
We gathered in a hotel back home, and though my Dad had requested and been promised a function room for our horde of 13 adults, 9 children and 2 babies, someone in management decided the room wasn't big enough for us and set our tables up in the main function room instead. And though we'd expected to have a room for 3 hours or so, we had to clear out after only 90 minutes to make way for a kid's disco.
Then the whole meal/drinks delivery was utterly chaotic. Instead of having service at the table, we had to join the queues for their lunchtime carvery in the adjoining room. When you've got loads of hyped up kiddies, going back and forth to fetch food isn't as easy as just sitting there and having it brought to you. The food was bleuch too, apart from the soup. It seems all these sorts of places can make a decent vegetable soup, the old fashioned kind with bits of lentils and barley. Duncan ate 3 bowls of the stuff.
But we were all in good form and the crack was mighty. The children were dressed in their finest Christmas specials (some in shirts Hobbits would be proud of) and the grown ups had scrubbed up nicely too. The children loved having the big room with a dance floor to charge around, and enjoyed catching up on all their important news; playground coups and the forging of new alliances on their streets, who's teeth had fallen out, what's happening in the world of culture (limited to HSM3, Hannah Montana and Doctor Who) and most importantly, who was getting what for Christmas.
Duncan had expected a particular train and DVD for his gift. I knew which sibling was buying to him and told him the items he preferred, thinking either of them would suffice But when he got the DVD but not the train, Duncan was upset and ranted and whinged for a while about the shocking injustice of it all.
Most of the time he was fine, and he liked sitting in the seats a little apart from everyone else looking at his DVD and the Thomas & Friends book he's received. But one little cousin just loves getting him all riled up, and the 2 of them had a few "wrestling" sessions. Often he just headed off whenever he felt like it, so my head was turned watching out for him and checking to see where he was and what he was up to. It would have been a heck of a lot easier if we were all in a smaller room.
After gulping down the meal we moved to some seats in the lounge, thankfully free of other customers so we were less likely to disturb people. The disco got going and our gang joined in. Even Duncan indulged in a bit of dancing now and then. They loved it.
Up to now, only Duncan had opened a gift, special privilege and all that. We knew that letting the littlies open presents in the lounge of a hotel could be just a demonstration of the effects of entropy so we all trooped off to my brother's house. Entropy still prevailed, but we had a better chance of gathering up all the pieces in the more familiar, enclosed space and knew that, if someone got home and realised that bits of their new Hot Wheels set (or whatever) were missing, they'd be able to get them back later.
The children, bless their acquisitive little hearts, liked the gift allocation bit the best. Lady gained a CD player, clothes and a beautiful necklace, Thomas got DVDs, (Doctor Who and Speed Racer) as well as Narnia dressing up clothes, Duncan has another Thomas set and Star Wars dress-up stuff. The adults all got new stuff too, and very nice it was.
Perhaps next year we'll try something different, but we'll certainly have another family get together. It's so lovely to see them, and for some freaky reason or other, all the children in our extended family are delightful, sweet, cute and brilliant and we adults still really get on well and actually, genuinely enjoy each other's company!