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Easter 2017 - The Literary Exhibitionist
Easter 2017

Easter 2017 Roll Call!

1. Dad
2. Sherri
3. Angel
4. Ricky
5. Rachael
6. Raiden
7. Gina
8. Beth
9. David
10. Matthew
11. Shobhit
12. Nikki
13. TJ
14. Cheyanna
15. Jennifer
16. Eric
17. Hope
18. Chase
19. Ian
20. Wendy

I typed up this list on my phone yesterday evening, showed it to Sherri and asked if she could think of anyone I was missing. She could not. "It's a pretty good number," I said, and she agreed.

What I did not realize until just now was it was actually one more person than we had last year, even though last year's 19 included eight people not there this year: Britni and her boyfriend David (who were with Brandi in Phoenix this year); Angel's youngest, Alex; David's army friends Brian and Dani; Becca and her boyfriend Tyler; and Grandpa McQuilkin, who of course died last year.

But! This year there were nine who did not make it last year: Shobhit, who is now back for regular family holidays in addition to just Christmas; Nikki and TJ with their baby Cheyanna; and then Jennifer and Eric with Jennifer's three kids Hope, Chase and Ian.

So, this year had fewer adults (15 vs 18) but a lot more kids (5 vs 1), so one more overall. Also, it just occurred to me while comparing last year's and this year's lists that Becca (my brother's second oldest) and Tyler came last year, and this year it was Nikki (Christopher's oldest) and TJ who came.

This is now my 19th Easter photo set, and it's been a while since these photo sets have been especially large, which is fine -- as long as the photos I do have are good, and I quite like this year's. And actually I was thinking this year's was unusually small, but even at 25 shots, it's still 2 more than the 23 I got last year.

Anyway. Let's talk about Nikki and TJ for a moment.

I think I already mentioned in Saturday's journal entry that we saw the briefly on that day, but I'll mention it here too. They handled a very stressful situation rather impressively, pretty much all of us ("us" being Shobhit, Dad and Sherri) thought. I mentioned to them later that if the same thing were happening to Shobhit and me, we'd probably be fighting the whole time. And to be fair, it's entirely possible Nikki and TJ did too -- they just showed no sign of it whatsoever when we were talking to them or around them.

I got the first phone call from Nikki when Shobhit and I were walking from Seattle Center to Japonessa for a late Happy Hour sushi lunch. She later told me she had assumed we would be going down to Olympia to stay the night that night, and thus perhaps we could drive them down the rest of the way if we already were. She sure as shit didn't get this from her parents so I'm not sure where she learned it from, but Nikki knows how to be both an adult and of the utmost politeness when even sussing out where she might find help while in a bind. She never asked for anything at all during any of our conversations, at least not directly. She just said they had broken down on an off ramp in what they thought was Bellevue, but Shobhit later figured out was Sammamish.

I was understanding as I could be, but also said, a little hesitantly, "I'm not sure what we can do, though." She did ask when we were going to Olympia, and I told her we weren't leaving until the next morning. And when I got to telling her I wasn't sure what we could do, she said, "I know. I think I just needed to talk it through." They were talking to me while just sitting in their truck, with Cheyanna, who is 17 months old. I asked how she was doing and Nikki said Cheyanna was okay. They did not have AAA but apparently they did have roadside assistance, and had been told a tow truck should be there in about 45 minutes.

After a few minutes we got off the phone, and I thought for a while about how we might be able to offer them some help -- but without setting any kind of precedent that other family members could get wind of and then think they were entitled to. Shobhit and I both agreed we didn't want to send any such kind of dangerous precedent, like offering them any money -- none of that. (To their immense credit, they never even hinted at asking for that kind of help, and almost immediately it was clear that not only did they not even expect that kind of help, they likely even would have refused it. And: good for them! Way to separate from the pack.)

So then, I thought of something. I asked Shobhit if he thought maybe I should offer them -- as a last resort only -- the option of staying in our living room that night, if they wound up with no other options. I really debated whether to offer that; such an offer would be a lot easier to make without a roommate, but the living room was still there, and I did not want them to wind up having to pay for a hotel they weren't planning on that night. I was pretty sure Ivan would have tolerated it fine but also not been exactly thrilled (and nor would I be in his position). Finally I did text her that option, but after a few minutes I came up with an even better idea: if we wound up having to drive out to pick them up anyway, why not just pack up our stuff and drive them down to Dad and Sherri's that night, direct from there? I was really glad I came up with this idea before ever even having to present Ivan with the possibility that we could have three unexpected (and possibly loud, with a baby) guests for the evening.

Nikki seemed genuinely appreciative and thanked me, but she got to a point of going long periods of no communication between texts. I figured they were distracted by things like getting a tow truck and negotiating whatever they had to deal with regarding a broken down truck. So, Shobhit and I went home, and eventually we did tell Ivan it was possible we could wind up going to Olympia early that evening, but he still suggested we start watching Moonstruck as planned, and chance getting interrupted.

And we did get interrupted, maybe ten minutes into the movie, but it turned out only to be about a 90 minute interlude for us, rather than sucking up our whole evening and necessitating going all the way to Olympia. Nikki called and said they were at a Car Pros dealership in Renton now, and could we drive them from there to the airport, which was where they said they had to get to, to pick up their rental car. (She had texted me a bit earlier, after I asked if there were any updates, that they were trying to get a rental.) They were only about five and a half miles from the airport now, but they had no easy transport to get there. I told her that was way better than having to drive to Olympia (which I had already offered to do: "One way or another we'll get you to Olympia tonight," I had texted her at one point), so we were happy to do it.

We got our own directions to the dealership in Renton, and made our way there within about half an hour. We helped them load all their stuff into our trunk, and strapped Cheyanna's car seat into our back seat. TJ, who is a huge guy (significantly overweight and unusually tall), offered to sit in the backseat with Nikki and Cheyanna, as if that were even possible. I barely fit back there as it was, having to put buckle my seatbelt before I even shut the door. When I told him he should sit in the front passenger seat, he was like, "Are you sure?" Um, yes. He still really did all he could to accommodate me sitting behind him, and he really could have pushed his seat back a little further, but he wouldn't.

And during the drive from there to the airport, we got more of the story: they were driving a truck they had very recently bought new at a Car Pros, and some part that I can't remember the name of "dropped out" in the middle of the freeway. Dad later told me this was something that could have been way worse, as it could have gotten caught under the car and flipped them forward, which thankfully didn't happen. Their roadside assistance eventually came and brought them to the nearest service place -- which turned out to be nothing more than a tire store, no actual maintenance done. They needed to be taken to the nearest Car Pros dealership, but their insurance company would only cover that first tow, even though they didn't take them to the appropriate place. So, he paid $250 out of pocket for another tow -- and that's how they got to the Car Pros in Renton that we picked them up at. I don't blame them for calling to ask us for that ride to the airport rather than having to pay for cab, after that.

All things considered, it was actually kind of fun seeing them in this way. This was how Shobhit met both TJ and Cheyanna for the first time, having always been in Los Angeles any time I've seen them. (For a moment, just now, I was convinced that Shobhit had seen him once before and they just weren't remembering, but I figured out I first met TJ at Nikki's high school graduation -- but that was June 2010, and even then, Shobhit was in New York.) We all made the best of a bad situation and seemed to enjoy each other's company. I never felt like TJ was all that comfortable with me, even when I came to their wedding, until I was over in Spokane with Dad and Sherri last year and we all got to talking over pizza one evening. He presents as much more comfortable around me now, at least from my own admittedly probably skewed perception, anyway.

It was interesting to be in the car rental pickup building at SeaTac Airport for the first time. It's predictably huge compared to the line of rental company desks at the Spokane Airport, which I have used many times, but I was still kind of taken aback by it. Their desks are all on top of a huge parking structure with all the rental cars in it, and once they were all set, Shobhit went down to the car with TJ, and I walked with Nikki and Cheyanna back to our car to wait for them.

I took that moment to ask Nikki what thoughts she might have about my chances of getting Katina to allow the boys to visit me this summer. I haven't messaged Katina about it yet, but I intend to. Nikki's response was, "Good luck." She doubts it's going to happen, but encourages me to try anyway -- even though she's not currently speaking to her mom and apparently even defriended her on Facebook. Neither of her parents are making the best choices regarding how they're handling their divorce, but, as Nikki later said about Katina, "She's not playing fair." The same could be argued about Christopher, I suppose. But, the whole thing has especially but a strain on both Nikki's and Becca's relationships with their mother. I was glad I asked, though, so now I can just, as I said to her, "expect the worst and hope for the best." What else can I do? Right now Christopher is only being granted supervised visits (which I later heard from Nikki she mediated, once -- an interesting and odd thing to contemplate), because of Katina making what many are considering unfairly strict demands. So, there is still a good amount of complication going on, regarding pretty much all of them.

According to Nikki, Katina is even being cagey about allowing the boys to come visit Becca this year: "We'll see how things go with your dad," she said, according to Nikki. That didn't make me feel very confident about my prospects. But I have to try anyway. Right now I'm just not sure if I should try coordinating direct with Katina to book flights as originally planned, or just try coordinating with Becca's visits like I did last year (but which were themselves a little less reliably sure than I would have preferred).

I took the above group selfie in the parking lot on top of that parking structure at SeaTac, telling them that was all they owed me. Still, TJ tried to give us money -- Nikki had already said over the phone, "We'll give you gas money," to which I said, "Don't worry about it." Still, TJ tried really had to be insistent, first trying to hand a folded bill (a $20, I think) to Shobhit, who refused, and then to me. And I kept having to say, "Nope. Nope. No! We're not taking that. Keep it! I'm going to throw it in the garbage!"

TJ even semi-followed me around his rental car we had helped them pack up, as I walked back to our car, and I semi-rawn away from him so he couldn't so something like try to stuff it into my pocket or something, which he was clearly trying to do.

The whole money scenario was interesting to me, and in a way, touching. I would not at all have thought any less of them if they had just taken my word for it when I told Nikki over the phone that it wasn't necessary, but it's still a reflection of what solid, good people they are that they tried so hard. It proves that, unlike with a lot of people, it wasn't just lip service. They really wanted to compensate us somehow, even though we insisted it wasn't necessary. (As Shobhit also said several times, "You're family!") Shobhit and I later agreed that although their efforts far exceeded anything they needed to do, it was still really nice of them, and reflected on them very highly as being people of solid moral character. God knows they made more of an effort to insist (however unsuccessfully) than I ever would.

So then, we said our goodbyes and said we'd see them tomorrow. Shobhit and I drove back home, and we watched Moonstruck with Ivan, starting the movie over from the beginning. Shobhit was more into it than he usually is, even remaking when it ended how much he enjoyed it. Ivan was the one who got it from Netflix, and he still spent 90% of the time looking at his phone. As I said when it was over, "Ivan was clearly the least into it." And he quipped, "I loved every single minute of it!", a type of comment he is wont to make whenever I make an observation like that.


And so, just as originally planned, Shobhit and I just got up when we woke up on Sunday morning, got ready, packed up the food we brought, and drove down to Olympia to be by far the earliest arrivals of the day. The Facebook invite said dinner was at 2:30; Shobhit and I got to the house at 9:50 a.m. I told him, though, that if I couldn't stay the night before like I have before, then I wanted to maximize the one day we had there. He happily agreed, probably since this still allowed for us to sleep at home in our own bed. I always sleep soundly on Dad and Sherri's guest bed, but Shobhit is always cold in that guest bedroom -- although he did acknowledge that they do now have a space heater they provide us with, which does help.

I was actually afraid Dad and Sherri might think we were there a little too early, although I'm not sure why. They're always up and ready to go by 10 a.m. whenever we stay the night, after all. And we expected Nikki and TJ would be there soon after us. All of us had assumed they would be staying the night at their house, but Dad and Sherri never did talk to them to confirm, and we actually found out in the car Saturday evening that they'd used a half-off Groupon to get a room for two nights at a hotel by the freeway near downtown Olympia, just a 7 minute drive from the house. We all agreed, in retrospect, that the double bed in Dad and Sherri's guest room would never have been comfortable for both TJ (who is huge) and Nikki (who is, let's just say, no longer tiny) anyway. It's clear they were all three way better off in a hotel -- which they had the wherewithal to reserve far ahead of time.

We were all most impressed with how well Nikki and TJ handled their whole situation on Saturday, having the ability -- both mentally and financially -- to take care of themselves in that bad a situation, albeit with a little bit of help from Shobhit and me. (I did ask her early on if she had called Dad and Sherri, and she said she called us because we were closer, which made sense.) I later found out they're doing surprisingly well for themselves: TJ has had decent, steady work for some time, but Nikki graduated with a Masters Degree in December and got her long-intended job of an elementary school counselor in January! Not only that, but even though so far she's only a sub, she started at $15 an hour, and within three months her wages more than tripled, and already she makes more an hour than I do! I was jealous for a minute, and then I realized: Well. She does have a Masters Degree. I only have a Bachelors -- and at least three of the raises I've gotten over the years I semi-secretly thought were excessive, given the work I do. PCC makes a difference in the world and it's one of many reasons I love it, but it's still not like I'm directly changing anyone's life here at this job. Nikki probably is already.

And she'll be 25 years old in August. That's some bullshit right there but whatever.

Anyway, they seemed to have a mistaken impression that they should wait to come to the house until the scheduled dinner at 2:30, and apparently they never came by the house on Saturday evening either, and instead went straight to their hotel. And then Dad found out that on Sunday morning, they were in Seattle! We were all like, Huh? But then I remembered that they'd had plans to hang out in Seattle on Saturday (the reason they had broken down in Sammamish, or what they thought was Bellevue, when we all wondered why they hadn't taken Highway 18 to bypass the Seattle area), but those plans obviously got shot to shit, so they went back up yesterday morning to make up for it a bit.

That said, Nikki did text me to ask what size and player I would recommend she get of a Mariners jersey to surprise Sherri with for her birthday (which is today, incidentally). I had no idea so I asked Dad in private, and he suggested Seger, who apparently looks like David. I even texted Nikki a photo from 2013 and said, This is David so whichever player looks like him, Dad thinks it's Seger. :)

She texted back, Definitely Seger!! with a crying-laughing emoji.

So then, at about a quarter after noon, I texted her again: Is this why you're apparently in Seattle?? Everyone thought you'd be over here at the house! :/

Did you go up and do that Safeco Field tour?
[This was something they had planned for Saturday.]

Nikki: Yeah I didn't think people were coming until 2:30 but then grandpa called when we got to Seattle to say we could have came whenever

Me: Well we've been here since 10am!

Nikki: We are on our way

Me: Yay!
Sherri's eager to see Cheyanna. :)

Then, three minutes later, she texted, Actually TJ decided we're just going to go to the baseball game then will come over

I thought this was odd. But: okay. I told everyone. Sherri was like, "They should do what they want, they deserve it." And we all thought this was really their game plan until they arrived not long after, surprising everyone.

Nikki had actually texted only two minutes later, I'm just kidding we're on our way, but I did not see that response for another two hours, long after they actually arrived. For some reason my phone never showed a text-received notifier for that one. But whatever, it made it a nice surprise when they got there.

And of course it was not long after that when all the others on the list shown at the beginning of this entry showed it. It was nice to see Jennifer and Eric there. Eric even brought homemade eggnog! That's actually perfect for the actual egg holiday, don't you think? Jennifer even had a box of eggnog chocolate confections for me she apparently bought sometime around Christmas. And after the occasional awkwardness that has resulted in the surprising political differences between us that I did not know existed until the last election, it was especially nice to have a couple of instances with her where we were both laughing so hard I had to wipe away tears.

One of them was when we were talking about how similar Shobhit and Eric are personality-wise, even though they are politically diametrically opposed. Eric is hardline right and Shobhit is hardline left (at one point all of us adults except those two had gone outside, and when asked who was still inside, Sherri said, "The left and the right"), but at one point Jennifer turned to me and said, "We married the same people." And that was when I told her that I've thought a fair amount recently about how she is more similar to me than anyone else I know when it comes to how we behave in relationships. I may disagree with her politically on a whole lot of stuff, but I often see how she behaves with Eric and I really relate.

And she's actually fairly centrist on a lot of issues, as she indicated later -- gesturing far to her right when she said, "He's over here," and then gesturing to the area in front of her and said, "I'm more like right here," and that's how even they get into it a lot of the time. Shobhit and I rarely get into it over political issues, actually, but it does happen sometimes. The difference with him is that he can sometimes be surprisingly closer to the right on a few issues than you might expect. But then he'll be way further to the left on other things to the point of sounding crazy to conservatives in particular: when Eric came outside after his discussion with Shobhit, someone asked how that was, and he said, "I wasn't really listening. I picked up on certain key words. He lost me after saying all drugs should be legal." (Speaking strictly pragmatically, I actually agree with Shobhit that decriminalizing all recreational drugs would solve a lot more problems than conservatives ever want to admit. I just know it's not a fight that can be won, so why bother wasting energy on it? Pick your battles.)

Jennifer asked if I was coming down to visit during my Birth Week like usual, and I got the sense they would be genuinely disappointed if I didn't. I wasn't actually directly planning on it, at least not yet, and I did tell her that having Shobhit home now somewhat complicates things. But they've mentioned to me more than once how stocked their liquor cabinet is, so I really felt like they'd like me to come. So now I'm considering how I might fit that in to what I've already scheduled so far. I'm not sure yet if I can make it work but I might. I've come up with a possible plan for this weekend but it hinges on a lot of contingencies that could derail the idea.

Anyway! It also just occurred to me that not only was this the first Easter without any of my grandparents (Dad and Sherri are plenty of people's grandparents; even had two of their four great grandchildren there), but last Easter was the last family holiday Grandpa McQuilkin was in attendance at. (David confused him with FaceTime.) There's curious timing for me when thinking about these things -- the next generation to go, now, is that of my own parents. I sometimes wonder how the hell I'll cope when that starts happening. I sure hope there's at least a good two decades to go before I have to start worrying about it. That would assume my mom living to the age of 85, which has long seemed doubtful in my mind, but then -- you really never know. Losing Dad and Sherri will be harder to deal with, but at least they're likely to last the longest.

I turn 41 two Sundays from now. Have I mentioned that? I still need to create the Facebook Event for the Indian feed at the end of my Birth Week.

All in all, Easter Weekend this year was a nice one. Just another pleasant holiday all around. I never tire of them, or of these family gatherings, even if the makeup of who makes it often varies widely.

Shobhit and I were at the house about 10 hours, I'd say. We go up to start packing our stuff at about 8:00, but didn't quite get out to the car and leaving until about 8:30. We got home at about 9:50. Traffic was heavy in places but overall not too bad. Ivan asked if I wanted to watch something -- he had evidently hung out at home by himself all day -- but I had to tell him it was too late and I needed to process photos. We got to hang out on Saturday, at least. I didn't get to sleep last night until just after 11:00, which is way later than usual for me, but still earlier than it could have been. I was pretty efficient with all I had to do.

Oh, and Sherri sent us home with leftovers. I just ate the delicious macaroni salad she sent us home with for lunch. Shobhit finished up the deviled eggs this morning. I don't know if there's still any of the macaroni and cheese left. We still have cake and cupcakes at home, although I gave one of those delicious spice cupcakes with apple jelly and salted caramel icing to Ivan last night. I think there are still three more. I've decided to commit to avoiding any snacks at work between meals this week, but will still have some of those deserts at home. So far so good at work -- I'm liable to be eating too much next week (my Birth Week), as always.

Oh. Also as always: click on any of the images in this entry to be taken to the full Easter photo set on Flickr. A lot of the photos have been captioned now.




positive energy please