Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Vicarious South Dakota Christmas

As readers of this blog know, on August 26, I had the excellent fortune to marry Jeff Modereger.  I  still  can't get over the fact I was so lucky to meet and marry him,  but that's another story.
The beautifully decorated sunroom in the Modereger
home, Yankton, South Dakota

I'm pleased to report  the marriage is a rousing success. However, like every person in every marriage, certain aspects of wedded life take getting used to, even in the months leading up to the actual marriage.

So it was with me.   Married  couples know you need to plan well ahead with vacation time, so you can celebrate holidays as best you can with your spouse's family.

You know how it works:  Spend maybe a few days with one side of the family, then a few days with the other side of the family, somewhere else in the country

You just have to do the best you can.

Yes, I knew months in advance I was going to become a married guy in August. But did I plan ahead early in the year to schedule the appropriate vacation time around Christmas? Of course not!   My brain hadn't fully processed that I would be married by the end of the year.  Some old habits die hard, I guess.

The result: Jeff is in South Dakota with his family this Christmas Day,  and I'm staying in Vermont to be with my family.

Actually, his family is my family now and vice versa, but you get the idea.

Luckily, the way my mind spins and races and twists, I can use my vivid imagination and "see" what's going on with Jeff and the rest of the  Moderegers/Stengles/Wainscotts in Yankton, South Dakota, even as  I open gifts and toast the holiday with the Sutkoskis in West Rutland, Vermont.

Even more luckily, I've got material to work with.  Jeff has been sending regular updates and news bulletins,  describing how the holiday is going there. Ever the helpful husband, he's even sent pictures.

Jeff, in his professional life,  is a busy, highly regarded theatre set designer. (Don't believe me? Google "Jeff Modereger" and see for yourself.)

With that talent, Jeff is in charge of decorating the Modereger hacienda in Yankton.

His parents have a fantastic sunroom overlooking a very nice golf course in back of their Yankton home. With all those windows and space, Jeff arranged lights and a nice big Christmas tree tin the sunroom. The lights  reflect just perfectly off the windows at night. It's cold in South Dakota, but he makes it look warm.

The best part of the sunroom decorations comes from Jeff's mother, my mother in law. She has a   beautiful and large collection of little buildings as Christmas decorations. Jeff lines the buildings up along shelving by the windows, forming a gorgeous  miniature village that could be Main Street Yankton, South Dakota or Main Street, West Rutland, Vermont, take your pick.

I'm mentally in both towns today anyway.

Just to feel a little more at home, I went to Google images and looked up photos of Yankton,  to get my bearings.  Plus, I'm Facebook friends with some of the Moderegers/Stengles/Wainscotts, so I get clues from their posts.

 In some ways, Yankton looks similar to the Rutland, Vermont area, which I found comforting. Yankton, on the banks of the Missouri River, has nice rolling bluffs and low hills. Bigger hills and mountains surround West Rutland. But both towns have two or three story brick buildings in their little downtowns and sturdy houses with nice yards that suggest rural stability.

One disconcerting Google photo I found of  Yankton shows a pair of menacing tornadoes heading toward Yankton from nearby Nebraska, but I'll let that go.  

Of course I got to meet many of the Moderegers/Stengles/Wainscotts when Jeff and I married in August, so I have a sense of what they're like.

There's some simularities between the South Dakotans and the Sutkoskis. Many members of both families are prone to boisterous bursts of laughter.

So while us Sutkoskis laugh at our pratfalls and crack up at my wildly inept gift wrapping "skills",  I can almost hear the Yankton contingent laughing up a storm, too.

For most of us, it's impossible to physically be with everybody you love on Christmas.  But in your mind and in your heart, you can be with the best, most important people in your life anytime, anywhere.

I'll have my share of Christmas fun today in West Rutland, Vermont.  But part of me will be in Yankton, South Dakota, enjoying the glow and the laughter of the big, warm extended family Jeff brought into my life.

You can't top a Christmas gift like that.

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