Friday, October 16, 2015

Star Wars Episode I: The Chosen One

This is the first chapter of an upcoming graphic novel taking a more logical and consistent approach to the Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader origin story, with concepts from P. J. Heusinger, who will also be designing and drawing the images for the book. Enjoy!

Chapter One

It was a quiet night, just the way the Jedi Order liked it. In fact, Cole couldnt remember the last time there was a serious disturbance worthy of the attention of one of the greatest Jedi to ever wield a lightsaber. He could hear Master Yodas words echoing in his mind:

Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.

So all was as it should be.

But if he was honest with himself, Cole would have to admit he did crave a little adventure. He craved some excitement. In his weakest moments, he might even say that peace was a little  . . . well . . . boring.

He had told Master Yoda that he was just going out on a routine scouting mission, but the truth is
he had read a Bothan report that there had been some Sith activity out around the Belkadan system. The Council essentially dismissed it as an unsubstantiated rumor, but at this point Cole was ready to use anything as an excuse to get out into space. At the very least it would give him time to think.

Marriage was discouraged among the Jedi Order, in fact there were members of the Council who argued that it should be completely forbidden for Jedi to have families.

If we dont have families, wont there come a day when there arent any more Jedi?

Coles question to the Order echoed the thoughts of many. It was the one question that had prevented the Order from forbidding marriage prior to now. The best, strongest Jedi still tended to be the offspring of other Jedi.

Dangerous, marriage is,Yoda responded every time Cole brought it up. Love can make one weak, lead to the Dark Side. But great strength it can be, too. Proceed with caution, young Skywalker.

And so Cole had married his childhood sweetheart, Miliana, and the two were now expecting a baby.

A son.

Whatever excitement the galaxy was stubbornly refusing to yield, Collo Skywalker knew a baby would provide plenty.

Thats why he needed to get out into space for a while. Miliana was consumed with preparations for the baby, and while Cole was excited, he didnt enjoy going over the same details again and again.

Maybe Jedi shouldnt get married,Cole quipped to his Astromech co-pilot. The little droid whistled a sympathetic note before calling his attention to a blip on the long-range sensors.

I see it R2,acknowledged Cole. Thats what the Bothan report showed, humanoid life form readings on a planet that isnt easily capable of sustaining human life. Yuuzhan Vong beetles are nasty little beasts that could turn an entire planets atmosphere to carbon dioxide if they arent caught in time, and thats exactly what had happened on Belkadan. What was once a pleasant enough forest world was transformed into an oppressively hot greenhouse in relatively short order.

Remind me not to let Anakin have Yuuzhan Vong beetles for pets, R2,Cole said. You know how boys are.

R2-D2 warbled a reply that sounded distinctly sarcastic. R2 had been with Cole most of his life, and he knew very much how boys could be. When Cole requisitioned his prototype StealthX he was told he would have to use an advanced R9 Astromech droid, but he insisted his R2 unit could handle the specialized controls . . .and he had been right.

Did you just roll your eyes at me?!?

Bleep. Bleep. Squawk!

I know, I know. You dont have eyes.

Cole examined the readings pouring out of the scanner, called up a closer view of one area in particular. Biting his lip determinedly, he changed course and pointed the nose of his StealthX towards the surface of Belkadan.

Im just going in for a closer look,Cole explained in response to a questioning (objecting?) series of bleeps from behind him. I doubt theres anyone down there looking out for company, but if there is our thermal dissipaters and gravitic modulator should keep us from attracting any attention.

Another series of plaintive bleeps erupted from behind Coles cockpit.

No, thanks, R2. Id like to keep it on manual control for this detour. Dont worry, at the first sign of trouble well head home. I just want to get a better reading on that life form in sector three.

Skimming the outermost layer of the planets atmosphere, Cole positioned his StealthX above sector three, and the strange readings he detected on the long-range scan. It was the same reading he read about on the Bothans report, and upon closer examination the reading was even stronger . . .and even less ambiguous. There was a humanoid presence down on the surface, perhaps two.

Cole reached out with The Force . . .trying to get a sense of who might be down there. After a few moments, he pointed the nose of his specialized X-Wing straight down while scanning for a clearing large enough to land. Noting the objections from R2, he also did a quick scan of the atmosphere. High concentrations of sulfur and carbon dioxide were still evident, but he should be able to withstand those conditions long enough to be sure what he saw on his scanner and sensed through The Force was true.

The Council would want a full report before approving a mission to confront a new Sith threat, and they might not have that kind of time. Cole understood why such procedures and safeguards were in place, but it could also be frustrating to wait for the ponderous wheels of bureaucracy to turn. He decided it would be better to go ahead and determine the precise nature of the threat at hand before turning the matter over for deliberation and debate.

As his landing skids touched down, Cole gave R2 his standard instructions and donned the automated distress signal designed to alert R2 in the event of an emergency.

If anything happens to me, take the ship back to Coruscant and get help.

R2 objected, which seemed to be his primary function of late, but accepted that his master was going to do what he was going to do despite his objections.

I have a bad feeling about this, too, R2, but we need to know more about this threat before we report back to the Council. The only way to know more is for me to go get a closer look.

With that, he clipped his lightsaber to his belt and headed carefully and quietly out into the deep underbrush and tall, moss-covered trees of Belkadan.

Cole had been careful to set his ship down a good 300 meters from his target so as to avoid attracting attention prematurely. The downside, of course, was that he had to make his way through tangles of vines and thorny bushes while also watching out for local creatures that might fancy a little snack of Jedi flesh or blood. As he neared the location where he sensed the Sith-like presence, a small hive of Yuuzhan Vong beetles attacked and he had to ignite his lightsaber to dispatch them. He hadnt wanted to do that so close to his target, but the whole trip would be for nothing if he didnt even make it to the target.

As Cole deactivated his saber and replaced it on his belt, he heard what sounded like a clapping sound. Moments later a voice interrupted the peaceful forest chorus and confirmed Coles worst fear. He had been discovered.

Nicely done, my old adversary,came the unmistakable voice of Lord Antares. I didnt know the Jedi had stooped to using bugs as training dummies. Youll find our Sith methods are much more sophisticated.

As Antares finished speaking Cole heard the familiar hiss-hum of lightsabers igniting, and while he saw Antares some twenty meters in front of him, it was the other one that concerned him . . .the one he couldnt immediately see.

Allow me to introduce Darth Sidious, my apprentice,said Antares, gesturing behind Cole. The latter turned his head slightly to see what he had already sensed. There was another cloaked figure emerging from the gloom, red blade ignited and glowing. Weve been looking forward to your arrival. It was I, of course, who allowed the Bothans to report our presence here. I knew the Jedi Order would most likely ignore the report, meaning you, their most celebrated champion, would be unable to resist exploring on your own. Didnt Master Yoda give you his standard spiel about Jedi not seeking adventure?

While Antares was talking Cole carefully positioned himself to defend against an attack from either angle, knowing that lightsabers were the least of his worries if Sidious was anything like Antares. Every Sith lord has a unique Force power and Cole was more than prepared for AntaresForce Fire, but what if this Sidious character was far enough to along to have his own?

Im not sure I consider you to be an adventure,’” Cole responded. More like an enigma. Why do you insist on pursuing power for its own sake? Peace and justice will always prevail in the end.

Ahhh, but which form peace and justice will take is always open to the interpretation of those in power. Soon I will be the one who decides what it means to be at peace and what it means to have justice.

Suddenly the air around Cole erupted into flames, appearing to set him and everything around him on fire. While Cole writhed in pain, Antares rushed him, his saber spinning so fast that it looked like a sphere rather than a blade. As he prepared to dissect the apparently helpless Cole, the latter abruptly stopped writhing, leapt to his feet and used his lightsaber to parry the blow from his over-eager opponent.

Cole had been preparing for another encounter with Antares and his Force Fire, and he subconsciously rubbed the scar on his right forearm as he prepared to test his new defense. He had been trained in the ancient Jedi art of Tutaminis during his time at the academy, but anything that isn’t used often tends to rust.

Qui-Gon Jinn had asked Cole to accompany him to Naboo, where the local government, which turned out to be the surface government only, asked for help with an apparent Sith uprising. It was before Naboo was admitted to the Republic, and because the locals tended to keep to themselves the planet was rarely the subject of discussion amongst the Senate or the Jedi Order either one. It turned out that Darth Antares was, indeed, using Naboo as a training ground for his new apprentice, a local of the surface race. The planet had a core made entirely of water, which made it ideal for secretive Sith exercises. It wasn’t until the young apprentice began terrorizing the underwater race of Gungans that Antares moved his training sessions to the surface, where the peace-loving Nubians wasted no time calling for help. Cole and Qui-Gon were able to sneak up on the Sith pair during a training exercise and rough them up, but in the process Antares had scalded Cole’s arm with his Force Lightning. He’d need three days in a bacta tank to repair the damage, and it was a mistake he was not about to repeat.    

Thanks to that experience, Cole knew just how to act to make it look like he was in helpless agony, and his ploy worked perfectly.

Taking advantage of Antaresmomentary confusion, Cole brought his own blue blade down hard, knocking Antares to the ground as his crimson blade flew out of his hand, disengaged and landed harmlessly out of sight.

Seizing the moment, knowing Sidious would soon join the fray, Cole brought his blade down quickly and decisively, separating the stunned and confused Antareshead from his shoulders, perhaps a little too easily. A strange kind of light (was it lightning?) appeared to have enveloped Antares just as he fell, but Cole didnt have time to think about that. Darth Sidious was closing fast.

Curiously, Sidious didnt have his lightsaber drawn, and he seemed to be laughing, which caught Cole off guard.

Youve just done me a great favor, pity I wont be able to return it,said Sidious, smiling.

Youre certainly right about that,returned Cole. Youll be joining your Sith master in hell momentarily.

As he raised his Jedi weapon, however, something shot out of Sidioushands and his body froze, completely unable to move. He fell back helplessly, willing his arm to raise his lightsaber and deflect the attack from Sidious, but his muscles had stopped responding to the signals going out from his brain.

As abruptly as the shooting pain had begun, it stopped, though Cole was still completely unable to move much of anything voluntarily.

So this is how it ends for the greatCollo Skywalker, is it? Antares was right, your overconfidence is your greatest weakness. I do appreciate your assistance in killing him so I can begin my own rise to power, but Im afraid I cant let you stand in my way. It occurred to me to try and recruit you as my own apprentice, but I think your noble sensibilities would prevent you from sharing my vision of universal domination.

Sidious raised his hands in the direction of the sprawled, gasping Skywalker.

Pity,he said with finality.

As Force lightning lit up what was an otherwise dark Belkadan night, the last thing that raced through Cole Skywalkers mind as he clung to his last few moments of consciousness was what would happen to his wife, how she would raise their son without him, and what the future would hold for little Anakin.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Zero Theorem: Watcher's Guide

If you're not familiar with Terry Gilliam it's high time you became familiar. First of all, he was one of the creative geniuses behind Monty Python's Flying Circus, Britain's masters of satire and one of the funniest comedy troops ever formed. Since that time he has written and directed cult classics like "Brazil," "12 Monkeys," and "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," Health Ledger's final film. Gilliam's latest film, "The Zero Theorem," applies all of his satirical senses in a look a the world as we know it . . .but not as we know it.

Gilliam's protagonist is a man named Qohen Lech, who has to frequently explain that his name is spelled without a "u," and he constantly refers to himself with the royal "we." This is not by accident, of course, as Qohen, played by Christoph Waltz, represents humanity as a whole rather than just one individual. He is haunted throughout the movie by an image of a black hole, which represents his fear of the vast, cold and consuming world.

Qohen's familiarly dreary daily life is overshadowed by his longing for a phone call that will tell him the meaning of his life. Each time his phone rings he falls over himself as he frantically rushes to answer it, only to meet with disappointment when the voice on the other end turns out not be, well, God. He lives in a building that used to be inhabited by an order of monks, who we're told were so devout in their vow of silence that they didn't even call for help when it caught fire and apparently killed them all. Qohen got the burned out building at a bargain price, and detests anything that forces him to step outside into the public world.

When he does venture out, he is greeted by extreme noise and bright lights that cause him to shrink back and wish he could simply close the door and keep that world locked safely outside. Giant billboards scream at him about what he "needs," a thinly veiled commentary on the commercials and many forms of advertising that present us with the same misinformation about filling our own internal emptiness.

Qohen arrives at what amounts to his work cubicle to find an endless amount of data entry awaiting him as he attempts to force zero to equal 100%. This aspect is as confusing to Qohen as it is to the audience, which reflects that nature of the cubicle world with which we are all too familiar. The work never ends, yet the purpose of such work is often lost, and as a result the people doing it can feel like they, themselves, have no purpose.

The boss at Qohen's work is a man named Joby, played by the brilliant David Thewlis of "Lord of the Rings" fame. Much like modern day bosses, Joby professes to care about his employee, but can't even get his name right. When Qohen tells his boss that he's feeling ill and has a doctor's appointment scheduled, Joby tells him to cancel the appointment because he needs him to complete the work right away. This scenario will be all too familiar to corporate workers who are treated like nothing more than cogs in the machine by their supervisors.

When Qohen does make it to the doctor's office, he is greeted by a panel of three doctors who can't agree about any course of action to take regarding their patient's pain and suffering. One of them ultimately gives him a quick-fix computer program that contains a virtual shrink and they send him on his way without remotely addressing his health.

The reclusive Qohen would never be caught dead at a party, yet he is coerced into attending one at Joby's house when the latter promises him a chance to meet with management while he's there. Qohen does, indeed, stumble upon management (played by Matt Damon), but the meeting is a pretense for introducing him to a sultry and sexy young woman named Bainsley (Melanie Theirry). She literally saves his life when she performs the Heimlich and prevents him from choking to death, and then attempts to figuratively save his life by breaking him out of his reclusive shell. What Qohen doesn't know until later in the film is that she is a call girl hired by management for precisely that purpose.

Shortly thereafter, Qohen finally snaps. He realizes that his work is essentially meaningless, that the zero theorem cannot ever be solved, and management begins to inundate him with distractions in an attempt to get him back on track. On the forefront of this effort is the ever more sexy Bainsley, who introduces him to virtual sex, but who freaks out when Qohen actually decides that he might love her and wants to quit his job and run away with her. After all, she was sent as a plant from management to get him back to work, and she is always looking over her shoulder at the hidden cameras that are monitoring her efforts. She takes Qohen to a virtual paradise which she says is "safe," yet there Qohen pushes the limits and nearly drowns, proving that he is anything but safe in what is an artificial world constructed for an artificial relationship.

The talk of quitting his job brings about a home visit from Joby, who tells Qohen that he is his only real friend, something Qohen sees through easily as he notes that his boss can't even get his name right.

As it turns out, Qohen truly is dangerous, most especially to the status quo. His profession of love to Bainsley inspires her to walk away from her job and ask Qohen to run away with her. Management's son Bob is sent to try to get Qohen back in line and even he is won over by his subject's unusual way of looking at the world. When management's son instructs Qohen's virtual psychologist (Tilda Swinton) to admit that she was not really trying to help Qohen, just distract him, Qohen's redemption is nearly complete.

Bob then opens up to Qohen in a scene that happens largely in a park where basically everything (including smiling) is prohibited. He reveals that though he is just 15 years old he is already bored and feels that life has no meaning, which resonates loudly in the youth of America today. Even with the staggering volume and forms of entertainment ranging from computers to video games and movies, everything at their finger tips, much of America's youth is bored to death and sadly lacking in imagination. Soon after, Bob has a nervous breakdown which is blamed on Qohen and results in Joby being fired and Bob being brought in for a meeting with Management (Damon).

The concept of religion as the opiate of the masses is affirmed in Management's soliloquy near the end of the film.  As long as people are willing to throw away this life in the belief that something better is coming after death, the corporation will happily accept their life sacrifice. Chaos pays, says Management, and no one has the power to change it. He then dismisses Qohen, saying his services are no longer required, and Qohen responds by attempting to trash the entire facility. To his frustration, all of the damage he does repairs itself, revealing that the world he thought was real was really nothing more than another illusion. This realization brings the entire scene crashing down on him.

Rising from the rubble, Qohen sees the black hole that haunts his dreams looming over the edge of the fractured scene. Rather than cowering in fear, Qohen turns and leaps into the open space, and as he plunges into darkness and the credits roll, we hear Bainsley laughing and calling to him. It seems that once Qohen turned his back on society's illusion, he found his purpose and true meaning in life.

At the end of the credits we are left with a picture of the crucified Jesus, only with a camera lens where his head should be.

The image is a powerful one, just as the entire message of the film is as powerful as it is visually stunning. It makes me wonder what Gilliam would do with his Monty Python cartoons is that wonderful pack of satirists were doing their thing today.



Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Official Marriage Equality Rant!

My four-year-old daughter Riley is a truly remarkable little person.

I make that statement not to pat myself on the back or somehow take credit for something Riley was simply born with; I make the statement because watching her grow and participating in her discovery of the world around her has been the most remarkable experience of my life.

Riley is everyone's best friend. From the moment she sees someone she wants to give them a hug, and she immediately asks two questions: 1) Do you want to be my friend? and 2) Do you want to play with me? It doesn't matter if the kid she's talking to is white, black, Asian, Hispanic, etc, she simply sees another kid and assumes they will want to drop what they're doing and play with her, and more often than not she's right.

Kids are amazing!

It occurred to me as my wife and I prepare to meet with the president of Riley's private (Christian) school regarding his policy on what marriage may or not mean, that children are more like Jesus Christ than anyone else is. They are born loving all, caring not about race, religious affiliation, or any of the other things that are eventually, sadly, beaten into us as we make our way through what can often be a judgmental and harsh world. Our culture works to divide us, not unite us, and pushes us to see anyone who is not exactly like us - or the "us" we like to project - as wrong. "They" are sinners, "they" are evil, "they" are wrong. Our children do not inherently see any of this or make any such judgments; they must be taught to do so.

It's unfortunate, but too often the case, that Christians are the first to judge, and to use the Bible as the means by which to do it. We isolate some small section that corresponds to our own world view and then judge others using that one verse or section. The isolation part is important, because very often what follows the isolated passage is another passage that makes it more difficult to use the original passage as we have set our minds to do.

Leviticus 18 is a perfect example of this practice, which is known as eisegesis, or using our own agenda to impose meaning on a particular text. Leviticus 18 is where the Old Testament details the laws of sexual morality, famously specifying that man shall not lie down with man as he does with a woman because it is "detestable," or "an abomination," or something along those lines depending on which translation is being read. This passage is most often used to justify the condemnation of homosexuals. Of course, such a reading requires that one not read on, and absolutely avoid Leviticus 19 at all costs.

In Leviticus 19 we find that our entire payday structure is against God's law, which commands that everyone be paid every day that they work and that their wages not be held even overnight. It also dictates that we not wear clothing made from two different kinds of material, so watch for lightning all wearers of cotton/polyester blends! Slavery is perfectly fine, men must never get haircuts, illegal immigration is an oxymoron, and justice is never to be perverted for financial gain. This sayeth The Lord!

Confronted with Leviticus 19 most will say that, you know, that was a long time ago when the world was much different and we have moved on from such laws.

I will only say that if that's true for 19 it has to be true for 18, as well. We don't get to pick and choose which of God's "laws" we will follow and which we will not.

Fortunately, God saw fit to send us a much less ambiguous love letter a couple of thousand years later. In the person of Jesus Christ he told us that we were far too caught up in the legalistic terms of the holy scriptures and should just focus on two laws. We should love God with all whole hearts and we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Most of all, he taught that we are not to judge others lest we, ourselves, be judged.

No one embraces these values - what I would call the core Christian values - better than small children.

Riley and I spend a lot of time at our neighborhood pool during the summer, because it's too hot to do anything else and it's also great exercise. She keeps an ever-watchful eye on the parking lot, and whenever a new car pulls up she eagerly asks me if there are kids inside. If there are, she jumps out of the pool and waits for them at the entrance, greeting them with an enthusiastic "hi!" and introducing herself as "Riley Ingram Diane." Next are her two questions, "Do you want to be my friend?" and "Do you want to play with me?"

Riley doesn't notice, or at least doesn't care, if the kids have a different skin tone, different accent, or anything else. She sees a kid, and her wide open heart can't wait to embrace them, play with them, and even love them.

Isn't that what being a Christian - or even just being a human - is all about? Shouldn't it be?

It is in these moments where I realize that the most profound impact I can have on my daughter's social development is to just stay the hell out of the way!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of the most important speeches of all time when he talked about his Dream of racial equality, and thankfully his dream is coming closer and closer to reality every day. I have a dream myself, though, one that is a bit more ambitious than Dr. King's.

My dream is for my daughter to live in a world where people are not judged by anything other than their own character and their own actions. Religious affiliation shouldn't matter; skin color shouldn't matter; sexual orientation shouldn't matter - none of that mattered to Jesus of Nazareth, after all.

Perhaps it's time we adults stopped trying to be the teachers and the authorities all the time and spent more time studying our children as they are inherently and learning from them.

I am absolutely certain the world will be a better place if we do.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Tribe Scribe Rises

The Tribe Scribe Rises

2014 Hanna Christmas Memories

Lovingly dedicated to the memory of Maurice “Uncle Ric" Sexton

PJ: "Has anyone seen my new Star Wars blanket?"

Tribe Scribe: "No, but I might let you borrow MY new Star Wars blanket if you’re really good . . .and get it right back to me!"


In many ways Christmas is like a DeLorean, ripping across time at 88 miles per hour, enabling us to visit the past, the present and the future. We gather all of our carefully preserved decorations and place them lovingly around the house and on the Christmas tree; we revel in the memories those decorations inspire, and we prepare hopefully and joyously for a new round of memories to be made in the days ahead. Making the long trek to North Carolina from Texas I had plenty of time to reflect on my favorite Christmas memories, many of which involve the Hanna side of the family. 

Since those early Christmas memories of being at Grandmommy and Pop’s house and involve trying very hard to go to sleep so Santa could come, Christmas has been transformed in my mind. Certainly the religious aspect of the day has become more prevalent in my life, but I have also gone from being the wide-eyed child eagerly anticipating the magic of Christmas morning to being one of the parents in charge of preserving that magic for my own little wide-eyed child. Most of all, I have come to value quality time with friends and family over anything that could be wrapped up and placed under the tree.

Needless to say, the most exciting part about Christmas this year was being around the extended family I love so dearly, and the most valuable gift I gave my beautiful and vibrant daughter Riley was quality time with her cousins from around the country . . .though I’m sure she will tell you her favorite present involved “Frozen” princesses!

Monday, December 22: The Arrival

Tribe Scribe: "PJ! I really like that Star Wars blanket!"

After breaking the 16-hour drive from Dallas to Winston-Salem into two days, the Ingram contingency of Clan Hanna arrived at Lamm Lodge East with a car full of presents, luggage and all of the accoutrements necessary to stage a successful Christmas. Hurricane Christmas was already in full force, of course, with Grandmommy and Pop doing everything from piling in groceries and preparing menus to writing holiday homilies and preparing for what promised to be our Christmas Eve service at First Pres Thomasville.

Riley hit the door running  . . .well, chasing . . . after Ginger, who does not enjoy being chased nearly as much as the faithful beagle Bear who resides at Casa Ingram. Hungarian ghoulish was already on the stove, with bread and final preparations waiting for the final ETA of the Heusinger clan from San Antonio. Meanwhile, an entire bag of those new Ritz chips was hungrily consumed. (You should try them! And this is not a paid endorsement!)

A couple of hours later, dinosaurs, Star Wars gear and rum in hand, Sharon, PJ, Emma and Mikey (we missed you, Zoe!) piled in through the door and the partying commenced. After dinner and following the all-important construction of a Frozen princess castle made out of cookies and candy, Christmas movies took center stage. Once the children we adequately worn out (by each other!), the adults settled in for multiple episodes of the new Cosmos . . .and multiple glasses of Coke Zero and rum.

The Christmas holiday had officially arrived!

Tuesday, December 23rd

PJ: "I could have sworn my new Star Wars blanket was here when I went to sleep!"

With the Christmas blizzard officially in place and Lamm Lodge East suitably buried in toys and the blur of children very busily not playing with them, several expeditions went forth into retail mania to fill out those final holes on various wish lists. PJ needed coffee, Sharon and Bill needed rum, and Riley just needed to get out of the house. (Here I insert a special shout-out to Chik-fil-a, with the comparatively healthy fast food and the indoor playground - also not a paid endorsement!) 

After filling out the rest of their Christmas shopping, PJ, Bill and Riley returned home and Sharon and Bill embarked on two very important missions: 1) Find long pants for PJ, who packed for Texas weather instead of North Carolina weather. 2) MORE RUM!

Comfort food, more Christmas movies, a gingerbread castle, LOTS of popcorn and more Cosmos . . .and the house seemed as prepared as it could possibly be for the arrival of Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 24th

Tribe Scribe: "Sharon, I really love this Star Wars blanket you made for me!"

You know, it’s a real shame that Disney has apparently misplaced one of the most wonderful movie series of the Christmas season. We looked everywhere for the Santa Clause series, and we just couldn’t find any of them. The Ingram set didn’t make it from Dallas, where they had already been watched at least 5 times each, and no one else had them or could find them. Note to self for next Christmas: Take all three Santa Clause movies wherever we go. Tim Allen is simply wonderful!!

After facing three stores with gaping holes where the new Ritz cracker chips were supposed to be, we finally found some. They didn’t go as fast as the hot, fresh communion bread did after the service as First Pres, but they certainly didn’t run any risk of going stale, either. Now, if we could just find some Bisquick . . .
The family then bundled up and headed to First Pres for a warm and wonderful Christmas Eve service including music from various members of the clan and what may have been Pop’s last Christmas homily, as the plan is for him to retire to the mountains this summer. Riley even did an impromptu interpretive dance during special music to the delight of all! Following the service, the kids made sure there that any crumbs of the communion bread were much too small for Who mouses and we returned to the house to make final preparations for the big red guy’s arrival. 

Yes, of course Meet Me In St. Louis is a Christmas movie! And so is Mary Poppins! (Especially when we don’t have the Tim Allen Santa Clause movies.) After Mary Poppins saved the Banks family once more, Riley, Emma and Mikey put out the reindeer food, the freshly-baked Frozen cookies for Santa, poured him a tall glass a icy cold and festive egg nog, and headed for bed. With the children nestled all snug in their beds, having been read The Grinch, Twas the Night Before Christmas and Rudolph, Santa enlisted the help of PJ and Yours Truly, in particular, to do the annual construction of North Pole presents.

Portions of this entry have been redacted by the CIA (Christmas Intelligence Agency).

The XXXXXXX was XXX and XXXX XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX when XXXXX PJ XXXXXX screwdriver XXXXXXX didn’t work! So we XXXXXX the XXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX XXXX and put it in the XXXXX. When that didn’t work, XXXX hit the XXXX with the XXXX and XXXX XXXX XXX a band-aid to try and stop the bleeding. Bill tried XXXXXX the XXXX with the XXXXXX and wished like hell that the people who wrote the directions had been English-speaking. Then they tried XXXXX the XXXXX with the XXXXX and by some miracle it worked. XXXX XXXXXXXXX XX X X X XXXXXX XXXX XXXX X X X  XXXX X X X X XXXXX X XXXX and there was a beautiful new Frozen Big Wheel sparkling under the Christmas tree!

Redactions end here.

With all presents wrapped, the stockings … laid … by the … wood stove … with care, Santa’s elves resumed their enjoyment of Cosmos and popcorn until sleep overcame them.


Tribe Scribe (warmly wrapped up in a comfy blanket with X-Wing fighters and other sci-fi-looking things on it): “Let the unwrapping begin!”

PJ: “Has anyone seen my new Star Wars blanket????”

Wrapping paper flew, presents piled up, small children squealed . . .and Sam’s Wholesale Club started bidding on Pop’s super-sized supply of Yukon Jack (be careful what you wish for!). The beautiful weather allowed for plenty of outdoor fun for the kids while the grownups cooked and basked in the success of the presents they so carefully chose for the younger generation. The day after Christmas would see the Lamm Lodge contingency headed up the mountain for a few days in Burnsville with the extended Hanna Clan, so preparations were also underway for a massive migration to the high country. 

An evening of Christmas movies, including “A Very Merry Muppet Christmas,” ended with the kids only slightly less exhausted than the adults. 

Friday and Saturday, December 26th and 27th

Mikey: “Where’s my bedroom?”

Tribe Scribe: “It’s right there - on the floor in front if the living room window!”

It just wouldn’t be a family reunion if someone didn’t have car trouble, and this time it was the Ingram transporter that needed attention. Thankfully, one replaced tire later, the caravan was ready to hit the road to the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

PJ: “What’s in the new Lamm Cottage?”

Tribe Scribe: “Only what you take with you.”

This particular part of the trip required a little more imagination than did the preceding days. Lamm Cottage was not quite ready for prime time, so the bare living room floor became the master suite at the Hilton for a couple of days. The lack of internet, refrigerator, and basically any other technology made it something like a camp out in the mountains, only with heat and electricity. The microwave performed admirably and the local restaurants and grocery stores benefited from the other shortfalls.

The best part, of course, was quality time spent with family for most of that evening and the following day. No matter what lies waiting, wrapped in mystery under the tree, nothing could be more special than the simple gift of time with loved ones. I took particular delight in watching Zoe, Riley, Mikey and Emma run around the beautiful yard around Ward Warren playing pirates and exploring secret places they discovered. It reminded me of many a trip to Galveston, where Cathy, Andy and I did very much the same things. I also - always - enjoyed the heightened intellectual climate inside the house … as well as Uncle Jon’s resplendent rum recipes!  It was also wonderful to meet Christine, the lovely young lady who seems to have plucked Sean’s heart off of the season’s proverbial pear tree.

It was all over too quickly, of course, but then Christmas always is. Before we could wink  the families who traveled so far to bask in the glow of each other’s company were scurrying back to their corners of the country to resume their journeys through the more mundane parts of the calendar. 

But what a fine time we had . . .and what a wonderful bunch of people with whom to pass the most sacred time of the year!

My fondest and dearest wish is that my own daughter will think back on this Christmas and remember how special her parents made it . . .how wonderful it was to be with family and have so many cousins to share it with . . .and seek to carry on the tradition when her time comes.


Tribe Scribe: "Fine, PJ! You can go ahead and have my Star Wars blanket that your mom made for you!"


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