Have you ever had one of those Holidays that has gone down in your families history as being more than memorable? A slice of the past that is regurgitated again and again, because it was so gol darn extraordinary, but when it’s talked about you feel the need for a bottle of Tums. It’s etched in your cranium….kinda like a song that’s a wee bit off key in your noggin, that you keep singing over and over again. The writing of this holiday story has been in the works for awhile, the enormity of information that was involved in telling it properly seemed a bit daunting for a blog post. It is actually book worthy if truth be told. Instead of pursuing my book writing dreams, I decided to give it a go on you first….
So….usually when I tell this story, my sister is present, we feed off each other in story telling moments, and sometimes when we tell this story things get out of hand….and we end up on the floor in a heap, wiping snot from our faces with the backs of our hands and gasping for air, and me yelling I gotta peee…..I’m gonna pee myself….because this Thanksgiving was so gol’darn horrible, it’s HILARIOUS!
A few years back, my brother in law was getting his Masters degree from Wayne State. So he and my sister moved to downtown Detroit. They lived on the corner of Woodward and Charlotte. You could see Tigers Stadium from the windows of their apartment. If you are familiar with Detroit at all, if you have ever ventured to the epi-center of the Motor City…..you will know that this area is a less than desirable place to live. They chose to live in this area for a few reasons:
1. It was a bike ride away from the University.
2. They wanted to be part of the whole revival of downtown Detroit movement.
3. The old buildings that are being renovated, and turned into lofts, are super cool.
4. They are young, in love, with out any children, and you do crazy nutso stuff like live in the middle of hell when you are young and in love with out children!
5. The Americas Thanksgiving Day Parade, went right by their window, you could look right down on it….it’s the second biggest Thanksgiving Day parade, you know, and it’s televised, so that’s more than enough reason to put your self in harms way everyday for three years.
So while they lived there we decided it would be fun to drive to Detroit and stay in their smallish apartment, cook our ginormous Thanksgiving meal in a 1 square foot kitchen, and view the parade from their windows, or if we chose we could go down to the street and watch it too. Did I mention my brother-n-laws whole extended family lives in the Detroit area? So they also came, just for the parade festivities. That calculates to eight cousins, God love um, their kids, plus Aunts and Uncles and various others. Did I say their apartment was approximately 700 square feet? People started arriving around 8:30am with coolers, and baked goods, while at the same time, my sister and I, were starting to cook dinner. Because that’s what you do on Thanksgiving day right? You start cooking at 6 am, in your jammies with a giant cup-A-jo.
Stop me if I already said that we brought my father with us. A few bits of information about my father. He is a simple man, I mean that in a loving noncondescending way. He worked hard his whole life, 35 plus years at a factory in the town we were reared in. He doesn’t care too much for big cities or traveling outside of the town he lives near. When he drives the 15 miles to our house in Grandville, he stays over night. So now maybe you have an idea that traveling with me and my four kiddos to Detroit, 3 hours away, to my sisters apartment in the epi-center of crime and prostitution for Thanksgiving dinner with my brother-n-laws family was quite a monumental outing for my father. (phew! long run on sentence…)
Since my husband is in the medical profession, he works many a Holiday. People unfortunately do not refrain from showing up in the Emergency Room on major Holidays, or minor ones for that matter. So this particular Thanksgiving weekend I drove to Detroit with my four children, my hodophobic father, lots of food, and kitchen apparatus packed into our gray Chevy Suburban, without my husband. Who now as I look back on it, seemed none too sad as he waved good-bye to us that Wednesday afternoon. In fact I think I saw the father of my children heel click in my rear view mirror as I looked back, hoping to see a man with shoulders schlumped forward walking towards the door.
It was a particularly cold November, we actually drove to Detroit in a blizzard that Wednesday. Arriving to a warm pot of chicken chili, which my sister makes so well, and her in-laws. So in all we had 10 people and all their junk and enough food for the next 3 months packed into a very lovely flat 6 stories up over looking Gomorrah…or I mean Detroit. We were going to stay three nights. Because the High School Football State Championship games, just happened to take place during this weekend, which are played at the Ford Field House (that’s where the Lions play if you have ever heard of them….you know that NFL team they wear light blue and silver….I know I know they are actually winning a few this season. Praise God!). Well, it just so happened that my High School Alma Mater, was playing in the State finals. We needed to stay an extra day we couldn’t miss that, could we?
Because the kitchen was of a challenging size we had gotten creative and decided to use a turkey fryer to cook our turkey out in the parking lot, that was surrounded by 15 foot fences, topped with coils of barbed wire, in the back of the building. Also because of space limitations in the apartment we had left the turkey fryer in the car the night we had arrived. Although at the time I remember thinking do I dare leave anything in the truck….what if someone breaks in and steals the fryer what will we cook our turkey in…..
Are you wondering at this point what kind of a mother I am to take my children to a place as fore described on Thanksgiving? I am quite adventurous….and I don’t like to bring my children up in fear. I want them to be smart about their surroundings, not to be afraid to leave and explore new places. I want them to learn to explore the world in a safe way. What better learning opportunity than to take them to a city with one of the highest crime rates in the US to celebrate and give Thanks for our freedoms to do just that, and that we did. (I did backpack all over Europe as a 19 year old…so I possibly might have a higher tolerance for traveling situations than most…..ie my father.)
The America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with the Crew
When you are staying in a smallish space with your sisters in-laws, your four rambunctious children, and your paranoid father, peoples idiosyncrasies seem to be magnified. You know what I’m sayin‘? Like that fact that my brother-n-law’s mother naps alot, and she hogs all the good couch blankets, while napping. Did I say she snores and charkles like a lumberjack while she naps. (Charkling is a gagging, noise made when you realize you have fallen asleep in the midst of others and you jump forward, snort and make a “cha‘ noise, but then you really never wake up you just repeat the process.) And then there was the problem of my father being extremely paranoid that we were going to run out of toilet paper. So much so that I nearly stuffed a roll down his throat by the end of Thanksgiving Day, but am very glad that I did not, because in fact his fears were justified when we did run out of toilet paper just in time for him to have intestinal issues. And that is all I am going to say about that!
So the first night of our visit to Detroit was relatively normal. Outside of the fact that Uncle Skeeter rented an inappropriate movie for my then ages 5-10 year old children. You gotta be careful of those old rated PG movies, the naughty stuff can sneak up on you! My sister and her husband are fast though…they were up off the couch in a flash jumping around in front of the TV I don’t think my kiddos even knew what their eyes and ears had experienced. Then there was the little circumstance of Great Grandmas refusing to sleep in the bed they had for her. She was about 106 years old and she insisted on sleeping on the couch. As did my oldest son. Couch sleeping is cool, and it was a sectional so that made it really rad. My 10 year old and Grams slept toe toe on the couch. Which is not that horrible, but it was kinda funny when I got up the next morning to find them sitting side by side on the sectional with big ol bed head looking like well….you can only imagine…I probably was very appropriate for us to giggle at them, and my son totally didn’t get it, but well yeh it looked like they had just had quite a roll in hay together. Unfortunately, I was lacking the forethoutht to take a picture.
So we all took turns in the tiny bathroom getting primped for our day, as the never ending stream of in-laws arrived. Bearing gifts of potato pancakes, donuts, and flasks full of alcoholic substances to keep them warm from the 20 below weather. Everyone had packed on the warm cloths. Big thick down jackets, hats, scarves, mittens, boots. Did I mention that we were in a tiny loft apartment? And that ovens and crock pots where already going full steam ahead. It was getting hot. So people starting taking off their stuff and hanging it on the very stylish coat wrack that was fashioned to the wall just inside the door. While we all stood inside and watched as the Turkey Trotters ran by for the annual 10k, a very loud cracking, ripping noise took place followed by a soft thud. That stylish coat wrack apparently wasn’t made to take the weight of 75 peoples winter garb. It tore an enormous hole in the wall. And so The Day began.
Because it was colder than a well diggers auger outside, my kids didn’t really want to be outside on the street watching the parade when they could be inside watching it on TV or just look out the window. While they ran sprints across my sisters sectional couch, and ate all sorts of stuff, God knows what, I kept busy helping my sister cook Thanksgiving Dinner. As long as there was no glass shattering I was good with that.
As the parade ended and everyone re-entered the apartment. Opened up their coolers and stayed awhile. This was cool. We had been busy and had things in order for our 3 o’clock meal time, we could sit back relax and take a load off, pretty much all that had to be done was to fry the turkey and that would be done as I said in the parking lot, quickly. Frying a turkey is lightening speed, compared to the traditional roasted version. So after we had lounged and nibbled and drank our holiday grog played a few games, watched some football and most of Skeeters Aunts, Uncles and cousins and children had cleared out to go home to the suburbs to eat their Thanksgiving meal. We decided around 2 o’clock that it was time to unpack the turkey fryer and get Tom a cookin’.
I had left the fryer in the truck where my husband had packed it up for me. I had covered the box with a blanket, so that no one would be tempted to smash my windows in for my turkey fryer.
Uncle Skeeter was in charge of the turkey, he went down to set up the frying station. Returning 10 minutes later with a look of panic on his face. “Um-ah Sheila? Did you bring the burner attachment to the fryer up to the apartment?” pleading look in his eyes saying please please say you did. “NO!” I screamed immediately freaking out. The kids jumping from room to room was wearing on my nerves. “Dad did you bring the burner to the turkey fryer up?”, my dad was clueless. Me, staring deeply freakishly into my brother-n-laws eyes “Are you sure it’s not there…” Skeeter staring or should I say scaring back at me, his body posture tense, “I’m positive.” I with lightening precision dial my husband at home, knowing he was working the late shift and that he was very likely sitting in his long undies watching football in the peace and tranquility of our home.
“KEN!”, I scream trying to stay composed, but nothing about my behavior was composed at all.
“Sheil? what’s wrong?” my undie clad football watchin’ husband asks.
“For the love of all humanity tell me, please tell me, that you found some strange unusual place to hide the burner to the turkey fryer in our Suburban….please say you packed it, pleeeesehehehehsA.”
Silence…….swishy swashy, sniff, throat clear…this is the sound of my husband on the other end of the phone rushing down the hallway toward our storage room to see if the as fore mentioned missing object was indeed in the storage room and not in DETROIT where it desperately needed to be.
“oh..um..I am so sorry…I forgot to put it in the truck for you, can you fry the turkey with out it?
“NO YOU NUMBSKULL, it’s 50 freaking below here and our frying oil has turned solid and with out a heating element we cannot get a flame underneath our oil to fry our Thanksgiving BIRD!” I scream, while my bottom lip starts to tremble violently. ”And not one other person in this God Forsaken place has a gas burner for a turkey fryer!!!”
So by this time it’s nearly 3, our designated eating hour. Most of the other sides are all done and waiting for Mr. Turkey to arrive at the table. My kids are going berserk from eating too much junk, they need some tryptophan to send them into a sleep coma and they need it soon. Things turn severely grim, when my sister declares she doesn’t even have a pan big enough to cook the turkey in.
Then my brother-n-law and his father kick it into high gear, and go running out the door to buy a turkey roaster at 3pm on Thanksgiving day in the heart of the Hood. You guessed it there was nary a roaster to be found….they did acquiesce a large tin pan and we made it work with lots of tin foil. We jacked the oven temp up and got that turkey a roastin’.
Now I know you are thinking, ”Why not just eat all the sides and forgo the Turkey?”. It never really crossed or minds….but now I wonder the same thing!
Did I mention that we also had a classmate of my brother-n-laws with us for the day? Amber. She was from out of town and was unable to go back home to California for Thanksgiving. So lucky for her! Amber got to spend Thanksgiving with our less than reserved family. She was so sweet. My sister and I often break into snorts of laughter when we think of what a bunch of goons we must have appeared to be that day. Mother-n-law charkling, Great Grandma deaf as a door nail and as stubborn as nails, my father nervous pacing back and forth across the 10 foot expanse of the apartment, me willy-nilly mom of four wild indians who really needed to run a marathon. People in and out, dinner gone awry. She was a trouper she never let on to the fact that she thought we all were a bunch of kooks.
Because they were bored and the only appropriate game that could be played with the span of ages was spoons, we decided to play 1000 games of spoons or until the turkey was done which ever came first I think it was a tie. By the time we finally got our Thanksgiving meal on the table, it was dark outside, I was exhausted, and not even hungry. I think is was the first and last time in the history of me that I did not want to eat, but I did anyway, of course. I was so tired that I didn’t even want to fight with my kiddos about what they should put on their plates, I had let them eat what ever they pretty much wanted all day. So as we sat back and rubbed our tummies and our eyes grew heavy. I vaguely remember hearing my oldest daughter faintly say, “mom I don’t feel so good”. Huh, wah, your just full……those words barely escaped my lips when she started vomiting. Then she decided to make a mad dash across the apartment for the bathroom, projectile from one end of the apartment to the other. For a millisecond I thought I was in a really bad horror movie and my child was possessed, then the smell snapped me out of it. So yes there was a mess, and it stunk to high heaven. So much for Pumpkin Pie Ala-Mode-EEE! Then the real kicker, the topper on the cake, the one to take home to mama, my sister didn’t have any cleaning products!!!!! NOTHING. No Lysol, no bleach, nothing. Only Windex and toilet cleaner. I am a nut about disinfecting areas where sickness has been. This sent me right over the proverbial edge. I staggered into the closet, shut the door and slunked down into the fetal position and sucked my thumb for 365 days.
If nothing else Ainslie puking her guts out all over my sisters cool apartment cleared out the masses. There were some very quick good byes, everyone picked their coats up off the floor, and they were outta there, bye-bye, sayonara, arrivederci, auf wiedersehen you name it we just saw the bottoms of Ambers, and the in-laws shoes running out the door.
We opened all the windows to air the place out cleaned the best we could with vinegar, toilet cleaner and Windex and went to bed. Tomorrow would be a new day. We would go to the football game and have a great time! No day could be worse.
Early the next morning Skeeter and my oldest son went to bring the garbage out, Skeeter called us from his cell in the parking lot. I answered. His voice was gaspy…like he was having an asthma attack….”you’re not gonna believe this” he said. “What now”, I say. Thinking maybe the elevator was broke and they had to take the stairs. “Our cars, oh my your truck”…then I could here my son in the background yelling, “mom, mom, mom, mom, mom they smashed our truck”….What in the heck…our truck was parked in the fenced in parking lot how could someone smash into my truck?
Yeh well they smashed INTO it all right!
They took a big ol rock and threw it right in the back window. It was actually more like a boulder. After they used the boulder to totally smash in the windows of my sisters car they smashed in mine and then left it laying in the back of our suburban. A little souvenir. A memento. I bet they thought they were going to find a turkey fryer in there! HA no such luck. Only my Bible and a few CD’s, and a cup of coins. They left the first two and took the coins. Unbelievable.
Thankfully this was the last bump in the road of this memorable weekend. The police came, the landlord stretched another layer of barbed wire around the top of the fence, as the neighbors warmed their hands over the garbage can fire and watch as he worked. No lie. We taped plastic over the holes until the window replacement dude could showed up and replace our window. We took a cab to the High School Football State Play Off games, our team lost. Bummer I guess maybe that was the last bump.
Saturday we piled our ratty not too worse for the wear selves into repaired truck and headed home. I have never had a more conflicted drive home in my life. Sad to leave my sister. So glad to be driving home to my peaceful country home….where the only light at night is from the barn, and the only other house I can see is my in-laws. I think of myself as a city girl. I love big cities….but this weekend revealed to me that deep down I really am just a country girl at heart.
Despite all the bumps of that weekend. We were thankful. Thankful, to have each other. Thankful for shelter, family, and Pie! Thankful no one was hurt, and hardly anything was stolen. Thankful our truck could be fixed quickly and we could be home in time to be in our own beds by Saturday night. Thankful, my dad didn’t loose his sanity during this less than tranquil Thanksgiving. And probably most of all thankful for the memories. As the years go on the stories, of this weekend, get twisted, and exaggerated a bit more each year. Every year it gets retold, sometimes more than once…we all have our spin on it. Believe it our not there are things are details that I left out….I’m sure I will get reminded of what I left out tomorrow. I’m pretty sure, although he would never admit it, that my husband is quite jealous he missed out on the whole dadgum weekend. He has to sit through our retelling of it and worst of all takes a whole mountain of crap for forgetting to pack the turkey fryer!
I pray you have a wonderful memory filled Thanksgiving tomorrow….if you read this whole story I thank you, I would more than love to hear about your most memorable holiday moments….leave your 2cents below!
Cheers to the memories!