Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving Day



Always a special time for our family, I would have to rate Thanksgiving as one of my favorite holidays. Some people dread spending time with their families, but not me. It's an opportunity for us all to get together to give thanks as a family, something we neglect to do much of the rest of the year.

Usually in September, we begin coordinating our efforts, answering all the important questions:
  • Where are we going to gather?
  • Who is bringing what?
  • When are we doing the big feast?
  • Who all plans on being there?

This year is the first year that Brother was no longer living in Lubbock, so we decided waaay back in July that we'd be spending the big day in Austin. So let the planning begin!

In September, I sent out an SOS on Craigslist in search of a house in Austin for us to rent. We wanted a place where we could all stay, with a kitchen so we could cook. That ruled out extended stay hotels, simply because a suite wouldn't be large enough to Lucky for us, I found an amazing new friend, Laura from Argentina, who agreed to "rent" her house out to us. She's a newlywed, studying for her Ph.D at UT. Over the next few months, we chatted via email and I gained a feel of her personality. She was kind enough to send us photos of her house and it was a good agreement. They don't normally rent out their house (I think we were the first), but the arrangement was perfect because they were headed out to West Texas to celebrate Thanksgiving with her in-laws. I figured, 'eh, why not? When I ran the idea across to my father, he went along with it. Yeah, I guess I could see why it could be seen as "creepy" that we were sleeping in a stranger's house, but I didn't think of it that way. I was being selfish because I wanted to sleep in the same house as my family, just like it was when we were younger. It didn't matter the place, just so long as we were all together. Laura and I worked up a paying agreement and all we had to do was wait.

Wednesday night, we were all together! We'd snuggled in to the cozy house, gathered around the television, watching Mari do her best impression of a little borracho. We all giggled watching her persistence in getting up, taking a few steps, teetering to the side, then falling, doing it all over again. By the end of the night, she finally had the hang of it, darting around the room, from couch to couch. I was so glad that we brought along her tiny shopping cart. She was having a blast zipping around the hardwoods with her walker. That night, I passed out pretty hard and when my alarm went off at 6:45, I knew it would be a long day.

My sister had sprung up and we were both pretty darn groggy. As I stared off into the dim light of the mini blinds in the room, I happily gazed at the shadowy figures sleeping next to me. And then, wouldn't you know it, little bean stands up like an alert muskrat, moving her head around. I just chuckled and got up. Don did his best to hold her, but after I was dressed, I took her into the living room and my folks happily kept an eye on her while we made our run to Luby's in South Austin. We were there at 7:02, record time and I was happy that Austin wasn't as big and congested as Dallas could be. We lingered around for a bit and then Brother came bounding towards us, enveloping us in his giant bear hug. He was mighty chipper. (Melissa later told us that he'd had a Red Bull or two by that point.) I was happy to see him in his element. He disappeared again for a few moments, then emerged with this HUGE box, with the Luby's logo emblazoned on the side. Two mac and cheeses, 2 dozen rolls, a turkey breast, a spiraled ham, 2 stuffings, cranberry sauce, gravy, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and 3 pies. Holy cow! He loaded up Lucky and we headed back to the house. On our way there, Brother called to let me know that he forgot to give me the reheating instructions. I told him not to worry about it since Mom would know. After all, she worked in food service for a few years, so she would know what to do. We had to make a quick stop at Fiesta for some last minute goodies and to pick up a paper for the Black Friday sales!

We pulled in and I couldn't get over the fact that we felt like we were camping. The house layout was very similar to some of the cabins we'd stayed in. Also, the outside had wooden slats that gave it a more cabin-y feel. The inside was cozy, hardwoods throughout, several pieces of artwork adorned the walls, the 3 beds were super plush, but because it was an older house, there weren't built-in closets in the rooms. There wasn't a pantry either. Everything was delicately placed on shelves, each thing had its place. She had pictures everwhere. Smiling faces of strangers, I felt like a wandering ghost. I knew that if I met Laura on the street, she and I would be great friends and I hope we continue our correspondence!

Anyway, we unloaded the food and completely unfolded ourselves onto the sofas. Sam thumbed through the ads and handed me the Office Max ad when she was done browsing the pages. I don't know what it is with me and Office Max. I seem to find the best deals for me, for things I never knew I wanted. They had a 1 TB external hard drive on sale for $169. It was a younger sibling to our existing hard drive, that we totally loved, and Don and I decided that if they had any left, we'd pick one up so that our current "Seabiscuit" (as named by Mikey-Mo) would be the ultimate back-up to be stored away in the as-yet acquired fireproof safe. They also had office chairs on sale, which was a big bonus. Don's been needing an office chair for nearly 2 years now. This one, literally on its last legs: if you don't sit in it properly, the arm would fall off, causing the back to collapse to side, pretty much guaranteeing that you'd fall out of the chair as well. They had some other items that I can't mention because they'll be Christmas gifts for some of my readers and I don't want to ruin the surprise for them. Unfortunately, we couldn't figure out what time they opened on Friday, even after calling the numbers and searching online. The best we could determine was that it was business as usual for them, with no extended hours. Hooray! No need to wake up ridiculously early. With that, my belly grumbled and I knew I needed breakfast.

I pestered Daddy until he put on his shoes and we headed on over to TC, Taco Cabana, for some breakfast tacos! Mmmm...I remembered the barbacoa taco I'd had the night before (Dad goes gangbusters for TC and they don't have 'em in Lubbock any more, so we eat there everytime we are together.) We traveled up MLK to get there, passing the UT baseball field and Memorial Stadium, where the big football rivalry game would be played in a few short hours. Already, the fans were convening in small tailgating clumps, burnt orange flags waving in the wind. We loaded up on breakfast and headed back. All of the food was laid out, and everyone happily munched away at our treat. I was exhausted, so I settled in bed to take a brief nap. Well, nearly two hours later, I awoke and flew into the kitchen to begin prepping the feast. I unpacked everything from the big Luby's box and stared at the contents. I ran over to the other bedroom and found mom lounging, while reading a book. I hated to interrupt her, but we had less than two hours to prep everything! I asked for her help and she darted up (well, darted up for her, anyway) and made her way to the dining room. I'd already set up a chair for her to command. I'd already had my eggs boiling on the pot, using the new technique I'd read about on Honeyed Hashette. Unfortunately for me, I don't follow directions very well, so my deviled eggs didn't quite turn out how I wanted. Anyway, I directed everyone to open all of the windows and turn on the fans because it was about to get HOT in the house. I fired up the oven, and the burners on the stove. Eggs were boiling, gravy was bubbling, sweet potatoes were boiling, and all of the sides were warming in the oven. I even ran the microwave! Don set up our roaster and put in the turkey breast, as well as the full turkey that mom had made two nights before. The house smelled HEAVENLY!!

By 2:30, the food was prepped and just in time, because my aunt and cousins arrived with their families. Even though they'd already eaten, they'd brought food for us to share. Per my request, there was some spanish rice and broccoli cheese rice casserole! YUM! What Mexican Thanksgiving is complete without arroz and tamales??

We all gathered in the living room in a circle, holding hands, each of us proclaiming our gratitude for the many gifts we've received. Melissa hadn't arrived yet, so we phone conferenced her in. The battery on my phone was about out of juice, and so it was doing this annoying beep noise, but we were still able to hear Melissa's Thanksgiving prayer. After every said what they were thankful for, we closed with The Lord's Prayer. I said bye to Melissa and it was about that time when Brother sent his thankful prayer via text! Ahhh...how I love technology! :D Even though he had to work on Thanksgiving day, he was still there with us! We dove into the feast and an hour later, we were food drunk and high on tryptophan! Even Mari got in on the action, eating turkey, spanish rice, and mashed sweet potato. She was lovin' it!

Again, we surrounded the small television like sleepy vultures, watching and listening to the Cowboy game, as the kids ran around outside playing with the dogs and chasing one another. We'd all pitched in some money for the football pot and Mari won a dollar for her square and Tia Vicki won $20! My nephew Cristian won $6, one of which he shared with his sister. (On Black Friday when I was up early and his mom was still out, he asked if he could go with me to Target because he saw an ad for something on his wish list that cost less than $5 and that would be one less thing that either Santa or his parents had to get him for Christmas.) The family started to leave and I wanted pumpkin pie. We must've had like 6 different kinds of pie, none of which were pumpkin! Now how in the world did that happen? I sent Brother a text asking him if we could come for a visit and maybe eat some pie. He readily responded, "Sure!" Off we headed to Luby's, me, Don, my sister, and Melissa, while my folks stayed at home to watch the kids. Little did they know that we were bringing them a special delivery, and it wasn't pumpkin pie. It was Brother!!! He was able to get off an hour early, so he happily came over to celebrate the rest of Thanksgiving with us.

And there we all were, hanging around in the living room, while we were watching some random thing on TV. Several of us were lazing around on the floor, others squeezed in tight on the couches, and a few were sitting in the dining room chairs that we'd brought in from the kitchen. We were chatting and celebrating and when it came time for us to leave, I insisted that we grab a photo of all of us to remember the day. I balanced the camera onto the television and we all squeezed in tight. I set the timer and jumped in on the picture. So here's my family, all together! Guapo included!

It's so nice to be around family again! How was your Thanksgiving?

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