A New Home for the Holiday

Marcy is probably up to her eyeballs in boxes both empty and full right now. I picture McCaffrey the MilleniaLab wandering lost if excited among them, wearing a loose doggy grin as his nails tick-tack across the new floor. Mr. Emptywheel may likewise be wandering between boxes while muttering in an Irish accent under his breath about a well-deserved beer.

Ah, but they’re home for the holiday. What a great memory this will be in years to come. Congrats to Mr. and Mrs. Emptywheel on their new digs!

Most of us have memories of home on this holiday–many good, some bad, but enough decent ones to compel us to go home to give thanks with others. Many of you are preparing for a harried road trip, or an even more hectic trip by air. I wish you safe and secure between here and wherever it is you need to be. Watch out for deer if you’re driving.

A number of my own best/worst Thanksgiving memories involve travel. Like the time I flew from Detroit to Omaha to see my folks and kid brother; it was like landing in another world, a movie set replete with All-American high school football stars and cheerleaders. We drove from the airport past the Platte River, where sandhill cranes amassed by the thousands along the banks in nearby fields. I made my dad stop the car to hear the roar they made as these dinosaur-ish creatures chattered at one another.

Or another year when I drove hundreds of miles to volunteer with my nurse-mom at a convent. Well, more like a nursing home for nuns; I helped with bedpans, walkers, visited and served dinner, attended an utterly silent prayer service. Absolutely insane experience, all the elderly women patting me on the cheek like I was the one who needed care. I will never forget the tiny, frail 80-something sister who sat next to me during their turkey dinner; she clutched my hand, then patted it, and rasped, “This’ll be one Thanksgiving you’ll never forget.” She fricking winked at me and smirked, and then tried to recruit me to take vows in their order.

Hell yes, sister, I still think of it and you every year. Sorry about those vows, though. I know you meant well. I’ve never been nun material.

When I was growing up, nearly every T-Day holiday my family took in a new movie. We don’t do that anymore, but we do watch oldies but goodies at home. They’ve become part the rituals that my kids will remember in the future as they think back on their Thanksgiving holidays past. Like watching my personal favorite, Home for the Holidays, while we bake something yeasty for tomorrow’s feast at the in-laws. There’s nothing quite like Home for the Holidays to brace one’s self for visiting the extended dysfunction that is family. Tomorrow we’ll watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles while we cuddle up on our couch, lolling about in our overfed discomfort,and enjoy a fire in the fireplace.

What about you? What are your favorite Thanksgiving Day memories? Are you traveling? And what about holiday movies–is there one you’d share or enjoy every year?

22 replies
  1. jo6pac says:

    My Thanksgiving memories are about going to the International Car Show in San Francisco then over to China Town to for some great Chinese food with the parents and brother. We did that as a family until I moved out on my own. I don’t think we ever had Turkey.

  2. rosalind says:

    i will be forgoing my usual crab legs & steak followed by a screening of “Team America: World Police” (the unrated version) for a more traditional Turkey Day this year w/friends.

    my brothers and i, sticking to our mutual non-aggression pact, will be maintaining our usual 200 mile buffer zone in force for all major holidays.

  3. jayackroyd (@jayackroyd) says:

    I’m going to atrios land, my brother’s place in the Philly suburbs. It’ll be a big family gathering-30 or 40 people–as it is every year. The venue changes as different family members host in NH, ME, VA, PA.

    But, for me, the most memorable was when I declared we’d have an NYC event at home with the inlaws. Watch the parade for the first time. Bagels, lox cream cheese. No effing turkey. And then the cat in the hat knocked a light pole onto me.

  4. bmaz says:

    @rosalind:”… followed by a screening of “Team America: World Police” (the unrated version) for a more traditional Turkey Day this year w/friends.”


  5. JohnT says:

    Like the time I flew from Detroit to Omaha to see my folks and kid brother; it was like landing in another world

    I had the same reaction this past Spring, when I went to visit relatives. I took a little trip through the northern border states, and it was exactly like that. Not to say that’s good or bad, but it was almost like stepping back in time. They have all the latest gadgets and gizmos. But it was almost like that movie with Toby McGuire and Reese Witherspoon where they go back in time through the tv or something, and wind up in a black and white world. Good and bad. Right and wrong.

    Not to say that that’s good or bad, but a black and white pov is more than a metaphor there. Just an observation

    PS On my trip I drove past what looks like the Eye of Sauron about 50 miles north of where Sen Byron Dorgan grew up. Something else that stood out was Lima Peaks Mt. It’s about 40 or 50 miles West of Yellowstone, and what’s unique (to me anyway) is that there are 5 or 6 lava domes all coming out a single mountain base

  6. Jim White says:

    We’re headed to very rural North Carolina tomorrow for a weekend horse show, so we did a semi-holiday meal this evening. Our older daughter had learned chicken parmesan from her Italian roommate, so that subbed for the turkey and I did our usual green bean casserole with our family cultural divide where half is topped with onion rings and half with crumbled potato chips. My wife insists the potato chips are needed and I say they are anathema to the sacred recipe. Our CSA supplied purple sweet potatoes (and they gave off an amazing rosewater smell while boiling), so our rum with sweet potatoes dish was a different color but tasted great.

  7. bmaz says:

    @JohnT: ASU made a run at Peterson, and he told them to get lost. He appears in no hurry to leave Boise. At this point, you would think he isn’t going anywhere except for a top job. Say, for instance, USC maybe. Or the pros.

    There will be Trash starting either tonight or tomorrow morning. We are on kind of a helter skelter posting schedule, so it may or may not always be on top, but we shall be trashing all extended weekend!

  8. JohnT says:

    @bmaz: Yea, he’s probably the college football version of Mark Few at Gonzaga. I was thinking out loud about his NoCal connections. He grew up in Yuba City, went to Sac City College, then played for Jim Sochor at UC Davis

  9. H. Candace gorman says:

    Every year my husband , kids and I head to northern Michigan for thanksgiving for dinner with long time friends. I usually find some excuse to head up first (from Chicago) and I usually find some excuse to stay an extra day or two after everyone leaves but this year is an exception.. I am still in dc working on my gitmo clients appeal- getting madder by the minute as I re-read the bullshit from the habeas hearing. So tomorrow I will take an early flight to the great north and I will be the last in the family to arrive and when the weekend is over I will be the first to leave so I can get back to the appeal and although this is my favorite holiday (no presents just good food and company) I am honored to be representing my client in this great injustice….of course my client will lose the appeal because the dc circuit has not granted one single habeas petition for a gitmo detainee but one day history will look back at this fiasco and I hope my country will have the good sense to apologize to my client.. …and I sure hope my now adult kids have that turkey ready when I get there!

  10. FFein says:

    My memories are going to my Aunt Faye’s and Uncle Ray’s in Dearborn — the men going to the Lion’s game while the women cooked — us kids having to clean up — and then us kids spending the night and on Friday my Aunts taking us to Hudson’s in Detroit and also to a place in Windsor. Rayne, it’s good to hear your voice again!

  11. Rayne says:

    @H. Candace gorman: Wishing you a tasty, already prepared feast on your arrival–you’ve more than earned it.

    I’ll be in northern Michigan, too, cooking some baked goods now to take with us to visit only mildly dysfunctional part of family.

    @FFein: Wow, Hudson’s. I still miss that store. What a loss to the community; Macy’s is nothing at all to Detroit in terms of local identity. Brings back a lot of memories.

    Nice to see you again, too! Hope you have a pleasant holiday planned, and not too much cooking!

  12. Rayne says:

    @JohnT: YES. Pleasantville. That’s it, exactly! Brush cuts, varsity letter jackets, short pleated skirts with Keds, all blond, blue-eyed, shiny-faced, corn-fed. I literally de-boarded and walked into a group of kids like that, waiting for their family members to disembark from other flights (must have been 1987 or so). So odd after the darker, grittier crowds at Detroit’s airport where I fit in.

    @jo6pac, @rosalind, @jayackroyd — hope you folks have a safe and happy T-Day in your respective destinations.

    @Jim White: While I’d try the potato chip topped beans, they are not de rigueur like the fried onions. Durkee’s says so. LOL Mangia bene!

    @bmaz: Keep the wheels on the road. BTW, I got the package, forgot to tell you. Thanks!

  13. posaune says:

    I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving that my little sister turned 18. She had just gotten her driver’s license on that Tuesday; I was coming home from New York on Wednesday. Oh, she just savored the idea of driving around on her own! Picking up her friends! On Wednesday, she BEGGED Mom for the car . . . . . . (“I really need to do research at the library, Mom.”)

    Mom finally agreed, on two conditions: 1) Lil Sis had to drop her at work and pick her up; AND get the fresh turkey she had ordered from the local butcher before they closed, come home, and put it in the fridge. “Sure, Mom, no problem.”

    I arrived home from NY, hours late, well into evening @ 8:30. Mom was still stuck at work, waiting for my sister! I swung by her office and picked her up, and we headed home . . . . . . . to find: no sister, and a Perdue chicken in the sink. NO turkey. I had never seen Mom so livid. Purple, even. Today, I’m taken aback at her fury. But then, she stopped. And thought. And called the rest of the siblings together to announce her plan: She would roast the chicken, and we would go through all the usual ceremonies, with stuffing, yams, beans, mashed, and gravy. And no one would say a word about the chicken. In fact, each and every one would praise the great turkey it was that year. Remarkably, no one laughed or gave it away, as my sister slowly sunk deeper and deeper into her chair. By the time my Mom brought the pecan pie, she burst into tears, and everyone was howling!

  14. Katie Jensen (wavpeac) says:

    Rayne…this is why you seem so “familiar” to me. There are many thanksgiving stories and quotes from my midwestern very Nebraska life. Even though I live in Omaha NE, small towns absolutely creep me out. My husband and I will take our convertible and drove through small towns just for the “haunting” effect of it. (and yes as a therapist in this town I am more than aware of how small Omaha is).

    Couple funny family jokes:

    My mother “always” cooks thanksgiving dinner. She’s 70 today but for as long as I can remember her cooking a big meal, this is always a mixture of joy and something akin to the pain of running a marathon. She is very particular about which set of china, which crystal, which napkins and which table cloth. She is particular about the food. She ends up doing most of the cooking because we might not get it quite right. Hence, the makings for this story. Mom asked my sister and I as we were setting the table to “put some water on the table”. We had already been admonished each several times “no not those napkins, get those red ones”, “no not that china, use the ones we got when we were married, etc…” So after the request for water, she and I just stopped dead in our tracks. We stood there, looking at each other like deer in the headlights. “Uh, do we put it in a pitcher? or do we fill some glasses and put them on the table?” Then my sister says “Well, do you think she wants us to put ice in it or no ice”. Then my turn “or do we put the pitcher on the table WITH the ice in it?” Then we both broke out in laughter. “What the hell IS the recipe for water!!” Today we joke about who is bringing the coveted recipe.

    And then there was the year of the Jicama. I went to my local Hyvee. The store near me serves a large Mexican community. Avocados, cactus, and Jicama are always fresh and available. (perhaps toxic but available). At any rate, years before I was shopping organic I went to pick up the rutabega’s. This is a favorite vegetable for our thanksgiving day table. A staple. Well, Rutabega and Jicama look ALOT a like. Jicama is bigger, and white inside (as some types of Rutabega can be more whitish than orange). At any rate, there was a big bin of what was marked “rutabega’s”. Now Rutabega in my store are usually in a tiny bin, but this is what the sign said on the big huge box. I bought two but kept wondering why they were so huge! My mother cut them up, and boiled them. We didn’t know until tasting them, that they were Jicama. You don’t boil Jicama. Jicama is lovely fresh on a salad with lots of crunch…it is not a lovely vegetable boiled. So my family routinely assigns the Jicama to me. I don’t bring it but we almost always chuckle about the memory.

    There have been years when we were too broke to bring rutabega, years praying for my husband’s sobriety, years of health problems and dying loved ones, or dying pets, years of joblessness, even the thanksgiving I was pregnant (a grown 35 year old woman) afraid to tell my parents that I was pregnant with a baby from my now husband because they hated him. Wow times have changed. My husband sober. Both of us working. My practice bulging at the seems. Finally our family will have health care in a matter of weeks. Life is good!!!

    I lurk here all the time, love you all and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  15. HotFlash says:

    Happy new home to the Wheels, and hello again, dear Rayne. My favourite Thanksgivings were at the Grandmas’, one in, the other on a farm just outside of Chelsea MI. Yes, 7 sets of aunts-and-uncles each side of the fam, I have 38 first cousins. Hey, we had *two* kids tables! Everybody helped, huge turkey went into the oven at 3am. Clean-up at paternal g’ma went quicker, she had running hot water. Both were fun b/c of the good company and willing hands.

  16. Rayne says:

    @Katie Jensen (wavpeac) & @HotFlash — excellent! Hope you both had a safe and relaxing holiday!

    Katie — Rutabaga story is definitely a classic. We’ve eaten our share in my family, mostly in pasties. Jicama would be extremely bland, can’t even imagine would it would have been like mashed.

    HotFlash — I only had a couple of big T-Days like that, though I didn’t have but one grandparent. The extended family ended up at my folks’ house–including my excessively Catholic aunt, her annoying & goofy husband, and their six kids. Oy. I do remember getting bosky for the first time at one of these two feasts; my mom made a punch containing alcohol and didn’t explain I shouldn’t partake. But it looked so good, pink and frothy…~hic!~

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