Saturday was soon upon us – the day of what was to become my annual Christmas Carol hayride. Doc kept me inside all day, as he'd done the day before. I didn't give him attitude over it as I didn't want to fight with him so close to Christmas. Besides, I knew he was right. I needed to be careful with my hip, I certainly didn't need it coming out of place again.
I went out to the barn after supper to watch Karen get the horses ready, in case she needed direction on how to harness them up. We'd had snow, but she had plowed a path from the house to the barn for me. Doc had got the ATV out of the garage. This time, he didn't complain about cobwebs.
After George and Gracie were hitched up to the wagon, Julian lifted me up before getting on himself. We took our seats up front - me with the reins. Ben, Charlotte, and their kids had come for the event. Julie Anne insisted on riding on her Uncle Julian's lap and kicked up a huge fuss when her parents said no. Finally, Doc intervened and said he was okay with it and would shelter her from the wind if it picked up – it was calm at the moment.
“You spoil her, Julian”, Charlotte said to him.
“That's what 'uncles' are for”, he replied. “Besides, I know the day will come all too soon when she will be too busy with her friends to spend time with me, so I want to get in as much time with her as I can now.”
“That will never happen, Julian. You two have a special bond.”
The hay ride went well and we had more people than the previous year. It didn't snow but there was quite a bit on the ground so it looked “Christmasy”. Afterward, Karen insisted I go inside while she and Chey dealt with the horses. “I can figure out how to unharness them, Mer”, she'd said to me. “You go in and enjoy yourself. But take it easy on your hip.”
Everyone came in the house for hot chocolate and snacks. I'd made pastries as I had the year before but this year Doc had made some chili, chicken wings and soup. He also put cold cuts out for sandwiches. I told him he was being way too elaborate for an after hayride get-together, but he insisted on doing it. He truly enjoys cooking and does not consider it 'work'.
Doc's cooking went over well, as usual. Even now, after all these years, I have not met one person who doesn't like it. People also seemed to like my pastries. I'm pretty good at baking, but Julian's cooking is way better.
After everyone had gone home, I tried to help with clean up but was forbidden to do so – by Doc, Alex and Deanna. I was feeling useless and depressed so I went upstairs, had a shower and got into bed. I turned the tv on and watched a nature show, trying to forget about that damned hip.
Doc came up shortly after. He headed for the bathroom. “I'll have a quick shower, hon, then I'll join you.”
“You showered this morning, Doc.”
“I know, but I was on the wagon.”
“You are lucky that the well here is good and we don't have to watch our water usage.”
“I'd just have it trucked in if I had to, hon.” Why did that not surprise me?
We had a quiet Christmas season. Christmas Eve, we had a small open house. Doc had insisted. I think he just wanted an excuse to cook for a bunch of people again, since we'd be away for 2-3 weeks after New Year's. There were just the Carmichaels and us for Christmas Day. Doc and Deanna did the cooking, I was banished from the kitchen. Alex and I sat in the tv room, drinking egg nog and chatting.
“Have you decided whether you are taking Scruffy and Jessie with you when you go away?” he asked.
“We're taking Scruffy for sure but we haven't decided about Jessie. She and Heidi are inseparable, I feel like if we take Jessie, we should take them both. If we leave Jessie home, it will give Scruffy a break from the dogs. I know she likes the chasing games, but sometimes she doesn't want to play and the dogs are not always good at respecting her boundaries. They will back off for a bit when she strikes out at them, but they come back after a short time. I think she could use a break.”
“You know we are fine with looking after Jessie, and Chey will look after both dogs when I'm on call and we are in the city.”
“Yes, and I appreciate that. What I feel bad about is leaving Buddy for up to three weeks. I promised him I'd never leave him again for any longer than I had to. He didn't do well at Joanna's last spring and Karen said he pined for me when we were gone so much in the fall.”
“Do you really think he understood you when you said you wouldn't leave him any longer than you had to?”
“Maybe not, but he will know I'm gone again and he won't know that I'm coming back.”
“Meredith, Buddy will get used to you going away for periods of time. He does well when you stay in the city when Julian is on call, doesn't he?”
“Yes, he's gotten used to that.”
“And he will get used to you being gone for longer periods as well. Besides, after your honeymoon, you will be home except for Julian's on-call nights.”
“Good point, Alex. Unless I end up in hospital, but I don't plan on that happening.”
Before we knew it, New Year's was upon us. We spent New Years Eve at home with Alex, Deanna and Karen and her family. Doc had wanted to have them over for New Year's Day dinner but I told him we would be too busy getting ready to go away the next day. So, he settled for NY's Eve and we went to Karen's for a couple hours the next day. She had lunch as the holiday meal, so that Julian and I could get home and finish packing.
The next day, Doc's alarm went off way too early for my liking. “Good morning”, he said before kissing me. “Time to get up.”
“You get up, I'm going back to sleep.”
“Oh, no, you don't, Meredith. We agreed to be up early and get on the road by 10.”
“I wasn't in my right mind when I agreed to that. Why do you want to go so early anyway?”
“To get there before lunch time – and then we will have the whole afternoon to rest and lie around after getting the car unpacked.”
I grudgingly got up and into the shower. Why did I pick an early morning person? I asked myself.
A few hours later, we were on the road. We were taking my new SUV, which I'd chosen to buy instead of a new truck, after finding out the truck was fixable. Doc wasn't impressed – he wanted me to get both, but I don't like making large purchases unnecessarily. We needed a bigger vehicle to pack things for the cabin in, including one of Scruffy's 'trees'. We had decided to give her the break from the dogs I thought she needed, so Jessie stayed home with Alex, Deanna and Heidi.
After a two hour drive, we were there. As expected, the laneway was full of snow. We'd bought a snow blower for the cabin, and I'd checked it out at home to make sure it worked all right. That was the first thing off the SUV. I started it and cleared a path to the front door. Doc started taking things inside while I did the laneway, then I helped him finish unloading. “Meredith, you should be resting. You helped load the truck, and then did the snow clearing. You still need to be careful of that hip, even though your restrictions are lifted.
“Doc, I'm not letting you do it by yourself. You aren't used to physical work, you'll pull a muscle or something.” I dodged the playful punch that came my way.
“I will let you help unload, but after that, you are to take it easy the rest of the day.”
“Okay, honey”, I conceded.
We finally had everything brought in. Julian had insisted on buying new pots and pans for the kitchen. He didn't like the ones left behind by the person who'd sold the property to us. He said we'd donate them to charity. We also brought our own dishes and food, condiments, drinks etc. as well as bedding, towels and rugs. Our plan was to go into the nearest town in a day or two and shop for furniture as we didn't like the style of the things left behind. It, too, would be donated to charity.
I got a fire going in the fireplace while Julian unpacked some of the kitchen stuff and got our lunch out. He had made sandwiches and cold salads so that he wouldn't have to put anything together when we got there. He had also made supper ahead of time and we brought everything in a cooler. This way, we didn't have to be in a hurry to unpack and wash the pots, just the dishes. They were clean but you know Doc – he still had to wash them since they'd been outside our house.
Uncharacteristically of him, he suggested we have lunch in the living room. Normally, he insists on eating in the kitchen or dining room (at home - the cabin didn't have the latter), but I think he just didn't want to wash down the table first. So, we ate sitting on the sofa with tv trays. Scruffy was running around, checking everything out. This was someplace new to her and she had to investigate every nook and cranny. She had done well on the ride up. She likes car rides, but I hadn't known how she'd tolerate two hours in a moving vehicle. I had let her out of her carrier once we were on the highway so she wouldn't be bored. She sat on my shoulder watching the scenery go by.
She finally settled down and ate some of the squirrel food I'd put out for her. I had only let her have a little breakfast, in case the long ride upset her stomach. Squirrels can't vomit, but I figured I'd know if she was not feeling well. Fortunately, she was fine.
After we ate, Doc leaned back and put his arm around me. Surprisingly, he did not get up to take our plates back to the kitchen. Maybe he was beginning to loosen up about that. “Three whole weeks with you to myself, hon. This is going to be glorious.”
“I've been looking forward to it, Doc.”
He leaned over and kissed me. “What do you think about a hot soak in the tub, then a nap? I'm beat, and I know you could use the rest.”
“Sounds good to me, honey.”
“I'll get up in a few minutes and take the dishes to the kitchen, then I will change the bed while you are in the bathtub. Oh, first I will clean it for you.” No surprise there, that he wanted to clean the tub first.
Ten minutes later, I was neck deep in hot water. Scruffy sat on the closed toilet seat, chattering away at me. It sounded like she was chastising me for soaking in water. I don't think she understood the concept of deliberately getting wet.
After a while, Doc came in with not a stitch of clothing on. He got into the tub behind me and I leaned back into his chest. “What took you long?” I asked.
“I washed up the lunch dishes.”
“I should have known.” I tilted my head up so he could kiss me.
Scruffy had left the bathroom, giving up on trying to shame me into getting out of the tub. Doc and I talked about our plans for the next three weeks while soaking. We wanted to replace the living room and master bedroom furniture. We'd do the other rooms in the future as we wanted some time to just relax and enjoy the quiet. And have lots and lots of sex, which we started right there in the bathtub.
Afterward, we had that much needed nap. I woke up a couple hours later and Doc was still sleeping. I eased myself out of bed as quietly as I could, grabbed some clothes and headed for the bathroom, closing the bedroom door behind me. After dressing and doing my business, I went out to the kitchen and started unpacking the boxes of dishes and pans we'd brought. I boxed up what the previous owners had left behind and set it aside to take to town and donate.
Scruffy sat on the table, watching me work and chattering away at me. She knew not to get on the counter – Doc would have a fit. He tolerated her on the table when we weren't eating, but very reluctantly. I had made it clear to him that it was either the counter or the table. Of course, he always wiped the table down with disinfectant after she'd been on it.
When I had the kitchen stuff unpacked, I put the empty boxes that were left - after boxing up the old dishes and pans - in one of the spare bedrooms. We would take them back home to use the next time we brought things to the cabin. I wanted to start washing the dishes, but I didn't want to wake Doc with the running water, so I started a fire in the living room and sat down with a book. Scruffy perched herself on my shoulder.
Some time later, Julian came out. “How long have you been up?” he asked me.
“You should have woke me.”
“Why? You needed your sleep.” He went into the kitchen, then came back into the living room. “Meredith, you're supposed to be resting today.”
“I am, Doc. See?”
“You weren't. You unpacked all of the kitchen things. That should earn you a spanking.”
“Go ahead, Doc. But make it a good one.”
“That's the problem. You'd enjoy it.” He leaned over the sofa behind me and nestled his head in my neck.
“Damn right I would.” I reached up behind me and caressed his cheek with my hand. Looking up at him, I said “Doc, you know it drives me nuts when you act like a mother hen, but I love you as you are.”
“I appreciate that, hon. And I love you, even though you exasperate me at times.”
“I'm not about to change, Doc.”
“Neither am I, hon.”