A Christmas Present in April

When we found out that we couldn’t go home for Christmas this year, I had a melt-down–in the middle of our bathroom, to be exact.  When Jeremiah asked me if I could narrow down exactly what it was that was putting me in hysterics I said, “I just don’t know how many more Christmases we’re going to have with Grandma, Grandpa, and Mimi, and I can’t stand to go the whole Holiday season without seeing them!”

As a sweet and tender husband (who wanted his wife to continue functioning through the already-stressful Holiday season) he said, “Why don’t we fly them out here this Spring instead of getting them Christmas presents?  We’ll get to spend more time with them that way anyhow (since we won’t be torn between all the normal things that home calls us to), and we’ll just figure out the money thing…”

I knew I’d married the right man 😉

I told my Dad about our plan, and he talked to the rest of our family.  My Mimi (Dad’s Mom) wasn’t quite sure she could handle all the rigors of a cross-country trip…but I’m still kinda hoping she’s going to change her mind here soon.  My Grandma and Grandpa were on board from the first few words, and their children (my aunts and uncles) and my Dad helped by their tickets.  I felt a little bad about asking them to come and then letting everybody else pay for it, but then I decided to just accept it as God’s goodness.

And so, one week ago, I got my Christmas wish.


There is something so shocking about seeing Preacher Sollie walking the streets of Seattle.


And watching Sister from Aimwell take in the flying fish.

The BIG bonus in the deal was that my Aunt Alice (my Mom’s sister and Latte as my chicken wings call her) and my Uncle Don (my Mom’s oldest brother who, shocking as it was to me, is a TOTAL kid magnet) brought Grandma and Grandpa and shared this adventure with us.


The first Starbucks, ever. Though I'm pretty positive Grandma and Grandpa had no idea why I thought this was such a big deal. I don't know that they've ever even tasted Starbucks coffee.


Do we all so obviously begin to morph into our parents? 🙂


The Starbucks and the Space Needle were not nearly as exciting to my grandparents as the beauty and difference of Seattle in Springtime.


Unfortunately, this became somewhat of a theme of the trip. Dapples was having a rough week doing anything in a compliant manner.


My grandparents and Latte, love to garden.


Some flowers were familiar from home.


Others were brand new.


We took a morning drive out to Snoqualmie Falls.


Are they all cut out of the same mold or what?


Where did I com from? I felt like an Amazon woman the whole time they were here.

Now, as anyone in Dothan, Alabama who has run into my Grandpa over the past few months knows, his first harbor in the US at the end of World War II was in Seattle, Washington.  He was on a ship called the Bon Homme Richard, and he had two primary memories of Seattle.

Bon Homme Richard. Photo borrowed from Wikipedia.

One was of icebergs as big around as he could circle his two arms.  The other was getting off the boat on good American soil and being elected by his buddies to go buy them all a round of beer at a bar near a “White-Something” park.  On his way back to the boat, arms loaded down with rounds of fun, he ran into “an ‘ol boy I’d grown up with in Sweetwater.”  And he, known as Little Preacher back home (because his Daddy was the Preacher), a grown man celebrating the end of a war he’d fought in, was humiliated to be caught by somebody from back home with beer in his arms. I just love that story…I think it sums up my sweet Grandpa.

Well, we packed in the car and went on a GPS-guided, Blackberry-aided wild goose chase through the greater Seattle area, searching for the port where Grandpa had returned home.  Grandpa was in the front seat, instructed to look for anything familiar and highly confused by what we were doing with all our little devices.  After about an hour with little luck from our high-falutin’ technology he said, “If we could find an ‘ol boy bought my age, we could just pull over and ask him where the Bon Homme Richard came in.  He’ll remember it.  It was a BIG ship.”

I told him if he found an ‘ol boy of that description, to holler and I’d be glad to pull over and ask just that.

After about two hours, we think we found it.



On the way to dinner afterwards, we saw this rainbow in the sky. Maybe it was a promise we'd found the right spot? I don't know, but I wanted a round of those drinks by the time the search was over 🙂

The next day we took the Victoria Clipper to…Victoria.


Grandpa was a nervous wreck about the impromptu trip on a boat.  I don’t know if he thought we were putting him back on the Bon Homme Richard, or if he thought we were taking a dingy out to sea and planning to hand him a paddle, but he said “I don’t want to spend my last days on no boat.”  He did not find our laughter amusing.

We made it safely 🙂 and had the awed pleasure of visiting the famous Butchart Gardens.



The Sunken Gardens. My favorite part.


It was sprinkling, but they have these little clear umbrellas that shelter you without obstructing your view...and provided great fun for the little girls.


You know you're serious about beauty, when even the trash cans are planted with flowers.


While we didn't get to experience the rose garden in bloom, our Spring visit did allow us to witness all the blooming trees.





I toured my second Fairmont Hotel in a month and have decided I'd like spend the rest of my vacationing life traveling from one Fairmont Hotel to the next 🙂


The Legislative Building was gorgeous.


We did a little self-guided tour through the interior.



And this acapella group was singing through that vaulted space. The pure beauty of their voices echoing through the floors sent chills all over my body. I was spell-bound and teary eyed.


I wasn't the only one.


The girls had had just about enough of walking and sight-seeing. At first, they looked for creative ways to entertain themselves.


But then, the melt-downs began. This is me outside a store that Mary Aplin refused to enter as she screamed "Monsters in dere! Monsters in dere!" Great for business 🙂


I am not proud to admit it, but I resorted to bribery...


...And the purest of all creature comforts.


Sweet, wonderful, happy Grandma and Grandpa on the boat ride back to Seattle--this time, unafraid of death by water.

It was a wonderful time.  How many girls can say that their 80-something-year-old grandparents are healthy enough and adventurous enough to fly from Alabama to Seattle to spend the week with them?  How priceless to watch my girls being loved on by the same arms that loved me throughout my childhood?  How heart-filling to hear stories of my Mom from the people who knew her even better than I?  I couldn’t take pictures to capture those parts…but they were the best of all.

14 Responses to “A Christmas Present in April”

  1. Nancy says:

    Beautiful post!!
    What precious memories!

  2. Mitzi says:

    What a wonderful story. They are amazing–what all did she cook for you?

  3. Susannah says:

    Abby! I am so glad that your grandparents and aunt and uncle got to come experience Seattle with you guys! What great memories!!! I laughed at loud at the Mary Aplin saying there were monsters in there! We honeymooned in Seattle and Victoria and even stayed at the Empress Hotel. It was SO beautiful!

  4. Konie says:

    I’m so glad the sweet Sollie’s were able to visit Seattle:) They were so excited telling us all about it!! You are such a gracious hostess Abby:) and Jeremiah too:)

  5. Katie Snow says:


  6. Louise says:

    Abby ~ I have been following your blog for a few years but have never posted before. I am originally from Dothan, and knew both of your parents. I also knew your Grandparents, mostly through my parents. It made me smile to see the pictures you posted of Mr. & Mrs. Sollie! I think it is wonderful that they were able to come visit your family in beautiful Seattle.

  7. Taylor says:

    Honestly, my favorite post Abs.
    I love the pic of grandma & grandpa on the boat ride_I think it captures the essence of their relationship so well.

  8. Kendall C. says:

    OH! Abby! This post brings back so many fond memories of my grandparents together and stories of Aimwell Church. Granparents are the BEST! My Mawmaw and Pawpaw are from Sweetwater also, and actually moved to Dothan around the same time that Mr. & Mrs. Sollie did. You have really sweet grandparents and my grandparents have always spoken very highly of them! I am so glad they got to visit you and your family. How exciting! I love reading your blog! It is so touching and moving. God Bless!

  9. Gail says:

    Loved the story and GREAT PIC’S!!! Your Grandfather is so blessed to have been able to remember and go see! I adored the PIC’ of him walking down the streets by the Market Place…I did the same thing while there….MY jaw did drop!!! The PIC’ of your Grandmother watching the flying fish…says it all! I did the same!!! We took the Cat over to Victoria too. We did spend ONE night at the Fair Mont…It was the last week of Nov. and beyound COLD!!! I wish I could’ve gone in April! I loved your Christmas gift idea…and, trust me…I so understand the major melt down…I did the same while visiting Chicago..It was our very first Christmas alone and I didn’t like it! Holidays should be family days!!!!! Enjoy this ride, Abby!!!! And, thanks for sharing….:O)

  10. Melissa says:

    How perfect! I am so glad they were able to come visit you and looks like you had an amazing time!! About a year ago we took my then 80 year old grandpa to Denmark and Germany for two weeks so he could see the place his parents came from. It was an amazing adventure. Your girls will remember this forever I am sure.

  11. Caroline Blair says:

    Abby! How sweet it is to be loved by you! This is just beautiful and the pictures are stunning and will be able to be cherished forever. Thanks for sharing your life out in Seattle with us back home. Love to you!

  12. Pat Goodman says:

    Been following your blog quite a while. I know Jeremiah from Samford…chemistry department. He’d pop in my office every now and then. Never had him in my class…but had Josh. Loved them both!!! My husband also VP in charge of PSDF while you were there. AND Dr. Bryant was our family orthopedic doctor. My girls were Chi Os same time you and your sisters were at Auburn. I feel like you all are family.

    Anyway, love your blog. Especially loved this one. Reminds me of my own parents and how they love their grandchildren, and how blessed you and your sisters are to know them as adults, and how special that will be to you always. My favorite picture was of your granddad holding one child’s hand and your uncle holding the other one. And how very comfortable they are with that. How very, very special.

    Say hello to Jeremiah for me. Good luck back in Dothan.


  13. Allyson says:

    Priceless! Love it.

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