Friends, Family, Countrymen, lend us your ears. Oops. Actually, that one’s been taken. Live from New York, it’s the Fergusons? -taken, too. Trying to come up with new ideas for the Christmas letter is not particularly easy- especially during this year’s writer’s strike. In past years, we’ve enlisted any number of popular writers from Letterman, Leno, and even the WWF, to jazz up the old’ Christmas letter. This year, however, it appeared we were on our own- till we remembered- hey, our kids can write. Hurray, we’re saved. So this year, a year of firsts in many ways, we’ll spice up our Christmas letter with the first appearance of some Christmas letter bits by Nolan and Kyra. Believe me, though, we had to fight off Letterman and Leno to keep them on staff.
Unlike last year, which was the year of Gus, this year was the year of firsts. Our year’s first new first came from Craig’s list. Craig’s List, the internet equivalent of a trade and swap bulletin board, features all sorts of people trading all sorts of worthless cr… uh, tasteful treasures, and even giving stuff away- usually big stuff that they want someone to haul off.
Toni, who recently soured on camping- at least in a tent and on the hard ground, spent months trolling Ebayi and Craig’s list looking for some cute, circa 60’s, vintage travel trailer, close to Parker. Toni found instead, a boxy, 70’s something, needs-lots-of-work travel trailer. It was, however, located only an hour away from Parker, CO. Toni insisted the family go see it immediately. Surprisingly, no one else had ventured out in the dark, and in the middle of a full-fledged blizzard, to see the treasure. Crazed determination won out, and the Fergusons got to be the first to view their possible purchase. Standing outside in the freezing cold, with snow swirling about, two of the Fergusons tried to survey the trailer with a couple of keychain flashlights. Undeterred by a less than successful survey, Toni wrote a check on the spot for our new $700 mobile money pit.
Without a trailer hitch of our own, the trailer’s owner graciously and eagerly volunteered to deliver our purchase to us. One week later, the seller, motivated to get the neighborhood eye sore out of his neighborhood, and into ours, drove the Smokey to our house. It was snowing again, but even in the snow, the now brighter sunlight revealed broken glass (where the windows weren’t filled with plywood), a dented door, dirt, grime, rust, and lots of work to be done. After several letter’s from our home owner’s association, we decided off-site storage was advised (legally, apparently.) We’d just have to bring the trailer home for 48 hours at a time to work on it. Trailer: $700, Trailer Hitch $300, Cleaning Supplies, New Upholstery, Repairs: ?. Annoying the neighbors with our first camping trailer: Priceless.
Also a first this year was the first ever “performance” of a play Byron wrote- “You Can’t Spell Funeral Without Fun.” Loveland Community Theater produced and performed the piece as reader’s theater in January. Byron based the play loosely on his mom and her live-in stay at a funeral home while selling funeral plans. Apparently, there was enough funny about it to convince artistic director Nancy Roy to enlist local comedian Jay Benedict Brown (not to be confused with “just” Jay Brown- “metal head of comedy”) to direct the show, and a talented group of local actors to perform it. Byron asked to give away a few tickets- uh, ok, a hundred- and others actually had to pay to see the performance. To those that paid, thanks. To the freeloaders, em.. friends, that didn’t, thanks too. People were very kind; Byron gathered tons of notes, advice, and suggestions and will now probably spend the next three years doing a rewrite. One sad side effect of the play is that Byron’s friends and family will no longer speak to him. Apparently they’re afraid they’ll land up as characters in his as yet unpublished novel.
Kyra writes: “As you all know, in the beginning of the year in May, there was a play and I played an Ompa-Ompa while my brother, Nolan, played Mike T.V in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory, with a record of $3000 profit.”
Byron and Toni followed “Funeral” with this year’s school production of “Charlie and the Chocolate” factory. Fellow parents Carron Maclean and Kim Mustillo directed the leads, Toni directed the Oompa Loompas (over forty of them), and Byron built sound and light cues, sets, and any thing else that required heavy lifting. Byron and Toni nearly came to blows over some the musical and dance numbers with Byron spending hours and hours trying to carefully edit teeny pieces of downloaded music clips into voiceless versions of the Wonka songs. This, of course, took forever- which is not a good thing when working on a show. Toni, instead, just played music from the film’s soundtrack, with voices, which was better- because the kids didn’t know the words from the songs anyway. Byron finally admitted that maybe he wasn’t that great at the music part- the first time Byron has ever admitted he wasn’t that great at anything.
Kyra writes: “In the following month, my second cousin Dean came to town, we enjoyed him very much while he and my great Uncle Don, along with Byron and Rick, went to the Rockies game.
Toni’s cousin Dean arrived back in the United States from Afghanistan this year for a short stay at Fort Carson. Since Fort Carson is close, the Ferguson’s cajoled Dean to visit a few times- the first time we’ve had someone that’s been to Afghanistan at our house. Dean regaled the family with tales of suicide bombings, U.S. Policy, and eating goat (oh, boy, yummy.) While we tried to round up some nice goat to make him feel at home, we came up empty handed and instead had to settle for some hotdogs and cold Coors at a Rockies’ game. Dean claimed the hotdog tasted better than goat, but we’re pretty sure he was just being polite.
After completely gutting and cleaning the interior thoroughly, the Fergusons took their first trip in their travel trailer- a whole 35 miles to Chatfield reservoir. The trip required absolutely no hill climbing- and if the whole trailer fell apart, got a flat tire, or otherwise failed us; the walk back home wouldn’t be too bad. Byron’s sister, on viewing pictures commented, “That’s not camping, you we’re on concrete.” Of course, we think anytime we can get out into the great outdoors, or out a door (even if it’s not great), that’s camping to us.
Nolan says, “During the summer we went to South Dakota with my Godfather, “Uncle” Vance. It was really fun, because our family rarely goes on family vacations.”
Nolan and Kyra took their first trip to South Dakota this summer. Of course, it was with their parents, which tends to cramp their style. The Ferguson’s met up with their friends the Hermansons to go see the big stone heads at Mount Rushmore. On the way, the family road an 1812 steam train, took the plunge at Evan’s plunge hot springs, visited Reptile Gardens (more reptiles than garden), and even panned for gold (panned for gravel, would be more accurate.) The entire family bore the over 100 degree heat in style, and finally made it to see the giant presidential faces carved into solid rock. There, Byron was slightly disappointed to learn that the monument was actually carved by artists with dynamite and jackhammers, and not by the same outer space aliens who did Easter Island and Stonehenge.
Kyra says, “Near the start of school, Aunt Nora- the eldest of the Perez children, celebrate her 30th anniversary only ending up screaming ‘shut up, shut up!’, throwing up, and breaking the toilet seat in the Ferguson’s house.
Nolan says, “When vacation was over, Aunt Nora came over for her wedding. Like my sister said, she threw up all over everything and broke the toilet seat. At least it wasn’t our recliner. Why? Because she couldn’t stop hogging the wine! And I’m sure you would understand.
In August, Toni’s sister Lanora celebrated her thirtieth wedding anniversary in style- at the Ferguson’s clubhouse. Byron presided over the renewal ceremony- he’s an ordained Universal Life Church reverend (courtesy of that amazing internet again.) Enough had been said between the ceremony and this Christmas letter about the following reception debacle at our house that we were inclined to just let sleeping dogs lie and not mention it here in the Christmas letter- but strangely enough, the event made a mention in BOTH Kyra and Nolan’s version of the newsletter. We can’t censure them, so guess we’ll just have to mention it again.
In October the Ferguson’s visited Byron’s sister Diane in Nashville, TN, for the first time. While ostensibly to spend time with family, Byron secretly harbored a fantasy of dressing the family in Von Trap style jumpsuits, singing a Bradyesque “Things will change,” and being discovered as the next Jackson 5 (even though there’s only four of us.) Diane delayed our plans for greatness by tempting the kids away from the serious business of music making with a tree house. Diane and husband Rick had set posts and framing for the 9’ observation platform located at the back of her property. After a full day’s work, the crane, crew, and inspectors were done, and the kids announced that the tree house that would have made Donald Trump envious was their favorite part of the trip. The next day, Byron, undeterred, insisted that the family continue the pursuit of a singing career. The foursome ventured to a mall recording studio to make their breakout single. In return, the studio sold us a souvenir compact disc and promised, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” The Fergusons killed time while waiting for the mall call by riding a showboat, visiting Andrew Jackson’s house, exploring a great science center, and even eating some barbeque. Our week in Tennessee finally expired- without fame, but not without hope. Byron’s still sitting in front of the phone waiting for his call.
Not satisfied with the family’s three dogs and multiple fish, Nolan and Kyra practically begged to get their “own” pets this year as “birthday” presents. Family and friends gifted them cards to Pets Mart, which the two carried to the rodent dealer. Kyra settled on a small dwarf Russian hamster. Nolan settled on a more standard non imported something-or-other hamster. The two kids quickly took to building Rube Goldberg-like habitrail towers, and shared in parenting tips. Unfortunately, Aunt Mari who was visiting only a month later had to be the one to discover that Nolan’s non-import was sleeping a tad too soundly. Breaking the news to Nolan completely devastated him temporarily. No doubt his next purchase will be a snake, lizard, or gecko. Those live longer than a hamster, right?
A huge first this year was Toni’s return to work (not that caring for two kids, one father, their laundry, messes, and schedules is not work.) After ten years at home, and with more than one set of braces to pay for, Toni felt it was time to seek employment in the corporate world where she’d receive actual hard currency for her work instead of just undying gratitude and some really swell art work. Toni now works for Direct TV doing phone support. If you have Direct TV and are having problems, Byron suggests you call now while they have someone of Toni’s superior intellect working for them; he plans on trying to hire her away with the promise of free parking at her old job.
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that this is the first year we’ve featured ALL the dogs in our Christmas card. After 32 takes, 12 dog biscuits, and countless hours in the freezing cold, Byron has a suggestion for camera manufacturers: make a longer self-timer. We hope your attempts to send out your card are less work, and wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
P.S. Ebay – an internet auction site. Again, if you don’t have a computer… you’re really missing out.