On Sunday, Carlin and Kristen came to church with us and he played viola for 2 songs - one with the choir and one with just the organist. The choir muddled through their parts due to lack of practice, but the viola part sounded lovely and everybody appreciated him.
After Curt made French Toast (Kristen's favourite) for brunch, we went to the Viva Voce concert, a 24-voice a cappella choir conducted by a man from our church. Curt has sung with this group a few times, whenever they need some extra basses and we always enjoy their performances. This time, their concert was being held at St. Matthew-in-the-city, an elaborate stone cathedral with gorgeous acoustics. The setting was beautiful and the music was exquisite, as always.
When we got home, Carlin and Kristen helped put up the Christmas tree and decorate it. Carlin got to explain to Kristen the story behind the ornaments, and tell her various tales of Christmases over the years. Carlin also read his favourite Christmas picture book to Kristen, "Red Ranger Came Calling," about a boy who asked Santa for a Buck Tweed Two-Speed Crime-Stopper Star-Hopper bike, but instead of a Tweed bike, he got a treed bike. The story ends with a photograph of an actual treed bike - a bike stuck in a tree 50 years ago on Vashon Island in Washington State, and the tree trunk has grown around it - the inspiration for the book. Red Ranger is only one of the many Christmas picture books our family has collected over the years. The other favourite is "The Poky Little Puppy's First Christmas," especially when Austin would read it aloud, using silly voices. Ah, Christmas time. It can evoke such strong memories.
This year, it was only December 2 when we put up the tree, but since we wouldn't have any family here on December 25, we decided to have our little Christmas celebration a bit early. So I got out the Christmas dishes and the Christmas tablecloth and everything. We lit the advent candles and Carlin said a blessing before we ate which (of course) made me cry because they were going to have to leave the next day. After dinner, we opened our presents from each other and they had found us a perfect lawn ornament of a pukeko whom I have since named Nigel. I love pukekos because they have huge feet and walk like they're wearing clown shoes, which I find positively endearing.
Their last day in NZ was a Monday so Curt and I had to go back to work, while Carlin and Kristen stayed home for a quiet, relaxing time (no sightseeing) and tried to fit everything back into their suitcases. Carlin surprised me by showing up at work for morning tea one last time, which made me cry (of course). What a sweetie. Later that afternoon, Curt and I took Carlin and Kristen to the airport where I finally had to say good bye, and yes, I cried.
Besides being able to spend this time with Carlin, it was especially good for me to share the last 2 weeks with my new daughter-in-law (whom I barely knew before the wedding) because now we had a stronger bond, shared memories, and connections. I never had any reservations about Carlin's choice as his bride because my boys have always had good taste in women and I've always loved their girlfriends. But after having spent some time with them, I'm even more convinced that he picked the right person. Welcome to the family, Kristen!