We woke up this morning and took showers, hung out with my dad a little then headed off to Raleigh. Adam and I stayed up until about 3 am, he was playing games and I was tooling around with Linux. We had geek brother chat.

Andra had to work this morning, so her branch all left at 4. I let Bruce out at 6. When I did, I saw that the sun was rising on the horizon, but over the barn the moon shone clear and bright, so I ran upstairs to get my camera and take a picture. The moon didn’t seem nearly as big in the picture, but I still thought it was pretty.

We were the first to arrive at Joanne and Pierre’s. Joanne is Amanda’s grandma’s youngest sister, and Amanda was staying with her when we first met. Joanne even took me in when Todd Dorrell screwed me over and had us evicted from our apartment. Anyway, Marci, Tracey and John David, Joanne’s kids, were all there, along with Ricky, Tracey’s son, and Marci’s husband, Chris, and their two daughters Sarah and Tess. That’s about as much detail as I think I’ll go into with family for the day, because otherwise it’ll get way too confusing. The Mercer clan arrive next, bringing Sarah (Denning) in tow.

It was a nice time there. I remembered everyone, which I think is impressive. Dain and Tripp and Anna Hawkins were all sick, either something they’d eaten or some kind of 24-hour bug, as Dain described. Anna Hawkins was a lot more outgoing that she had been before. We sat with them during lunch/supper and had a nice chat with Dain. This is their first Christmas without Kim, and I know it’s been tough on him, but just like he was during her whole bout with cancer, he was strong. Oddly, Dain had Amanda’s name for secret Santa this year, and last year Kim had mine. I thought about that when we got home- I was Kim’s last secret Santa. I almost feel guilty about that somehow. She’d gotten me a gift certificate which I had used to buy a black belt, which I wore at her funeral. Okay, enough gloom.

John Green and his fiancée, Denise, asked me if I would do their wedding pictures, which I told them I’d be honored to do. Denise wanted me to take some bridal shots as well, because every photographer she’d talked to so far had wanted to do stiff, formal shots, and she wants something more free spirited, which fits them much better.

One of Amanda’s cousins (okay, damn, I can’t remember everyone’s names right now) brought a girlfriend with whom he’d had his first date on Christmas Eve. They were upstairs in the bedroom where a bunch of the younger kids had set up an Xbox to play on, lying on top of each other and not quite making out, but still acting in ways they shouldn’t have a) around young kids, b) in a family environment and c) when first meeting your boyfriend’s extended family. Tracey saw them and said something to them, but they ignored her so she had to get her momma, and Joanne put a stop to it right quick. It’s funny, because Tracey’s not the kind to take any crap.

Amanda got a silver set from Dain, and I got an ice cream maker from Dana (I just realized we both got presents from people with such similar names). Dana told me she’d been thinking of the time she had come to Wilmington and went to get ice cream with Anna, Amanda and me. (Hannah and/or Kirsten may have been there too, and Caroline and Julia, other high school aged cousins, were there too.) The Frazelles, speaking of, skipped the shindig to spend the week in Barbados.

After the presents were all opened, the annual wrapping paper war started with a shot from Michael. Even Aunt Susan (Amanda’s grandma’s sister-in-law), who had a cast on her leg and is having to use a walker to get around right now, joined in.

Amanda drove back. I may have dozed a little on the way, but if I did it wasn’t much. We watched some TV and at the moment, I’m transferring a bunch of stuff off my desktop to the external hard drive. It’ll feel so nice to have everything important backed up.

Zach Dotsey