I am back from our annual Thanksgiving sojourn. My extended family meets at a big house at Lutheridge, a church camp in the mountains near Asheville, NC. It's not resort living, but we can cook, and it's a huge place with lots of room for rambunctious children. The house hasn't been updated since--oh, probably ever--so we don't have to worry about protecting the house from the humans. In fact, we often make some improvements while we're there. There are plenty of walking routes and playgrounds and it's relatively safe, in terms of traffic and predators. We've met there since 1994, either at Christmas or Thanksgiving, but mostly Thanksgiving. We've gained new family members: spouses and 7 children. We've lost family members: we first started going there because my grandmother would go to Lutheridge when she refused to go anywhere else. She died a few years ago, and happily, we still commit to going.
Going back to that camp feels like going home in so many ways. This year was no different. But as with many years, traditions change. Some thoughts on the holiday time:
--We've been going there for several decades. Until recently, it never snowed. Now, it seems to snow on a regular basis--unless it's unseasonably warm. This year, on Thanksgiving, snow swirled through the air. It never accumulated, but it was pretty. Last year and this year both, we drove through the approaching cold front, but this year, we didn't have the torrential rain. I much prefer a 12 hour drive under cloudy skies than the sunny skies we had yesterday.
--As we drove, we often scanned the radio dial. Yesterday I heard more Duran Duran songs in one day than I ever did in the 80's. More than once I wondered if I had fallen through a hole in time. I heard Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" several times. When it first came out, I saw it as the quintessential song about young married folks struggling against great odds. It still feels like an oddly relevant song, as we all struggle against great odds in this world that has restructured itself climatically and geopolitically.
--My extended family has a wide variety of political beliefs, but we manage to be civil for several days. I often wonder why other political collectives can't manage a similar feat. Maybe the Congress should be forced to cook Thanksgiving dinner on a regular basis--then they'd remember that we're all humans.
--And if they did cook together, they'd probably realize there's a wide diversity of opinion, and not every question has to be a zero-sum game. Can't agree on the cranberry relish? Serve every option!
--In the past, we've gone to the local high school track to run and play. But last year the field was locked tight. They've done a lot of upgrades, and from a liability standpoint alone, I understand, but we needed a new place for the runners to log their miles. So we discovered Fletcher Community Park. Wow. What a great place, with vast fields and long trails and Cane Creek.
--We played several soccer games. Our littlest athlete, who is 3, doesn't understand yet that tackling is not part of every sport. So we played and tried to keep him running instead of tackling. For the most part, it worked.
--If you had seen us, you might have thought we were playing rugby. We had a split lip and a bloody nose, and I expect that many of us have returned home with bruised shins. But it was great fun.
--It is interesting to watch the older children begin to train the younger children. I didn't read as many books out loud this year because some of the older children took that role.
--We rarely do much Black Friday shopping, but we have usually gone to the Frugal Backpacker to find really good deals some years. This year we trooped down there, but they had moved. When they were a half mile away, it was one thing to brave the "crowds." But their new location was much too close to the mall and clear across the county. No thanks--but we felt a pang of sadness at the end of this tradition.
--I got up the mountain to realize I'd left half of my cosmetics at home--so off we went to get toothbrush, eyelid wipes, and the like. My nephew really loved the singing toothbrushes. I got the Queen "We Will Rock You" toothbrush, and he got the one with the KISS song about wanting to rock and roll all night. But then he wanted to trade. I'm an old Queen fan, so I said yes--got to train the next generation!
--We also got supplies for a tea party. My mom wisely encouraged me to get animal crackers to go along with the more traditional shortbreads and ginger snaps. We had a lovely tea party, two of them, in fact--this year, I brought a tea pot. Fun!
--We went to get more apples--the last of this year's season. We got Pink Ladies--which used to be one of my grandmother's favorites.
--We had several apples sitting on a table. The youngest child took a bite out of each one. We were reminded of my grandmother's old refrigerator, which was in the garage. It was the overflow space, where she kept extra produce and pantry items. One year, our youngest cousin took a bite out of each apple in that fridge.
--In past years, we'd have been spending Thanksgiving Sunday with our friends in Jacksonville before coming the rest of the way home on Monday. This year, for a variety of reasons, we came all the way home on Saturday.
--We have returned home without illness, so far, knock wood. Some years, we've come back with intestinal distress, and more than once, pink eye. This year, so far, we're fine.
--Now to get ready for the upcoming week. I have returned home with a variety of tabletop trees for decorating. As usual, I'm feeling a bit astonished by how quickly this holiday has zoomed past. I can't believe how quickly the Thanksgiving holiday zoomed by. While I also love the Christmas season, I begin to feel increasingly sad--the October to December time period holds the best holidays, if you want my honest opinion. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas: what could be better? I love the decorations, the food, the music. Can you say the same thing about the Valentine's Day-Easter-Memorial Day corridor? I can't.
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