Now this wasn't a trip to bemoan the fact that our brother is living on borrowed time. Far from it. Rachel and I went there to WORK, but also to spread a little holiday magic with his family at this tender point in their lives. We had a great time.
Ammon's wife, Shelli, getting in on the cooking
While the rest of the family went about their normal routines, Rachel and I cooked up a storm, singing along to the holiday tunes and sharing conversation with anyone dropping down on a kitchen stool. For three days we fixed up dinners that could be frozen for later, and then baked all the goodies to deliver to neighbors for Christmas, saving Ammon and Shelli stress and time. We were lucky enough to attend a singing recital for one of our nieces, attend two Christmas parties, and watched the fun as all the kids got in on cookie decorating.
Every night we went away tired, and should have gone straight to bed, but with so few opportunities to see family (we're spread all over the country), Rachel and I would stay up even later talking. Ah, good times, though we both paid for it later.
Rachel with yet another batch of icing
But the best part was keeping Ammon busy. With him home on disability, he's feeling a bit restless, so we assigned him to design a gingerbread house. And he did. A big one. It took four batches of gingerbread and two and a half days to build! Was it worth it? Oh yeah. I haven't seen him that excited in a long time.
Can you find the shepherds, wise men, etc. ?
And then I flew home and had to bake all the goodies for my neighbors and do the gingerbread house tradition with my own family--by myself. Whew! I'm wiped out. So if you're wondering where your Christmas letter is . . . you'll be receiving it next week as New Year's spam.
Ammon's kids creating cookie magic
But back to Portland . . . Before flying back to Indiana, I got in a little driving around the old neighborhood (my family lived in Beaverton about 25 years ago), passing by the Portland Temple, which was announced just before we moved. It got me thinking about the progress that has been made, in the area and with me personally, since I left Oregon.
Aidukaitis kids constructing here in Indiana
Seeing all the places I used to go brought the memories of middle school and high school back, and the great friendship I had with my brother back then. There aren't many siblings who attend the same high school, share the same group of friends, and attend the same parties together, but we did. And it didn't bother us. There was no rivalry, and he wasn't embarrassed by me, for the most part. We got along fine. We would go to church dances, and if a good song came on and we didn't have a partner, we would dance with each other. It wasn't creepy or gross; it was simple. Ammon was fun. He was popular (student body president, on the track and water polo teams). He could drive--which meant going to football games, shopping at the mall, and TP-ing random friend's houses when our parents were away. And he was smart. A lot of kids admired him, including me, even though he wasn't the greatest math tutor: "Here, watch me do another problem. Get it now?" When he left to Stanford, and my family moved to California, I didn't just lose a brother, I lost part of my identity. He was the cool one, so easy to like; I couldn't be that way on my own. High school was a difficult time for me, as it is with many girls, but having a cool brother to share the experience with made it bearable.
More Indiana gingerbread
A couple decades have passed since then, resulting in differing life experiences and the addition of spouses and children. It's just not the same anymore. Life is so serious. Though we are still on good terms, I sometimes miss that energy, spontaneity and light-hearted fun we used to have. Some of my best memories come from humorous experiences I shared with Ammon. It was good to see some of that vitality again during my visit, with Ammon interacting with his kids. As teenagers, I hope they know what a cool person their dad is, and what a friend he can be. I'm sure he helps them just as much as he ever helped me.
Portland, Oregon Temple
Here's to hoping your positive attitude gets you through, Ammon! We're all cheering for you.