Oh yeah, Christmas is coming

December 14, 2000

So at last we know that George W. Bush is supposed to be our next president, barring something unexpected, which means that the suspense we called the 2000 presidential election is at long last over and we can finally liberate our TV screens from CNN and the "Breaking News" graphic that was burning itself into the picture tube. What a fascinating lesson in American civics this has been, and one that we hope for the sake of our nation won't be repeated anytime soon. Now it's back to Pokemon, the West Wing, pro football and the Powerpuff Girls... oops! Don't let Benji hear that last one!

In the vacuum left behind by the conclusion our too-long political season we can once more turn our attention to the Christmas holiday that is nearly upon us. We have not neglected too many of the holiday traditions around the Gehlke household, thanks in large part to Roni's diligence in liberating decorations and strings of lights from boxes buried deep in our hallway closet. We began setting up our Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, but the process was delayed several days while Glenn insisted on rebuilding the HO train layout that we have placed around our tree the past three years. That gave Roni time to acquire several new buildings for "Santaville," the little winter town that springs to life near the tracks.

On the morning of Saturday, Dec. 2, we went to the "tree lot" known as our garage and located the box in which our three-part faux fir resides. Glenn set up the tree in the living room while Benji eagerly anticipated placing ornaments on its boughs. The next day was decorating day. We began early with Glenn untangling strings of lights and Roni and Benji placing the ornaments. Then it was time to maneuver the decorated tree onto the train table, which we managed to do without destroying the table, tree or portions of the living room ceiling. By evening we were tackling the outdoor lights, which this year extend the length of our front yard along both sides of the driveway, through the shrubs near our front windows and into the ornamental plum tree where we also added motion lights in the shape of stars. Now we have to convince PG&E that we aren't draining the western power grid each night when we turn on the lights. We are compensating by skimping on the heater, which hopefully will keep the bills down to a reasonable size.

Christmas for us has also meant our usual visits to various model railroad attractions around our area. On Nov. 25 we journeyed to the Great American Train Show in Pleasanton, then visited the show when it was in Stockton on Dec. 10. Our drive to the Stockton show was highlighted by the playing of Christmas songs on Glenn's portable CD player while Benji played Pokemon Red on his Gameboy.

Our search for a new car continues. We came close to a purchase on Nov. 27, but fortunately we ran out of time to shop before having to pick up Benji from school, so we decided to wait at least another month to line up our financing options and build up our downpayment. We have sort of made a game out of testing our willpower against the lot rats. Here's a tip for all you potential car buyers out there: NEVER ask for a business card unless you want to meet the sales manager, who will pressure you ruthlessly regardless of how firmly you tell them you aren't ready to buy. We spent 20 minutes with one of them arguing that we didn't have 20 minutes for them to "run some numbers" for us.

We enjoyed a belated Thanksgiving dinner with Glenn's folks on Nov. 26, where Benji got his first chance to hold his new cousin, Shannon. Naturally, there was no film in the camera at the appropriate moment and Roni had taken the car with the spare camera in it to the store. Doh! We did catch the moment on video, of course, and then later were able to ge the picture when Roni returned with the spare film. Benji said the experience was pretty neat.

And speaking of Benji, in our ongoing quest to keep you abreast of his ever-changing interests, he has developed a fascination with NASCAR racing. With Dad spending many an hour playing a NASCAR simulation on the computer, Benji has learned the names and car numbers of many of the Winston Cup Series drivers. He has used rub-on numerals to number his toy cars and worked to create full-color racing car Christmas ornaments to hang on the tree. During our aforementioned visit to Stockton he purchased several die-cast metal replicas of the cars he has seen in the computer game. Currently there is a running joke in our family about the popular cartoon show Powerpuff Girls. How it started no one is quite sure, but periodically Benji and Glenn kid each other about plans to buy each other Powerpuff Girls merchandise for Christmas. Roni thratens to buy it for both of them if they don't chill out! While searching for pictures of NASCAR cars on the Internet one day, Glenn discovered one sponsored by Cartoon Network and painted in the likeness of the Powerpuff Girls. We all got a chuckle out of Ben's reaction when he saw it. (Actually, Powerpuff Girls is an OK show in the tradition of Mighty Mouse. ... Well, we've seen worse.)

Our best Christmas wishes to you and for political peace as the new millennium dawns. (Hey, we didn't forget that the 21st century officially begins on Jan. 1, 2001.)

Glenn, Roni and Benji

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