The Thanksgiving Cruise
“I don’t think I’m going to have Thanksgiving at the house this year… It’s just gotten to be too much work.” I took the phone down away from my ear and looked at it suspiciously. My mother, on the other end of the phone was apparently offering to surrender the family tradition of Thanksgiving Dinner to someone else. Thanksgiving at my parent’s house has evolved with our family. Through the years this holiday has ticked off the changes in all our lives. My sister and brother and I had become adults, of a sort, adding spouses, kids and grandkids of our own to the list. And although the circumstances of our lives have changed along with our cast of characters, once a year we still sit down together and marvel at each others well entrenched quirks while Mom provides us with the same delicious dinner, the same sides, the same way, year after year at the same house.
“Are you sure Mom?” I asked. She sighed. “Yes… I think so.” I thought for a moment… just not long enough of a moment, and then suggested “Hey… how about we all go on a Thanksgiving cruise!” Long story short, the entire extended family was soon booked on a 5-day cruise to Mexico or somewhere… I don’t know. (As it turns out, that part wasn’t important… what was important is that it was my fault.)
Months later, there we were aboard ship. And at our appointed time, all thirteen of us met in the main dinning area at our carefully pre-assigned table for ten. For a long moment, we just sat there, elbow to elbow, awkwardly squirming in our formal wear and looking at each other. Then “it” began. I picked up a small cup of whipped butter, smelled it and made a face. My very proper and polite sister, Julie was predictably concerned. “What’s wrong?” she said sweetly. (Excellent!) I smelled it again… then held it out to her. “Does this smell alright to you?” Julie, with her perfect little pointy nose, bent over to take a whiff. As soon as she did, I shoved the cup straight up…cramming butter in her nostrils. “ARGGGH!” She yelled as she searched frantically for the napkin that I had hidden from her. The kids and I all laughed hysterically as Lori calmly handed Julie a napkin and looked at me with that “really?” look.
My mother though, was busy checking out the arrangements. She looked back and forth a little nervously and for a moment I thought she was going to go back into the kitchen and take charge. “Are you all right mom?” I asked. “Oh… (she paused)…yeah.” It hadn’t occurred to me, but this was probably the first Thanksgiving in about 45 years that she was sitting instead of cooking. She was obviously feeling a little out of place.
But then, without missing a beat, my brother Tim came to the rescue. He finished off his fourth piece of bread and then explained in detail how he had made the origami towel creation that the cabin attendant had left on his bed… anatomically correct. Tim chuckled as he watched everyone around the table react to his famous brand of “shock and ugghh…” humor. “As usual my mom just giggled and said “Oh Timmy!” I could tell that we were almost in full Thanksgiving mode. Then my Dad called the waiter over. “Buddy!” (His name wasn’t Buddy) “Yes Messier?” the very French waiter replied. Dad proudly looked around the table at the family that he had created and provided for…his living legacy. Arms outstretched, he proudly ordered… “Bring us a bottle of your cheapest wine!” Thanksgiving was here at last.
On the way out of the restaurant that night, my Dad and mom hugged us all and as we were heading off to our rooms my Dad took me by the arm and pulled me close. “The turkey wasn’t as good as your moms. Next year… our house!” My Dad loved Thanksgiving Dinner, but he loved it “Mom’s way.” And that was that.
Our lives have continued to change since that Thanksgiving Cruise. My Dad has passed on and we’ve all taken on different jobs and different responsibilities in our lives. But at my mom’s house this year… she will work all day cooking, my brother will tell stories and jokes to his nephews and niece; my sister will dutifully help mom with the dinner and I will try to get her to fall for the butter in the nose trick again. And as laughter fills the house we will sit down together and remember Dad’s Thanksgiving Blessing…”For what we are about to receive may we truly be thankful… Pick up and eat!”