Over the river and through the woods . . .

Did you go to grandmother’s house this Thanksgiving? Or another relative’s? Maybe a neighbor’s? The holiday is a great time to make memories that can last a lifetime. The faces at the table may change as the years go by, but the copious amounts of food tend to remain the same.

Adventures can sometimes accompany those trips. Especially when countless millions of Americans head for rendezvous locations on the day before Thanksgiving. My family often traded hosting duties with longtime friends in Chicago. That was about a seven-hour drive from my childhood Ohio home almost any other day of the year. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the trek was considerably longer. We normally arrived in the wee hours of the dark night. Traffic and snow usually slowed us down. I can remember waking up one year and finding out Mother Nature had dumped what seemed like two feet of powder on the ground. I recall we kids having a great time while Mom and Dad were probably thinking, “How in the world are we going to get home Sunday?”

Thanksgiving travel can definitely be more than just a little frustrating. Long lines at airports, missed connections, canceled flights, etc., are equally off-putting as interstates slowed down by freezing rain and black ice.

Many moons have gone by, but my oldest sister, Kathy, still refuses to patronize a certain airline that left her stranded in the Denver airport one Thanksgiving Day. She had unselfishly decided to surprise our middle sister, Megan, who had very recently moved to Boise, Idaho. We all thought Megan would be all alone, and Kathy didn’t like that. So, she booked a flight out early Thursday morning to be with Megan. Unbeknownst to Kathy, just as she was boarding the first leg of her flight, some new co-workers of Megan’s invited her to their house for the day. (This was in the ancient world, before cell phones.)

Kathy got to Denver fine, only to find there was a slight delay in her connecting flight to Boise. As in, hours. Meanwhile, Megan was having a terrific time eating delicious Thanksgiving treats with her new friends. Kathy ended up with peanut butter crackers from a vending machine for her feast that day. She did finally get to Boise, but it wasn’t quite the holiday she expected.

Thanksgiving stories that don’t involve travel also abound. My youngest sister, Jill, was probably 13 or 14 when she and Dad were sent to the local wine shop by Mom to pick up something for Thanksgiving dinner. On the way to the store, Dad was teasing the underage Jill, telling her he hoped she didn’t embarrass him when everybody there already knew her. She, of course, said something such as, “Yeah, right, Dad.” It was a bit of a shock when the two of them walked through the front door and the guy at the checkout immediately held out a phone and said, “Jill, your mom’s on the phone for you.” Jill, somewhat incredulously, said, “My mom?” “So, nobody knows you, eh?” asked Dad with a smile.

Turns out Mom had forgotten to add something to their list. She called the store and described Jill and Dad, and they just happened to be walking through the door during the call. Needless to say, we’ve never let Jill forget it.

Another year, the next-door neighbors were invited to our house. They were the kind that had a key to our backdoor and would do anything anytime. As part of the table decoration, Mom had bought a cornucopia that featured very realistic-looking fruit. All was going well until, much to the mortification of the invited family’s two teenage girls and their mom, the dad picked up one of the pieces of fruit and put it on his plate to eat. A simultaneous sotto voce chorus of “Dad” let him know of his faux pas. He sheepishly returned the decorative orange to the centerpiece.

And finally, once when my wife’s family was at our house for Thanksgiving, we were just finishing the main course when we heard a loud CRASH in the kitchen. It seems the lure of the turkey carcass on the island had proven too much for our Jack Russell terrier. She had managed to jump up and drag the whole thing to the ground. Fortunately, the noise made her dash away in time for us to pick up the bulk of the mess before she could dive in.

How about you? Would one of your Thanksgiving memories would make a better Norman Rockwell painting then mine?

©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer