Past Thanksgivings

We spent Thanksgiving visiting and eating a delicious vegetable filled dinner with our good friends, Alison and David and their children Laura and Peter. As I dropped off to sleep last night I thought about past memorable Thanksgivings.

I suppose that when my Grandparents lived in Elgin we used to gather there for Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t remember Thanksgiving at my Grandparents’ house in Elgin, but I’ve seen enough photos of my Grandfather carving turkey that I’m pretty sure my supposition is correct.

One year my parents had other plans, and it seems that all of my aunts and uncles did as well, because no one remembered to invite my Grandparents for Thanksgiving dinner. I guess they stayed home and had hot dogs. It was a bit if a joke for a while, and my mother even made them a decoupage box with “Hot Dog for Thanksgiving” and various images of Turkeys and hot dogs attached to it.  I recently saw that box at my parent’s cabin in Wisconsin.

When my grandparents moved to Chetek we visited them for Thanksgiving at least once. That was year before my grandfather had his leg amputated, and the last time I saw him before his surgery. He was complaining of pain in his leg and foot and was going to visit the chiropractor the next week. He thought it was from moving something heavy. It turned out he had a blood clot in his leg, which the chiropractor didn’t catch until it was too late.

Once my parents built their house in Wisconsin, we spent several Thanksgivings there. On those occasions we would drive up on Thanksgiving day and then eat Thanksgiving dinner the day after Thanksgiving. One year we brought Dean’s friends Glenn and Steve and Steve’s girlfriend, Chris.

One memorable Thanksgiving was spent with Dean’s family. They’d eat at his Aunt and Uncle’s house. His Uncle was an opinionated person who had nothing good to say about teachers. Because I was a teacher at the time, his words stung so much I never felt comfortable around him again. He had that effect on all the teachers in the family.

I think my favorite Thanksgivings were the ones we spent in Pittsburgh, sharing the meal with fellow students from all over the country and globe. I think we did that twice, but perhaps it was only once. One year we’d just recently been burglarized and had planned on having the dinner at our apartment, but instead took the turkey over to one of Dean’s office-mate’s home.  I recall feeling a little annoyed – knowing I did the cooking, but the hosts got all the thank yous.

Once we moved to the DC area we quit going back to Illinois for Thanksgiving, for the most part. We probably shared Thanksgiving with our friends Paul and Kelly at least once. In 1990 we were invited to Long Island, NY to spend Thanksgiving with Kelly’s parents in a house they were renovating. Because the house was in disarray Kelly’s mom thought it would be fun to dress up – as a contrast to the house. Kelly, who was always thinking of ways to play practical jokes on her family, thought it would be fun to dress up in funny clothes – like formal wear from the 1970’s. We found deliciously ugly prom dresses at Salvation Army and wore them to dinner. It was a lot of fun and everyone had a great time. That year was my first time in NYC where we saw a play, rode in a taxi, ate cheesecake in the village, got locked out of the parking garage and had to take the subway (where a police incident was happening in front of us)  back to Long Island. That was also the year I met Cindy.

We shared many Thanksgiving meals with Dean’s sister and her family. One time was in 1998, I think, when I’d just begun to hang out on the Internet. I’d installed ICQ and had made a few chat buddies. One was a young man who was stationed in Virginia Beach as a naval enlistee. I asked what he and his young family were doing for Thanksgiving and he said they had no plans. I asked if he’d like to come to Bethesda for dinner. He asked his wife and they accepted the invitation. I told them dinner would be in the early afternoon and they could arrive as early as noon. He seemed to understand. The next morning at 9:00 am the doorbell rang and Richard, his pregnant wife and their young daughter were on the doorstep. They’d arrived in Bethesda at 7 am, but felt it was too early to knock. I was teased for years after that – inviting Internet Strangers to dinner, but it felt right. And as it turned out Richard was younger than our nephew Chris. They were missing their families in Missouri and I guess we were surrogate parents for them for that one day.

A couple of years ago we went to Pittsburgh with Dean’s friend Mike to spend Thanksgiving with his sister and her family. That was a nice trip. We also spent at least one Thanksgiving with Sandy and Arieh before they moved to Chile. We may have gone to visit Neal and Marie one year as well.

After Dean’s sister’s husband passed away Diane often traveled to Bethesda for Thanksgiving. The past few years she’s come with Chris and Sheri, her son and his wife, who live in Charlottesville, VA. Those have been nice, low-key Thanksgivings where we mostly sat around and relaxed and visited with them.

This year I didn’t expect Diane, Chris or Sheri for a couple of reasons. Sheri’s folks moved to Virginia, so I suspected they’d want to have Thanksgiving with her family. Diane was planning on going to Illinois – first to be with her mother, but after her mother passed away in October, to be with her brothers and maybe help deal with her mother’s things. She ended up not going to Illinois, but not coming here either. She needed to veg out at home — something she deserves after the past couple of years.

While some people have longstanding traditions for Thanksgiving – we tend to have brief and fleeting traditions. I’m not sure which is best, but I kind of like our way.  Each year holds the promise of a surprise.

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