As far back as I can remember Thanksgiving Day was always filled with family. Ours alternated being celebrated either at home or at my Aunt E and Uncle N's house. Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, in-laws, greats, cousins. Always a house full making the occasion special for me as an only child. Thanksgiving was celebrated as this one large family until we moved to Florida. There new traditions began. Pulling from the warm memories of Thanksgivings in New England, we alternated our gathering with a different aunt and uncle. No longer a large group, yet still family that grew to include new members over the years.
We have been back to New England for just over five years. A lot has changed since we left. Our extended family has grown to include more in-laws and children and grand children. The traditions have changed and we seem to travel further apart for our celebrations. We have started new traditions.
In five+ years encompassing six Thanksgivings we have shared our meal with two friends twice, had the joy of our traditional family with us, traveled to a restaurant, had a quiet meal with just mom, dad, Amanda, and me, and this year tried dining out once again.
This year was our smallest Thanksgiving as my dad died this past summer. Beyond needing a change, it just didn't seem worth the effort to prepare a large meal for only the three of us. Amanda was disappointed with the idea of eating out. Truth is, so was I.
As we drove to the restaurant our Thanksgiving Day was enclosed in fog. The quick change from cold night time temperatures to a day promising unseasonable warmth had shocked the air. But by the time we reached our destination a half hours drive from home, the sun was out and the sky was bright blue. Things were improving.
The first hint of a memorable day occurred when I pulled in to the parking lot. It was a one way drive that I could not negotiate because of the large sedan coming towards me the wrong way. This forced me to head the wrong way around as well, irritating a small number of drivers I'm sure. As quickly as feasible I found a parking space in the large but overcrowded parking lot and we headed for the door. We had reservations for 1:30 p.m. and had arrived 10 minutes early. The waiting area was crammed with hungry patrons and Amanda and I stood against a wall while my mother gave our name to the reservation desk. Off to one side a lady and her friend were waiting with take out meals. They were in the path of the waitstaff and wouldn't budge. The reservationist turned and very politely asked that they move towards the front of the desk so that they weren't in the way of traffic flow. The "take-out lady" replied that she had change due from her payment and she was NOT going to move until she got it. Those of us lined up and close by rolled our eyes as she finally departed, bags and change in hand and friend in tow. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!
Quite remarkably on time, we were seated. We checked the Thanksgiving menu to find that the Traditional Turkey dinner included: choice of one - tomato juice, fruit salad, or turkey soup as an appetizer. The dinner included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, yams, peas, creamed pearl onions, and gravy. Dessert was a choice of pumpkin pie, mince meat pie, apple pie, or ice cream. Now, this sounds marvelous doesn't it? Except to me. Of the above, I don't especially like fruit salad or turkey soup so I chose the tomato juice. I don't like squash, yams, creamed onions or gravy. Never mince meat either. So for $19.99 I dined on a small glass of tomato juice, two small slices of turkey, a spoonful of stuffing, a blob of mashed potatoes and I'd guess a couple dozen peas (all of which were mixing on the plate with the squash and creamed onions at an alarming rate). Pumpkin pie for dessert. I also ordered a cup of coffee with my pie.
The meal was eaten quickly. The downside of eating a major holiday meal out and about...there's nothing relaxing about it. The waiter was good but was racing around so much we were astounded. Before we knew it our bill had arrived. Talk about sticker shock when I read it! Over $71.00 for three! Hmmmm...$19.99 X 3 = $59.97 doesn't it? Oh, seems beverages were not included in the price so add in 2 coffees, 1 tea, and a soda. Then there's meal tax. And don't forget the tip! We left $84.00 poorer. Forget it for next year. Maybe a buffet?
We exited through swarms of customers. The restaurant had taken reservations up until 7 p.m. Back to the van for the drive home. Since the day had warmed up so beautifully and the sun was shining in the blue sky, I decided to take a longer scenic drive home. We left the highway and headed towards the coast and Rte. 127. There was not much traffic on the road and it made for a pleasant drive. About 5 minutes after leaving the highway, Amanda announced the need for a restroom. Seems the coffee had, well, gotten to her. Even on the best of non-holiday days, it is hard to find public restrooms on the side roads of New England. Fortunately my mother's van totes a chemical port-a-potty! But where to find a bit of privacy? I took a short detour to a church parking lot and found a secluded back corner. We just had to hope that there were no police patrols! Then onward to arrive home just before sunset.
Fast forward one week later....yesterday I had to head off the island on a job. As I rounded Grant Circle, traffic had slowed to a near stop. A large group of twenty or so wild turkeys were trying to cross the two lanes of rotary traffic. I'm convinced that I saw one thumbing his nose (would that be winging his beak?) at me as I passed.