As another Thanksgiving has quickly come and gone, it is once again incumbent for me to blog as I reflect on all there is to be thankful for. I am disappointed that despite desire, support, and encouragement, that this is just my second stab at this. Thanks for letting me share and I hope that you who come along for the ride can relate in your own way.
This year’s holiday game plan was to “out fox” everyone by heading up I-95 to the in-laws in Myrtle Beach, SC on Wednesday and returning on Sunday. I know…”what are you thinking?” you ask. For those who know me, I was merely accepting my penance for many years of heckling holiday travelers stuck in airports and highway gridlock. It is true that for years I would traditionally flip on the local news after a daylong lineup of the Macy’s Parade and football to see the “C level” back up news reporter interviewing those frustrated, road weary travelers. I had always been blessed to avoid holiday travel as we were near family and friends until our move to the Sunshine State. I figured my time to be another AAA travel statistic was long overdue.
Sadly, our plans changed rather suddenly as my father in law’s amazing 99 year old father passed away. Responsibilities with the arrangements and the need to head to Wisconsin first thing Friday AM took needed precedence for our hosting in-laws, so we decided to cancel our road trip to Myrtle. For obvious reasons, a stress reliever despite the family loss and circumstances. Now the gears unexpectedly shifted as we did not have a contingency plan in effect for our Thanksgiving.
My wife quickly reached out to her grade school BFF Martha to see if she had any extra food and maybe 4-5 more open table spots available. Within minutes, the “BOGO Queen” had the details taken care of as she would simply prepare two turkeys and we were just on the hook for mashed potatoes and a side. Our travel time went from 10 hours to 10 minutes. This also meant we had the ability to reap the culinary rewards with minimal risk or time invested while also having a clear path to the coveted and assumingly abundant leftovers.
I was honored to be asked to lead the families in a pre meal blessing. I shared my respect for those dearly departed that had and continue to influence all assembled in that cozy dining room. I acknowledged how the remarkable meal prepared for us to enjoy was symbolic of the Lord’s provisions that we have to be thankful for. I expressed my optimism for the next generation and all they represent.
As I looked over the wonderful spread only trumped by the people around it, it was painfully obvious that one member was conspicuous by his absence. That is why I earlier alluded to the uncertainty of 4 or 5 extra spots we would require. Our 18 year old son had elected to exercise his rights as a young adult to make other plans that did not include the family. This would be the first time without him and it cast a melancholy mood for his loving mother and me. I decided that I would not let such deter me from all that was right in front of me.
I listened to our host Martha’s beloved mother, “Granny,” sharing how the key to making a great scratch pumpkin pie by using pumpkins that had a “yellower” shell than orange. In this “Ms. Smith’s” world, how awesome is it to have an “adopted” grandmother you simply call “Granny?” I marveled at our host’s miracle daughter sharing her amusing freshman college tales even though medical experts incorrectly concluded two decades ago that she would never be born. I admired Martha’s husband and my buddy Andy humbly opening his home and sharing of the provisions of his labor. I witnessed my beautiful wife of 24 years feeling right at home while maintaining this special relationship since grade school. I wondered “how does he know that?” while enjoying the musings of our 22 yr old soon to be Gator grad who is on the cusp of heading out to a real world that we pray he is prepared for. I also saw two young teens at the table feeling comfortable around friends and family that love them, despite the awkwardness of the age. Truly a blessing unfolding right before my eyes.After chivalrously letting the women and children serve themselves first, it was time to “plate up” as they say. All the traditional elements were in place and I had the opportunity to even contribute my late mother’s creamed onion dish that I know is more of a personal favorite than universally loved. The early but welltimed meal was on track to conclude just in time for the 4:30 kick off as mybeloved Washington Redskins invaded Dallas for the big rivalry game with thosedreaded Cowboys. What more could I ask for?
At that point, the door bell rang and an impatient (or perhaps nervous) knock hit the door before the Road Runner could have possibly responded. It was our potentially prodigal middle son, who eschewed short sighted plans for another Thanksgiving with his family. As he has bravely enlisted in the US Navy and is awaiting future training and ultimate assignment, who knows where his next Thanksgiving meal is coming from? Thanks to our gracious hosts, the door was always literally and figuratively open and there was plenty of great chow to go around.
Digesting in the comfy family room while watching the game with my buddy and our sons was a pretty sweet feeling. Hard to feel more fortunate. Even the clanking and squeaking of dishes being painstakingly done could not interfere with the euphoria as my Redskins scored 28 unanswered points in the 2nd quarter on the way to what appeared to be a real beat down.Unfortunately, big business greed and the advent of “Pre Black Friday” hysteria interrupted our tranquil scene. A reality of our relationship’s “family like”comfort level would allow our hosts to simply leave us in their living room while they vacated to hit the electronics section at Wal-mart. Sort of like Norm on the old Cheers show - we just needed to close up on our way out! A typical Cowboy comeback had all in the room a tad nervous, but no more so than our hosts while they approached the sales floor fearing a “bait and switch.”
Well, as it turns out, the “good guys” held on to win for the first time ever after 6 previous Thanksgiving Day losses and our hosts got every “door buster” gadget and gizmo on their list. I am told one victorious item was a $35 vacuum which may come in handy after we were done snacking in the family room.
A truly memorable day. I hope yours was too.