So many things to be thankful for

Before November ended, I wanted to take a little time to write about how wonderful Thanksgiving was this year. It was simply perfect. In my memory, the best yet. Of course, it could have been even better with the addition of a few, key, missing folks, but that would have been the only way to improve it.

For starters, Thanksgiving gave us a much-needed kick in the pants to get some basic stuff done around here: things like putting up toilet-paper holders, and towel racks, and a shade in the bathroom window. Things that should have been done earlier and weren’t, and things that we now get to enjoy even with all of the guests gone.

I guess you get used to living with things the way that they are and it takes some time looking at things as if through your guests’ eyes to notice that, yep, having the toilet paper roll on the floor all the time isn’t really the way we want to live.

Anyway, we kept up the frantic pace all the way through Tuesday night (see bookcase assembly mentioned previously) and woke up ready to pounce on all the rest on Wednesday. To put it bluntly, things were a mess. We’d done some pretty handy things in the preceding weeks, but those things didn’t include vacuuming, dusting, or putting away a few months’ worth of magazine back issues and miscellaneous toys.

Michael started in on the mess first thing Wednesday morning – we knew at least one guest (Laurel) would be arriving by noon. We had a long way to go. As it happened, traffic was light and Laurel got here a bit earlier than she had planned. She looked around and asked, “When are people getting here?” and I said, “In 2-3 hours” and she said something like, “oh” in a way that made me realize immediately that we were in trouble.

And, graciously, she picked up the vacuum cleaner and did the entire main floor while Michael ran out to get the (second) Turkey and other groceries, and while I ran from floor to foor, gathering things that needed to be shelved, boxed, washed, or otherwise disposed of.

Bob and Sara and family were due in sometime later that afternoon — but they called us around 11:00 am to say they were only an hour away! They had driven all night and made good time.

By the time Sara, Bob, Adam and Drew arrived, the house was looking good, and we were all ready for a break. Bob broke out the crab dip, we put chips and other snacks on the table, and we happily talked and munched the afternoon away. Did I mention that, while everything else was going on, Michael took the time to start a batch of spaghetti sauce (“Nonni sauce”) so that we could have a big pasta feast for dinner that night? All through the afternoon, we could smell that wonderful sauce bubbling away. Laurel and I, too, had been busy preparing some of the Thanksgiving foods, so the whole house was smelling good already.

At 2:45, we all bundled into the big van and went to pick Hyla up from school. Big grins all around when the whole family marched into her little school and got to meet her teachers and get a tour of the place.

Around 6:30, a contingent went to White River Junction to meet Anne & Nick’s train. By 7:30, the whole crowd was back at home, ready to tuck into that spaghetti meal (with salad and bread on the side). Michael, Anne, and Sara analyzed the sauce – was it authentic? Everyone agreed that it might be about as close as they were going to get. From my point of view, it was just delicious on its own, whether or not it was the same as the original sauce.

Much talk and laughter and snacking until late into the night, when we all tumbled into our various beds and inflatable mattresses. We still had the big event the next day.

On Thursday morning, I woke up early. 4:30. I was so excited by things, I just couldn’t sleep. But I did stay in bed and just think and let my mind wander until 7:00, when I couldn’t lie still anymore. Up to the kitchen, made coffee and put breakfast things out and the day began.

I can’t begin to describe in detail the whirlwind of that morning — people rising when it felt right to them, breakfasts being made by all, folks cooking this and that (turkey in the oven on time!), putting the tables (two) in the ell living room, setting the table, a last-minute run to Dan & Whits for sugar — and all the while, conversations, laughter, quick breaks for a walk outside. It was all exactly the atmosphere you’d want: plenty to do, but enough time to do it, all the things you needed to do it, and so many willing hands and happy smiles, it was all a pleasure.

At some point (noonish), a small party of men, plus one little girl, made their way up Cream Street to Carole & Jimmy’s house, where they have a large TV plus a satellite dish. Some people needed their football fix. That gave the rest of us a quiet couple of hours to devote to details like putting candles on the tables and cleaning up the kitchen mess.

By 2:00, everyone was here – the football fans, Carole & Jimmy, and a family of four from Tokyo who were joining us for the afternoon courtesy of a program at Dartmouth’s Tuck (business) school where they pair students and families who have no where to go for the holiday with local families. Carole (who works at the Tuck school) had asked us if we were willing to have a student or two and we readily agreed. Tadashi, his wife, Kuniko, and their two children, Sawako (5) and Ryu (3) were a perfect addition to the group. Enthusiastic, helpful, friendly, and interesting to talk to.

Somehow, between brining the turkey and cooking it in a convection oven, the 18-pound bird was done in record time. The meal was ready by 3:00 pm and we all sat down to give thanks (thank you, Nick) and then eat. The rest of the afternoon was a blur except for a few things that really stood out:

  • Tadashi, a champion of Japanese archery, brought along his bow and some arrows and gave us a demonstration in our back yard. He hit the target we set up for him (a split log standing on end) and the tip of the arrow was lodged in the log. We gave him the log to take home as a souvenier.
  • A group of us took a walk down to the river just as it was getting dark, to feel less full and to get some air.
  • Sawako helped me make an apple pie for dessert and it turned out that she is an excellent little baker.
  • Sara and Bob washed and dried just about every single dirty dish (and we probably used just about every dish in the house).
  • After Tadashi’s family and Carole & Jimmy left, the rest of us stayed up until about 1:00 am, talking, laughing, snacking on this and that, watching movies, listening to music, did I mention laughing?

The next morning, the house was clean and Bob treated us all to breakfast cooked on the griddle. By noon, Laurel had left to return to Boston, and Sara and Bob were also on the road, on the way to Niagara.

We had a quiet, lazy afternoon and a wonderfully lazy evening with Anne & Nick. For dinner, we had our favorite Thanksgiving leftovers: turkey and the side dishes served with warmed corn tortillas (tortillas courtesy of Laurel, who braved a trip to East Boston to get us the good ones!). We watched movies and talked and all of us decompressed from a busy couple of days.

The next morning, we waved goodbye to Anne & Nick as their trained pulled out of the station.

And then we collapsed.

I don’t think I can remember a better Thanksgiving than that. In some ways, it seemed to go so quickly, but when I think about all we did, all the conversations and meals and people… well, I guess it was just right. And it wouldn’t have been that way without the help of every single person who came, brought treats and gifts, cooked, ate, told stories, cleaned up, played games, sang songs, set tables, cuddled kittens, ran errands, napped in overstuffed chairs, brought extra chairs, fetched cold drinks, took pictures*, and travelled long distances to share a couple of evenings with us.

Thank you all.

* Carole and Tadashi’s family both took pictures Thursday afternoon and evening. I’ll post some as soon as I got copies.

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