She was right and I began to put some effort into improving my mood. What really did the trick, though, was my family here in New Zealand. We went over to my second cousin (or something like that) Kate's house for dinner and everybody was just lovely. I was instantly included, made friends with an 8 year old relative with whom I played Netball (which is like basketball), and enjoyed a good barbecue on the warm, albeit rather gray, day. We started with Christmas Crackers which is a tradition that really ought to become mainstream in America. If you've never had one, they're great fun. Two people pull the ends of the cracker, which looks like a giant tootsie roll, and whoever gets the larger piece gets to keep what's inside - a paper crown and some little trinket or gift. My little cousin Samantha (I now call all my New Zealand relatives 'cousin' because it's too difficult figuring out the firsts and seconds and twice removeds, etc.) kept winning, over and over. She was, however, generous in sharing the things she didn't want or couldn't use, like the bottle opener.
After the general meeting and greeting and the crackers, we got down to the more important matters of dinner and presents. I even got a few presents! Very generous of my relatives to think of me even though we'd never met (or it was before I can remember). Thank you to my Aunt Maryam in Sydney, to Mum and Dad, to my grandparents, to Ann and Nigel, Kate and Nick, Sarah, and Paul. Since I didn't have that many presents to open, by comparison to others, I spent a lot of the present-opening time delivering presents to various family members. It is a wonderful job to have, full of Christmas Cheer 😊
After the labeled presents had been delivered, ripped open (or carefully opened, as the case may be, by some patient, organized, and very strange people) ogled over, and gratitude properly expressed, we played a game that Paul had organized. He brought a lot of little gifts and laid them on the table. Then we went around in a circle opening the presents. When it was your turn, you could either open a wrapped present on the table or steal someone's gift that had already been opened. Then they could either open a new present or steal someone else's to replace the one that had been stolen from them. Some presents were definitely more popular than others! My cousin Natalie had a hilarious time trying to convince everyone to steal her soap. When her Aunt finally did, Natalie opened a new present and got ... Soap! The most popular present, which was stolen many times, was some raspberry nougat. In the end Paul, who got the honor of going last, stole it from somebody and then shared a bit with everyone, which was not at all in the spirit of the game. It was very generous, though, and certainly in the spirit of Christmas.
Since Christmas, Dad and I have moved on to Cousin Jane's house in Wairarapa. I think it is in the top two of my favorite New Zealand houses so far, contending with Lyle's place up in Piha for first. It does not have the spectacular view that his house commands, but it is. Lovely old villa, with airy hallways designed to catch a breeze and a lovely garden out the back. Jane keeps saying that she's given up tending her garden because it's not worth wasting water, but I think it's quite quite lovely. And there are a number of animals out the front - goats and alpacas and chickens ('chooks') and a young batch of kittens. There's nothing quite like foraging for eggs and then immediately making them into an omelette. I got quite excited about it this morning and made and egg tower!