Friday, December 26, 2008

A White Christmas


Christmas came fast this year.

I guess that’s what happens when you move into a new home the week before Thanksgiving.

Last July marked the 9th month that we had been looking for a new house for our family. 9 months of looking on the internet, marking neighborhoods on a map, touring homes for sale, and driving miles and miles of roads to find our new house. We ended up walking through over a hundred homes. A bunch were new homes that had never been lived in. Whole streets of them—like ghost towns with nothing moving but a few tumbleweeds—victims of the recent screaming halt to the Utah housing boom.

After a few months of house-shopping you realize it’s a bit like going on an endless series of blind dates. You recognize within the first minute or two that you’re stuck on a 20-minute tour of a house that you know you don’t want to be stuck with. At first we were so tactful with the listing agents…trying so hard to be polite about floor plans that we really didn’t like. But after seeing fifty or so homes you lose all diplomacy.

“Nope, don’t like that.”

“Hey, that’s really nice!”

We had house-shopping down to a science.

Yet after 9 months I said to Lori, “I don’t feel like we’re any closer to finding our new house.... Where is it?”

Well, just a week or two after that we found it.

Problem is, finding our new home set in motion all the events that would make the coming of Christmas a startling surprise.

Offers, contracts, mortgage qualifications, national mortgage companies going bankrupt, (then back to square one), new mortgage company qualifications, piles of full-disclosure paperwork, an arm here, a leg there, getting our old home ready to sell, keeping it showroom clean by threatening the very lives of 6 children….


Then moving out, moving in, unpacking, meeting new neighbors, giving talks in the old ward, giving talks in the new one, re-painting the old house, setting up the new one.

And then, BAM! Merry Christmas!

Ah…Merry Christmas.

It hit hard and fast but when it got here it was magical.

And talk about a White Christmas! We haven’t seen this much snow for years.

On Monday night Lori and I walked the mile and a half to my parents' place—through snow-covered streets, past houses brightly lit for the season, the air brisk and cold. It was quiet and still—the powdery snow soaking up all the sound—nothing but the crunching of the snow under our feet and the quiet puffs of our breath in the air.

We rode my dad’s ATV back to our house and I hooked up a sled on a long rope behind it. Emily was my first victim, since Connor and Natalie had been (pretending to be?) sick yet claimed to be miraculously healed when faced with a possible sled-ride. I’m no dummy, so I told Connor and Natalie to rest on their sickbeds until the next day.

So Emily and I faced the wintry darkness by ourselves—and she trusted me to pull her willy-nilly around a nearby field. I half-expected her to be terrified, but was delighted to find that she was thrilled and laughing uncontrollably.

Next, I unhooked the sled and we motored through the neighborhoods on the ATV toward my brother Rod’s house. For years the 15 minute trip that separated our old house from his seemed like a journey. Now, to be separated by three minutes seems like he’s next door.

So why not just pop on by?

After our visit we zipped back through the quiet streets and I made Emily laugh again by fish-tailing the ATV around a few corners.

And she gave me one of the world’s best hugs when we arrived back home.

So, like Christmases Past, we stuck to our traditions. When Christmas Eve came we had a dinner of dinners—turkey, stuffing, gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, fresh homemade rolls, sweet corn, spinach salad. We all pitched in and made it happen.

The Christmas tree was lit in the family room, Christmas carols piping over the speakers.

Then we had our nativity program with every one taking a part…. Natalie and Ryan as Mary and Joseph—a toy snowman as baby Jesus. Jason and Annie as shepherd and sheep, Tanner as a wise man, Emily as our angel, Lori as narrator, Connor as musical maestro.

Me, taking photos and singing Beautiful Savior.

After that, a visit from Santa, who sounded oddly like my 78 year-old father.

Ryan was absolutely transfixed by the bearded, old fellow.

As Lori and I sat and watched our kids open their gifts, we resolved to enjoy this Christmas Present—soaking in the sights and sounds of our 6 wonderful kids loving each other. We tried not to think too much about Jason being gone in two years—off on a mission for our Church. We realize that, in a way, it will be the beginning of the end of this whole, intact, little group. Childhood is fleeting.

But in the meantime we enjoyed the laughter.

And we may have closed a chapter in the White family story by moving away from our previous great little home, but the friendships we made there are still alive and well.

It’s been snowing for days now and the wind has whipped the snow into waves of drifts. The landscape is mainly shapeless and I can’t quite remember what’s underneath those lumps of snow.

Is that a rock or a bush?

Where do those steps end?

But, like our Christmas Futures in this new home and neighborhood, it will all be revealed soon.

And we’re confident that we’ll like what we see.

Merry Christmas!

The Longest Gig

“So Wendy wants me to audition for the voice of the KBYU Kids’ Club. I can’t do that!”

Lori said that 10 years ago.

People have always told Lori that she has a young-sounding voice. And I suppose they’re right. In fact, it’s not unusual for her to be dealing with a rude customer service rep over the phone—and they think they can bully her because she sounds like a kid. Then suddenly this kid-sounding voice stands firm. Surprise! She’s not backing down! You can’t be a mother of 6 without growing a backbone.

But...yeah...she does have a youthful-sounding voice.

So soon after we moved into our first house in 1998, her new friend, Wendy Thomas—Program Manager for KBYU Television—asked her to audition for the friendly, cheerful, young-sounding voice of the KBYU Kids’ Club.

Lori was duly flattered but felt exactly like she'd just been asked to sing karaoke in her underwear for the halftime show at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

There’re some people who would say, “Okay, what do you want me to sing? And do I wear whitey-tighties or boxer shorts?”

But Lori’s not one of those people.

Not even close.

So it took a lot of talking to get her to try. After all, it’s just an audition right? Just get in a booth, speak in a microphone, give it your best shot and walk away laughing with a good story to tell.

And hey, on the long shot that you get the job you can comfort yourself that it’ll only be broadcast to a few million people....

Funny thing is…she got the job.

And she’s been doing it ever since.

For ten years.

Now that’s what I call a long gig.