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December was a busy month for Dottie and Jonathan. Dottie continued her daily walking class, but in a spacious new venue. Jonathan is fully recovered from his prostate surgery, so has resumed leading our AIM weekly fellowship meeting here at the Retirement Center. He also continues his work with the AIM scholarship fund. Dottie is looking forward to the publication of a book about the contribution of the Downing family to RVA which is expected to appear early in 2010. All of Dottie’s research for her “Downing Book” motivated Jonathan to write a history of his side of the family. He is writing about five generations of Hildebrandts in North America. He hopes to finish the project by mid-2010.
Just before Christmas our Retirement Center presented an event called “Christmas Around the World”. We invited friends from the community to come to our hall and learn about how Christmas is celebrated in parts of Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. You can probably guess who was asked to tell about Australia. In addition to explaining how Christmas is celebrated, each continent also presented a “taste” (some ethnic food) and a small craft that kids could make.
Since Jon and Paul’s families were celebrating Christmas with their wives’ families, we remained in Florida for the holidays. On Christmas Day Dottie roasted a 20 lb turkey, made dressing and gravy while Jonathan carved it up. We then took it to our recreation hall where about 50 of us gathered for Christmas dinner. Our neighbors brought other dishes. The meal was followed by a lovely Christmas program.
On December 7th Josiah celebrated his sixth birthday in Palestine, Texas, where Jon and Ginny are based for their six month home-assignment. The family had hardly cleared away the wrapping paper and balloons from his party, when Ginny had the feeling that someone else wanted to celebrate a birthday! So, on December 8th, Josiah got a special birthday present of a new baby brother: Micah James Hildebrandt. Needless to say, everyone was excited by the new addition, especially the grandparents!
About a week after our family reunion in Virginia, Jon, Ginny and Josiah arrived in Minneola to visit us for almost three weeks. As you know, they have been serving in Kenya for the past three years. The last time we were all together was when they spent Christmas with us in Australia in 2006. We had a wonderful time just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. Jon decided that Jonathan needed a golf cart to get around our Retirement Center, since he is having problems with his knees. So we bought a 20 year old golf car off of Craig’s List. Jon then helped us recondition it.
Of course, Josiah wanted to see the “attractions” (as the locals call them) here in the greater Orlando area. We went to several different parks and had a good time together. Our neighbor got them free tickets to Disney World, which made Josiah extremely happy. Soon it was time for them to return to Texas and await the arrival of our fourth grandson.
As it turned out, our family reunion at Paul and Sib’s home in the western part of Virginia was perfect! We got to their house a few days before Jon, Ginny and Josiah arrived, so had some time to focus in on Samuel and Matayo. Mattie was on the verge of walking, but didn’t take his first steps until after we left!
When Jon, Ginny and Josiah arrived in their RV, the reunion started! It was the first time that “all” of us had been together at the same time since May, 2003, in Longview, Texas. The kids had a great time playing togehter while the adults had a chance to catch up on family events. We did a lot of things including visiting a nearby state park, shopping, going to an Ethiopian resturant, attending church together, enjoying a bar-b-que and going for a family portrait. All too soon the 5 days together was up and we had to return to Florida.