The quick summary: Mom's and the Sweeney clan--the same as ever: lots of family, all too quick, and nieces cuter than ever.
Dad's--Listening to Joe Williams and Count Basie; unfathomable amounts of time sweating through logic puzzles together and laughing at both successes and failures; lots of walking and talking, including with Uncle John and WWII vet Cousin Chuck Murphy, who gave me great enthusiasm and encouragement for a professorial career.
Now out in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with Kevin and Frannie Fleming. Or without them, actually. Flew in Friday night with enough delays in Chicago and Denver to miss going out to a party at the Turner ranch, which I've been curious to see ever since weaklingrecords' descriptions of the place back in Notre Dame days. Kev and I ended up talking 'til 3am nevertheless, which was treat and party enough for me. Frannie cut out at midnight, but joined up in the morning when the conversation picked right back up. It's snowy and icy here, surprise surprise, with patches of melting into rivers in the badly-draining Western streets, but we all got through it to a fun and fuss-free baptism for Miss Sophia Grace Fleming at Saturday evening Mass. It was actually quite beautiful in a cozy, warm, home-towny kind of way. I stood Godfather for her, and Frannie's sister-in-law Jess Biolchini is Godmother. Her husband Tom, who is finishing up his JD/MBA at Notre Dame, and Grandpa and Grandma Biolchini also attended. I re-met some of the locals, including Frannie's friend Molly, who I now realize I was too much dying last year from surgical complications while I was here to realize how lovely she was, and the Biolchini's friends the Smiths, with whom they have been celebrating New Years' for some 25 years now. Last year we were at the Biolchini's hillside chateau, with its incomparable, unobstructed view of the valley and the Tetons, and this year at the equally-lovely home of the Smiths. I loved the way their log home opened from a large and necessary (and attractive) mud room at the main front door to a huge circular living room that included a massive fireplace on the left, the kitchen opening on it off to the right, and the dining area on the far end with its floor-to-ceiling windows. The high, vaulted ceiling and the vast circular space made for an instantly welcoming architecture. I hadn't really talked with them at last year's party, and this year, in enjoying their hospitality, was treated to a warm, enthusiastic welcome (particularly as a virtual stranger) and wonderful conversation with them, along with one of their daughters, Sierra, her husband Tyler, and their three kids. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were both very curious about my theological work (I think they were Presbyterians, themselves) and asked lots of questions of the types of things that I'm doing. I was equally interested to hear about their long career together in home design and building in the San Francisco Bay area. Good times. And Elk chili. Really!
As I had been told ahead of time, Kevin and Frannie ended up getting tickets to the Fiesta Bowl where tomorrow (today!) we can hope that they will see Notre Dame triumph over Ohio State. I took them out to the family jet in the private area of the airport (I think Warren Beatty gave me a casual wave -- this is really a different crowd of people than I'm used to dealing with) and we got people loaded in and prayed that Sophie's first plane ride would go easy on her little ears. Or whatever that passage is called where the air pressure can be so nasty. I then took the jeep back past the four moose who were nosing through the snow on the other side of the fence for food, drove on the ice-covered highway back toward Jackson (you can't spread salt because it might mess up the diet of the moose, I understand), and back past the Elk Refuge north of town where a notable Elk herd could be seen going about its business.
Last night's snowfall of giant, pure and perfect flakes had died away, and the overcast sky of the morning had broken up in to cold, clear blue sky, except where small clouds clung to the Grand Tetons. I wish I could upload pics here [EDIT: these photographs were added after I got home to Milwaukee], but it's all so beautiful that taking any picture seems almost superfluous to me. Not that that will stop me. I was so sick last year that I never even saw the mountains in daylight while I was here. Nothing's stopping me now.
So Kev and Frannie will enjoy the game--and the relative warmth!--tomorrow and then fly back up Tuesday morning. Actually, I've done so much visiting over the last two weeks that I'll enjoy the downtime. I'm so used to living alone that it'll feel natural, even in my friends' home. I've got Guinness, Kevin's Black Labrador, and Drew, Fran's dog/moose mix, both here for a little winter house fellowship, and I'll likely take the Jeep out to the Elk Refuge and the National Park tomorrow, just for a bit of leisurely photography, weather permitting. I'm clearly out of my league here, winter-wise, so I'll play it conservatively.
So, a not-so-quick summary on the recent stuff. I guess I was less tired than I thought. But it's 1:40 now, and time to check out for the night. Gotta get out to see the moose and the elk tomorrow, after all.
And I'll continue reading Heiko Oberman's The Two Reformations: The Journey from the Last Days to the New World, which is really busting up--and sharpening--my understanding of Reformation historiography. I'm so far from having any specialization in that area, and it's amazing to see how many meta-historical narratives I'd picked up about Luther and the start of the Reformation. Breaking up these easy, almost mythical, narratives with a thick stew of inconvenient and complicating facts has been a real eye-opener, on almost every page. Mickey Mattox, the professor I'm assisting this year, passed me the book and suggested that it'd be a good starting-point for me before starting the reading for the undergrad Martin Luther class he's teaching next semester. I gotta stay at least one step ahead of the kids.... Or maybe I should just pick up a guitar and a pencil and try to do some writing instead, and make up for a year without any new, finished songs....