18. Christmas at the Creek

18. Christmas at the Creek

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

Christmas at the Creek

The best thing about memories is making them.

~Author Unknown

Back in the late 1990s, after our growing family packed together like sardines for another Christmas in our little house, my husband and I decided a venue change was necessary. Enter the Canyon Inn at McCormick’s Creek State Park, just about fifty minutes from our house. When our children were small, we’d taken jaunts to the park for a day of picnics and fun. Sometimes we had even stayed at the Inn during summer vacations. Our kids loved it.

Now, in lieu of presents, we would pick up the tab for the whole stay. When my husband spread the good news, everyone was excited about our first “Christmas at the Creek.” For the next twelve months, e-mails, texts, and family conversations centered on the new venue for our Christmas celebration.

Christmastime finally arrived and our destination was Spencer, Indiana. The snow covering the ground was perfect for sledding. The interior of the Inn was adorned with lighted trees, scenes with cotton snow, manufactured musical carolers and forest animals, along with a fireplace that gave the entire indoor area a scent of the woods. It was truly a winter wonderland.

Each family scurried to their suites, unpacked and bundled up, heading for the hill outside the Inn. Sled disks and garbage bags made for a rousing afternoon of frolic. After a couple of hours we went back inside for a change of clothes and hot cocoa with whipped cream or marshmallows.

My husband was a creative genius and he organized activities such as walks on the trails, strolls up to the horse barn, and a visit to the Nature Center along with a stop at the flowing waterfalls on the way back. On another morning we visited the outdoor amphitheater where all the grandkids performed songs, skits, and dances on the stage.

In the evening, there was pizza, sandwiches, and homemade yummy desserts brought by each family. Special games for the young ones and card games for the teens and adults made for fierce competition.

We have been doing this now for sixteen years! Each year family photos are taken, not only in front of the fireplace, but the entire group journeys back up to the stables where there is an oversized maple tree with enormous branches. The kids and grandkids climb to a lower level branch of their choice for the grandkids’ picture. Then individual family pictures are shot, as well. We call it the Ely Family Tree.

As time has passed, our traditions have evolved. There are performances, contests, and lots of fun for every age group. Highlights of holiday experiences are now put on DVDs so that each family can watch and enjoy them again later.

This past Christmas our family surprised us. Working with the State Department of Natural Resources and the park property manager, our children and grandchildren purchased a bench in our honor that is now placed out in front of the Canyon Inn. A brass plaque is attached that reads: “Your Legacy: As Sure As It Started Here, May It Endure Forever More.” We look forward to many more Christmases at the Creek.

~Cindy L. Ely

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