We moved the Christmas party this year. Having outgrown the hunting lodge where we've been meeting, we held our annual family Christmas weekend in a new location.
It gave us a chance to explore a different environment and enjoy some new activities.
On Saturday morning, we woke up to the sound of rain on the roof. Later in the day, after the sun came out, several of us went for a long walk on the beach. We skipped stones across the water, followed animal tracks, and browsed the shingle for flotsam and fossils.
Meanwhile, another group went off in a different direction to explore the local landscape and do some serious bird-watching.
A few serious partiers were up late on Saturday night, listening to the singing of a local band and making some noise themselves.
Wait a minute. This doesn't sound like a typical white Christmas in South Dakota. Did we blow years of family tradition, not to mention all our family budgets, by taking ourselves off to the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico?
Not exactly. We were in the Buryanek Bay Bunkhouse, close to the Missouri River just off Highway 44. But everything I've stated so far is absolutely true.
I just forgot to mention a few details.
The gentle rain left sidewalks, parking lots, our cars, and even the gravelly beach glazed with ice. The walk on the beach, in the face of a sharp north wind, featured mittens, winter coats, and long johns rather than swimsuits. The tracks we followed were in snow, and the stones skipped across the water so well because they were bouncing off thin sheets of ice near the shore.
The birders, of course, were out with shotguns rather than binoculars, hunting wild turkeys.
The late-night partying featured the music of a local band of coyotes. From the volume of their singing, they were only a few yards down the hill from our lodge, and they sang rather more encores than anyone requested.
Most of the partiers singing along to the coyotes didn't have the full appreciation of their audiences, either, since it was long past their bedtimes. These revelers were some of the five great-grandkids that were aged three and younger. It's too bad we couldn't have given them their own room and let them party.
As the family members who are attorneys, engineers, or parents of young children can appreciate, it's the details that make the difference between the truth and the whole truth.
But details aside, we enjoyed spending time with the people we love.
And that, truly, is what Christmas is about.