Just after moving to Minnesota, Kyle and I booked our flights to go back to my beautiful home state of Utah for Christmas. Through the homesick months before December, I kept telling myself that I was going home to see my family soon. Strangely enough, those months passed quickly and on a Friday night I found myself, and Kyle waiting to board our airplane.
This visit was more than just for Christmas, though that was important. It was the first time that I was going to see my brother Andrew in two years. Previously, he had been serving an LDS mission down in Antofagasta, Chile and we only had email as a mode of communication. This was also the first time the whole family would be together in two years. And the last time we were all together, Kyle and I weren’t married yet.
Andrew had arrived in Utah three days previous, and was coming to the airport to pick us up. I was bouncing in my seat as we started our decent into the Salt Lake City Airport. Andrew is the closest to me in age, and we have developed a very tight knit friendship. I couldn’t wait to see him in person. As soon as we landed and were dismissed, I practically ran to the baggage claim where our greeting party was waiting. It was such a sweet reunion. Every time I think back on it, I am reminded how much my family means to me and how grateful that we have been sealed together in the temple so that we can be together for all of eternity.
The Christmas festivities started early the next day. Dad treated the family to a morning matinee of A Christmas Carol at the Hale Center Theater. The show was so well done and truly got us in the Christmas spirit. Then, we drove up to my Grandparent’s for a big Barfuss family gathering and Christmas party. Almost everyone in the family was there, and those who weren’t were missed. We laughed and played until late and then drove on home.
Sunday night, we all gathered down in the basement for the big reveal of Andrew’s photos from his mission. There were hundreds of pictures and each came with stories about the lives that he had touched and the experiences he had. I can tell that he worked really hard on his mission and was blessed for his efforts. At the end, he brought out gifts that he had purchased for each of us. We all received Chilean gypsy pants, a bracelet, a delicious caramel cookie, and a coin purse filled with coins. Andrew also showed us some other fun things that he had picked up for himself; dinner table accessories, a board game, a Christmas ornament, other people and lama figurines, completo holders (which I will explain later), and a big bag of caramel.
Christmas Eve was soon upon us, and our annual traditions began. Each year we pick a movie to go see in the afternoon, this year’s being Wreck-It Ralph. After, mom and I kept busy putting together last minute preparations for our traditional evening feast of chicken cordon bleu, rolls, tossed green salad, chocolate mousse with peppermint and cream, and topped off with grape juice. All things were homemade deliciousness. I’m so grateful my mom has taught me to cook well. After dinner, as usual, we all were allowed to open one present which contained a new set of pajamas. We quickly changed and got ready for bed, then received another present, a new Christmas book. We read that story and then reflected, as a family, on the importance of Christ’s birth.
By then, it was late, so we headed down to our basement for our “sleepover”. We have all slept in the same room on Christmas Eve since we were kids, and I look forward to it every year. Of course, it always leads to some sort of sneakiness. We are not allowed to go upstairs and see our presents until everyone is awake. Because of this rule, my brothers have been known to wake up in the middle of the night and sneak upstairs to the Christmas tree and look at their presents once Santa has come. This year was no exception. Though Andrew seems to have grown out of sneaking, Camren took it upon him to be the sneaky one.
When everyone had woken up, my dad asked if anyone had broken the rule. Camren simply, lifted a box of candy out of his sleeping bag, shook it, and said with a smirk, “Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.” The candy was from his stocking which I had helped pack the night before during the grown-up present wrapping party we always seem to have midnight. What a stinker. If he wasn’t so cute, he would have been in trouble.
I won’t go into details, but we were spoiled this year. Santa did a great job picking out things that we needed. However, the thing I love most was a book of photos my mom put together for each of us kids, and a DVD of home videos from my dad. It is really the small things that mean the most. Things like a note from Andrew in his present to me, the memories brought back by the photo book and videos, and the thought put into each present. I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas.
Tessa also got a special Christmas present. She tends to go through bones very quickly, so when Kyle and I saw this bone at the store, we knew that we had to give it to her. As soon as she got it, she went straight to her bed and refused to let anyone touch it. It even got to the point where stealing her bone and hiding it became a game. Then, every once in a while, she would balance it in her mouth and go prancing proudly through the hallways of the house to show it off, all the while banging it against the walls because it was so long. Amazingly, it took her a good week and a half to get through it, and I am sure she loved every minute of it.
During the course of our time together, Kyle and Andrew decided to both share foods from their mission. Kyle and I made carne asada tacos with pico de guillo, a Mexican specialty. (Which involved a trip to a Mexican grocery store where everyone thought that because Andrew and Kyle could speak Spanish, that I could as well. Someday… But it is fun to see those two using their second language together.) Andrew made us completos, also known as the Chilean “complete” hot dog. It was also accompanied with rice, a tomato and onion dish, and a salad with lemon and salt. The anatomy of a completo is this: take a boiled hot dog and place it in a bun with mustard and ketchup. That sounds like typical American hot dog, until you add smashed avocado, tomatoes, onion, and mayonnaise. It a textural wonder, to say the least; though actually quite tasty. We finished off the dinner with chocolate and caramel flan.
The next couple days it snowed and snowed. Though we were kept inside, in the end the results were fantastic. Since Utah has the best snow on Earth, and the best mountains, how to better use them than with a day of skiing and snowboarding. Though the day was incredibly cold, the clouds covered most of the resort, and it was still snowing, but I couldn’t have asked for a better ski trip. The fresh powder was wonderful, and being able to speed down a mountain with my mom again was exhilarating. This trip also left me wanting ski hills that are more than hills here in Minnesota. Nothing compares to Utah mountains.
The fun continued as my dad surprised us with four tickets to the BYU Basketball game. We asked Andrew to come along and to bring a date. He chose to bring cute Kenzli, who was so pleased that he would choose her. These weren’t just any tickets; we were pampered while sitting in a suite. We munched on pulled pork sandwiches, fruit salad, nachos, and popcorn as we watched the game and cheered BYU on to victory! Thanks for the tickets, dad!
After returning home, all missionaries are asked to give a talk in church that details what they have done on their mission. I was lucky enough to still be around when Andrew spoke in church. I loved being able to see how much he has grown since he spoke before he left. He has become such a confident, strong, and mature man, and I am proud to be his sister. Afterwards, family and friends all gathered at our house for brunch and good conversation. I also felt lucky that in my short time home, I was able to see almost all of my relatives and enjoy some time with them. That day was also Andrew’s birthday. After the gathering was over and everyone had gone home, we enjoyed relaxing, Andrew opened presents, watching some of Andrew’s mission videos, ate raspberry frozen dessert (my favorite) and playing an intense game of Dominion and Scum.
Before we knew it, it was New Years Eve. Once again, almost all of the Barfuss family gathered, this time at Netty’s house, to ring in the New Year. Of course, it was a crazy night with all of us stuffed into one house, but I wouldn’t trade that night for a swanky party in New York City. Family time is so wonderful. We played games, talked, worked on puzzles, and ate lots of food (as usual). When the clock hit midnight, we all ran around banging pots and pans like Ruprecht from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. And, of course, there were lots of New Year’s kisses from the married folk.
In between all of the things listed above, we also found time for some (ok, a lot of) shopping, going to the SLC Temple for an Endowment Session, watching Andrew and Camren start their own band, bonding time with my beautiful sister Issa, a haircut and great conversation from my favorite stylist who also happens to be my aunt, tubing and snowball fights in the back yard (on the masterpiece tubing course Andrew and Camren built), and late night talks with each member of the family. I got the chance to meet up with my amazing friend Eryn and do a little shopping at City Creek with her. Kyle and I also had lunch with Dannaea, Kelli and Kendall, my wonderful and longtime high school friends, that I love so much.
I think my heart broke a little when I had to get back on the airplane to head back Minnesota. Utah has so many memories for me and I wish I could live closer to it. It is hard being so far away from family and friends, and there are times that I wish I could snap my fingers and be back in my comfort zone. But right now, I know that we are supposed to be in Minnesota. Thank goodness for technology that allows me to still be with the people I love, while really being 1,233 miles away. Above all, I am grateful for the memories that still connect us through the space, as well as through time.
Goodbye, again, home state. I hope to see you soon.