The husband and I had been thinking and praying about this trip for weeks. My family often tries to get together at Thanksgiving even though we are geographically scattered. Those of us from Florida have several times found ourselves “snowed in” up in Hayward for the holiday. Last year we combined the get together with Mom’s wish to spend the winter with us. We flew to Wisconsin, traveled in her car to Michigan to have Thanksgiving there with three of my brothers, and then continued on down to Florida. It worked, and we were trying it again this year, hoping it would work again.
Monday, I felt like a captive pretty much all day. I used to think that it was pretty cool getting to travel a lot – flying off to southeast Asia, to Seattle, to Wisconsin – but I am over that. Although I booked our flights weeks ahead of time there were no good seats to choose from. I sat in the window seat on the first leg. There was no chance of getting out over two other people, so I sat for that hour and a half, sleeping against the wall. The second leg was longer and I was in the middle seat, which to me is even more claustrophobic. With the space in front of my feet filled with a back pack, my knees touching the seat ahead of me, and a hefty passenger seated on either side of me, it was like being in a small box for three hours. The worst part of the trip was after the plane landed and everyone who could, stood up, filling the aisle. We waited for 15 minutes before anyone was actually able to leave. We were in the back, of course, and got to watch every person in every row struggle with their luggage. There was nothing to do but wait the eternity until was our turn. In my dreams I become rich and famous by designing a better de-planing procedure and selling it to airlines.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016 (very early): I sat up in bed looking at a clock that showed 5:45 and mentally calculated that it would be 6:45 in my usual time zone – no wonder I was awake. I failed to consider daylight savings time, and so had the person responsible for setting the clock in that room. It was 4:45, so I had some “think time” to consider how it was that I was thousands of miles from where I had been yesterday. I was, always am, properly amazed and thankful for safe travel. Wisconsin in winter is dark late in the morning, dark early in the evening, leaving very little daylight to save, but there was some, finally…
There are fourteen of us tonight. Tomorrow there will be more for the big meal. Our family does this frequently, big gatherings, reunions, and we have expectations. People will take turns making the meals since we are usually together for several days. We will take turns shopping for groceries and washing the dishes. Beds have been scouted out and stashes of blankets and pillows have been scattered around the houses where we are gathering. We want to be together, as many of us as can make it, because of one thing we agree on – we are thankful for family.
I am always a little surprised to hear that many people find us odd, a family that enjoys getting together. Many people do not have this kind of tradition or this kind of family. My mom and dad are the reigning seniors. There is my generation consisting of myself and three of my brothers and their families. And then there is the youngest generation, our children, ranging from fourteen to mid thirties in age. They are students, prospective parents, house flippers, a veterinarian, a geologist, an aeronautical engineer, a vegan, a hunter, There is a lot of news to exchange and the place buzzes with conversation.
Food is always being prepared or consumed or both. It seems one meal is barely finished before the next one needs to be started. There is no room in the fridg. This year Jon is sharing some vegan recipes with us. Brother Bob has brought ingredients for his famous muffin breakfast. Mom has been baking cookies, pies and cranberry bread for weeks. There is a “happy” turkey (happy while alive, not so much now). The kitchen is not very large and it is always full of people. We make at least five full pots of coffee a day. We don’t fit around one table very well, although it is a huge table.
My family is staying in a snug 2 bedroom condo a few yards away from the one my parents live in. My mom is an early riser and when she’s up and making the first pot of coffee for the day she turns on the outside lights. I wait for that signal before going over for a moment of quiet reflection and planning. Since FOOD is going to be the name of the game most of the day, she had a breakfast casserole ready for the oven. Loaves of bread and bagels were ready by the toaster. It wasn’t long before the crowd assembled – and then the food was gone. Fortunately we have a nearly seamless way of moving on to the next eating experience.
There was a brief break in the eating while we made a call to my aunt in Florida to sing happy birthday to her. Actually we sang it twice – once on her voice mail and one live performance when she called back. She is 90 and knows how to use a cell phone. Kudos.
.I am so glad the younger crowd embraces cooking with gusto. I am so glad that Walmart is open on the holiday. No matter how much planning takes place, with this many people, something is always missing or running out. After a trip to the store the kitchen was again crowded with Jon, Jamie and Julie turning out Buffalo Cauliflower, Killer Veggie Tray and Guacamole Supreme. The turkey got bathed, dried, seasoned and placed in the oven to cook, leaving room for the Tofurkey to slide in beside it later. The dressing was mixed up and put in the crock pot. The potatoes were pealed. The pies were set out to thaw.
The football game is underway, accompanied by football food. Today we do not have hunger to tell us what time of day it is. Everyone has their favorite snack and drink and we are hoping that the continual trickle of food does not hamper our enjoyment of the grand finale. My latest “chore” was getting the next jigsaw puzzle prepared for the afternoon. It is a tradition at our gatherings to do puzzles and we have done two already. There is a bonding that takes place between those willing to devote hours to staring at little pieces of cardboard. We know who we are. The last one was 2,000 pieces and we could hardly fit it on the table. This next one is only 1500 and I’m hoping it will last through the evening.
My brother who lives in this area has left to be with his wife’s family as they celebrate the holiday a few miles away. Somehow a miracle will happen and they will eat two Thanksgiving dinners back to back. I am in the quiet of my condo, me and the turkey.
There is no end to the things I am thankful for. How is all this possible? It is not a matter of deserving this plenty, this comfort, safety and fellowship. There are many others who should have more, but don’t. I also have to consider that we may not always have what we have now. But while we have it, let us not forget to be grateful and generous. The memory of these times, precious times, might be what sustains us in the future. I’m just sayin’ it’s best we pay attention.
There was something white on the trees, and on the ground in Atlanta this week – and it wasn’t snow, it was petals from the flowering dogwoods and other gorgeous trees. Atlanta was wet, cloudy and lit with a subdued daylight that made the grass and trees fairly glow with green-ness. Rain makes Atlanta smell fresh and woodsy in spite of the thousands of cars emitting fumes on it’s frighteningly busy throughways. The parents and I were there this week for the graduation of a special niece who now holds a doctorate of chiropractic degree from Life University. Kudos for sticking it out girl, and creating another do-able family event for those of us within driving distance.
We journeyed there by car on Thursday and met at the motel that evening. Family breakfast on Friday morning sustained us through the graduation ceremony in the afternoon. The after celebration at Darwin’s Burgers and Blues introduced me to the Memphis Burger. Who knew that putting bbq sauce and coleslaw on a burger would make it that good? Watching my brother and his family celebrate their eldest daughter’s accomplishment was a heartwarming family experience. Someone who not too long ago was a crazy kid is now an adult with a plan and a purpose.
Okay, and here is what really proved that to me. Being in the “older” group of celebrants, I and the parents didn’t stay up for the 2 am (and later) partying but went back to our motel to prep for our early morning departure. Elissa asked us what time we were getting up and when we were having breakfast before leaving town. She wanted “family breakfast” again and said she would be there at 7:30 to have it with us. Mind you, I was not sure this could be accomplished… the girl is not typically a morning person and I wouldn’t really have blamed her for crashing in the wee hours. Was she there? WAS SHE THERE!
Yes, yes she was!. Family breakfast was eaten and a good time was had by all, even the sleepy ones. Thank you Smiths for a meaningful, family memory of celebrating in Atlanta, beautiful Atlanta.