Christmas 1998
Anne French

We stayed in Texas this year due to icy weather. Every year the city sponsors "Tuba Christmas" on Christmas Eve down at Thanksgiving Square in downtown. We went last year and decided to try it again this year, even though the weather was incredibly bad, cold. They play lots of great christmas music, of course, it is all pitched very _low_. They get a large number of tuba, baritone, and sousaphone players together about 1.5 hours before the concert and they practice. Then they all move in single file onto the grassy knoll and play. We took the train down to Thanksgiving Square. It was our first attempt at taking the DART light rail line from Northpark Mall into downtown. The light rail was terrific, but the Tuba Christmas had been canceled so people wouldn't slip on the ice. We sniped about it just before we slipped on a metal grate. We should have figured it out when we saw two fellas getting off the train with baritones just as we were boarding.

So, Christmas day dawned quite a bit warmer and we headed for Houston to visit relatives. Except for shady underpasses, the ice was pretty much gone (although I slid into Preston on Spring Creek as we headed out of town, but that was the worst of it). We got to Houston in early afternoon and soon the kids were tearing into their goodies. Stewart had selected a particularly interesting gift for several of the kids this year - a jello face mold. Yes, they were entranced. Well, no, they tossed those aside pretty quick, but Stewart rallied them into the spirit of trying it out, and Melanie was game. She was very courageous, since the process involved rubbing vaseline around her forehead and sides of her face and sticking straws up her nose. Then a gelatenous silicon pudding was spread over her face and allowed to set. The directions said it would take a few minutes but in humid Houston, it took nearly ten minutes. Melanie was stoic, keeping a straight face despite many siblings' attempts to crack her up. Doug's girlfriend, Manasi, was very helpful, taking on a professional almost medical demeanor, and directing the activities. Once it set up, we had to peel it off and store it in a bowl of rice to retain its shape while we let it firm up more in the refrigerator.

Funny, once Melanie had shown her grit, Brandi was determined to do one too. She was less successful in keeping from laughing, but that had an interesting effect. Some of the goo leaked in around her teeth as she tried to keep her lips pressed together, and it formed a sort of tooth print. After both forms set up for several hours, we made the jello, using evaporated milk to allow the features to show up better. The end result were two jello faces , very good likenesses of the two girls. Brandi's had the benefit of some lessons we learned doing Melanie's so hers was nearly perfect, and when you peeled back the little jello lips, you could actually see little jello teeth in there. Ewwww! Creepy....