Elizabeth and Chris were scheduled to arrive around 2:00 PM on Monday before Christmas, but flight delays put it much later. When they finally got to our house, they scarfed up my chili which I had prepared a couple of days prior. I think the chili may have been a bit too spicy for Elizabeth. Mom and Wendell were to arrive late on Christmas Eve, but the airlines had other plans. They missed their connecting flight at DFW due to gate SNAFUs, which is typical at that airport. They ended up spending the night in Dallas and arrived at RDU the next morning. Laura, Benita, and I worked furiously to prepare a Christmas feast of Honeybaked ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and a pretty good dressing concoction that Benita put together using Stovetop Stuffing as a base. Later, we opened gifts. I got the things I had put on my Amazon list as well as a quad copter from mom and Wendell, which was a pleasant surprise. Wish lists are a good thing, but they remove the element of creative gifting. Friday morning I broke out the copter (to hell with reading the directions) from the back deck and let ‘er rip. I flew it up over the roof of the house and into the front yard, whereupon I contemplated the effective range of the remote control. It lost signal with the copter just as it was hovering over the tallest tree in our lot, and became stuck fast in the uppermost branches. No amount of tweaking from the remote was able to dislodge it, and the battery soon died. Great. It was about three stories from the ground, so we set about trying to free it by winging golf discs at it, hoping for the best. Not once did we come very close to the copter, and even if we had, I’m not sure what we were expecting to happen. I must have assumed the disc would arrive at the vicinity of the copter, then ask it politely to climb aboard and ride it gently down to terra firma. After repeated throws from beneath the tree failed, Elizabeth and I got on the roof of the house to get a better vantage point. Those attempts also failed, so we brainstormed other ideas. Wendell and I went to Home Depot in hopes of inspiration from the vast wonderland of building products therein. We seized upon the idea of a small plastic canister which could be filled with hardware and tethered to masonry line. When we got home, we set about filling the canister with a few nuts and bolts, then went outside to test our theory. We recruited Chris, who has a decent throwing arm, to launch the missile toward the branches near the drone, in hopes of then using the twine to shake the tree vigorously enough to free the imprisoned toy. This did not work. The string was not heavy enough to withstand the tugs to shake the branches, so it broke. We heaved it into the tree once more to try again, but then it too got stuck. Back to the drawing board, but now it was getting late and we were losing daylight. We would assail the conundrum tomorrow, tomorrow being Saturday. Chris, Wendell, and I went to Home Depot (and then Lowe’s) and managed to find some 10 foot garden stakes which could be coupled together with PVC. We got enough for about 42 feet, which we assumed at the time would be plenty. After only 15 minutes of prepping the rods, we were ready. Gary from across the street came to observe. Once we strung the pieces together, we found that we were a full 20 feet short. Curses! Undismayed, I climbed the tree, found a secure position a third of the way up, and had Chris and Wendell feed me the garden stake/PVC contraption length by length. When all connected, the rods were unwieldy and difficult to maneuver, swaying to and fro like a drunkard. I then endeavored to cradle it in the crooks of strategically located branches in order to attain some measure of stability. After several tries, I found the right crook, and had a straight-on shot at the drone. With this arrangement, I was able to extricate the forlorn copter from its arboreal gulag, and down it plunged, unsullied and whole. We played with it some, keeping it far from the clutches of the gnarled behemoth in the front yard. Anyway, we ate some more meals, went out a few times, went on some runs, watched movies, and played Cards Against Humanity over the next few days. I felt it was a good visit, and as usual, I was sad to see my family leave. I hope to see them all again for St, Patrick’s Day in Dallas soon.