Thursday, January 4, 2024

Christmas 2023 Recap

2023 ended on a really high note for me, because I spent the last week of it at my brother's house in St. Louis!  He offered to host Christmas, and it ended up being a perfect movie-standard holiday vacation, complete with tree, presents, and even snow, though I can't give my brother full credit for that last one, unless you count "enduring residency in St. Louis" as a contributing factor.

My brother is three years younger than me.  We're not especially close because my family just isn't like that, or maybe I'm just not like that.  But typically we only speak a few times a year and even then it's mostly just me sending unhinged memes with zero context.

Despite this sort of gentle estrangement, I like Nate a lot and enjoy his company, and the invitation to Christmas came with a fairly interesting backstory.

The context is that my brother had been with his high school sweetheart for fifteen years in what was basically a common-law marriage, though not a legal one.  In 2023 they broke up, and shortly thereafter, my brother had his new boyfriend, Jonah, move in.

The invite to Christmas seemed to be a kind of "Meet the Family" litmus test, and I was intrigued enough by the new boyfriend to accept.  I wanted to meet Jonah, and I'd never seen my brother's house in person, and Nate (my brother) hadn't met Calvin at "talking" age yet.  Calvin is now old enough to actually greet people by name and have conversations (so long as the conversation is about Peppa Pig).

So we arranged a flight on Christmas Day and arrived in the afternoon to a delightfully decorated home.  Nate's new boyfriend, Jonah, had made a ton of food, and had had the foresight to ask us about dietary restrictions beforehand to ensure we could eat it.  


Calvin had a nice haul; his favorite toy was the Peppa Pig doll in his stocking, though he was pretty fascinated by the Hot Wheels loop-de-loop playset, which was very loud and promisingly dangerous.  (Launching small, die-cast cars at child eye level at 1 million MPH = fun!)

He wouldn't pose for a family picture.

Over the next few days we did typical tourist-y stuff.  We went to the zoo on the day after Christmas, where most of the animals weren't really out and about due to the weather.  My favorite was the hippo, who was paddling around with gusto.  The sleeping hyena got an audible "wow!" from Calvin.

The day after that, we checked out the science museum, which had a lot of interactive "building" exhibits for kids.  I found it a bit overwhelming but the animatronic T-Rex made it (probably) worth it. 

The best day, far and away, was going to City Museum.  City Museum is difficult to describe; Google calls it an "architectural museum" and journalist Whet Moser called it "a wild, singular vision of an oddball artistic mind." 

 City Museum was my brother's suggestion, and it was jaw-droppingly amazing.  Once a shoe factory, it's been repurposed into a sort of giant, bizarre jungle gym that looks kind of like what Tommy Pickles thought "work" was in that one episode of Rugrats.

I'm no architecture but I can tell you that this was a masterwork of madness.  There are tunnels, caves, galleries, castles, a circus, an arcade, a skatepark, and tunnels galore.  Nate suggested putting an airtag on Calvin, which we declined.  We regretted this immediately when he tore off into the tunnels, which go between levels and on the ceiling and into the floor.  

His favorite part was one of the ball pits, and a castle with a trampoline net.
Down the staircase... 
...and out through the fish.

You basically have to crawl around like in "Die Hard."  There's a 10-story slide but Calvin was too little to ride it (and it was closed, anyway).  Peppered throughout the museum are side shows: storytime with Mrs. Claus!  A magician!  A circus with an acrobat!  (We went, but Calvin found her act too scary; there was a part in which she suspended herself from her hair and twirled rapidly, and he sat in the audience aghast, crying, "Oh no!  Stop!  Stop!" clearly distressed that no one was helping her.)

This is a place I would love to go to over a weekend as just an adult (note: there are bars in City Museum!) but it was also immensely fun to see it through a child's eyes, although indescribably hard on the knees.

Some might say the easiest part was slithering down the narrow vertical tunnels on the ceiling.

On our last (or maybe second-to-last?) day, we swung by the St. Louis arc, as is custom.  

So, all in all, a very packed trip for only four days!  Jonah seemed a little nervous (understandable, meeting your new boyfriend's entire family over the holidays) but generous, and I was impressed by his hospitality.  Nate seemed happy which is the best anyone can ask for, really.

Honestly, even without the zoo, museum, and City Museum Architectural Fever Dream I would have had a great time just hanging out with my family playing Mario Party and day drinking.

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