You know what? I had a really nice Thanksgiving Day. Yes, after all of the whining and complaining about not cooking my own feast, and how it's just not the same eating out. I've discovered my mom is onto something here. There's a lot to be said for eating Thanksgiving Dinner in a beautiful dining room at a lavish club, where the staff is well trained and has you convinced that there's nowhere else they'd rather be, and that their pleasure is attending to your every need. In a word, it was lovely.
We were 10 in all: our hosts (brother Chris and wife Jill), their daughter Margot, their friend Lori, Jill's mother Shirley, my mom and dad, my aunt Margie, and L and me. We were seated at a large round table with plenty of elbow and leg room. Comfortable chairs. Gorgeous crystal chandeliers overhead. There were maybe 10-12 large tables in this dining room, and my brother said they had another one going downstairs. We were the first dining time at 3pm with the next one at 6pm. Seated at other tables around us were other large family groups, some of them taking up 2 or more tables. At the 2 tables next to us was the family of UCLA's head coach. I can't successfully name drop because I don't follow football, but everyone except L and me were excited about that. They were a large, happy group as they welcomed home an Army soldier, who surprised most of them by arriving in time for Thanksgiving. At the table behind us sat an older man in a gold jacket who looked very familiar to me. I asked my brother who he was, but he didn't know. I couldn't figure out why I just knew that I knew him, until L whispered in my ear "It's the Der Wienerschnitzel guy." I'm not sure if the fast food chain Der Weinerschnitzel extends to areas beyond Southern California, but they do a lot of advertising on TV in our market, and he (being the founder) is who is featured in the commercials. So THAT'S why I thought I knew him - I see him every day on TV. I think he was wearing the same gold jacket as in the commercials, and there he was enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with his family. His wife looked quite a bit younger. And expensive.
Just beyond the dining room the feast was laid out. And when I say feast, I need you to imagine a brunch at the nicest hotel you can think of. Yep - that's what it was like. Several types of salad, salmon filets, mounds of the biggest shrimp I've ever seen, oysters on the half shell. Cheeses and fresh fruit. And more. Much more. And those were just the appetizers.
Of course there was fresh sliced turkey, but also roast beef and prime rib. Mashed potatoes and whipped yams. Cornbread stuffing and brioche mushroom stuffing. Green beans. For the little ones there were sliders, fries, and pizza.
We fell to filling our plates, with Jill and Chris doing double duty filling plates for Shirley and Margie. My dad, who has lost so much weight with his chemotherapy, finally had his dream dinner: he could eat as much as he wanted to without my mom monitoring his portions. And he ate. And ate. The conversation was good, and I especially enjoyed being able to sit next to my brother and enjoy his special brand of humor. Margot sat across from me, and her happy chatter made me smile. She goes to BYU and is so happy to be there - she's a good student with lots of friends.
And then came dessert. I managed to have a pumpkin macaron, and a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. My mother got up and announced that dessert was her favorite part, and off she and my dad went towards the dessert extravaganza. My mom came back with a few desserts but my dad - EGAD - my dad came back with 2 platefuls of different desserts. I noticed while he was selecting them, there was no smiling. No talking. He was on a mission to please a serious sweet tooth. But once back to the table loaded down with his 2 plates piled with sweet treasure, he was one happy boy. It did my heart good, even if it probably didn't do his heart much good. Meh... it's once a year. And he's lived through months of chemo and come out of it largely unscathed. He deserved a good binge, as did my mom.
On Saturday evening we celebrated L's birthday by having dinner out with his brother Dan and wife Nicole. I don't know when I've had a better time. I feel so lucky, because not only do I have brothers of my own that I love and enjoy, I've had the good luck to be included in L's family of wonderful brothers and sisters. One sister lives in Alaska, and I don't know her that well, but I always look forward to any gatherings with the other sister and 2 brothers. They're just so much fun, and it was good to share L's birthday with Dan and Nicole. Now L is a true senior citizen - 55 - and I will have a partner in getting the senior discount to movies. I hate being the only old geezer.
And now with those holiday milestone over and done with, NOW we get serious about Christmas. Next week while I'm visiting in Texas, L will get the Christmas lights up and looking festive by the time I get back. On Saturday I shipped four - FOUR! - boxes of gifts off to Colorado and Massachusetts. That was a huge monkey off my back, and I can rest easy knowing that everything will arrive to my little ones in plenty of time. I've been watching Food TV picking up good little recipes for desserts and appetizers. And the Hallmark Channel! Christmas movies all day, every day. I've started playing my Pandora Christmas station. I'm in the zone.
Christmas this year will be much like Thanksgiving - no kids in the area, we'll do some Skyping, the actual day will be quieter, and more sedate since there will be no little ones around who are wild with excitement about Santa Claus. I've been a little bit sad about it, but after my Thanksgiving experience, I realize that it can still be a nice day. We'll have more time on Christmas Eve to concentrate on extended family, where before we were focused on children and grandchildren. I realized during Thanksgiving dinner that it had been awhile since I'd been able to do that.
So we'll adjust our sights and enjoy the company we're surrounded with. I probably won't be nearly as tired, as most of the entertainment burden won't be on me this year. Christmas morning will be quiet and relaxing. Breakfast (my favorite meal!) can be fancy and on time. There will be time in other years to take in the early morning Christmas tree raids and squeals of joy. 6 years ago we took this picture of Lexi and Mia:
And now they are both 6 years old, with 3 other added siblings: Matthew 4, Hayden 3, and Skylee 1. And Thanksgiving night we received an early Christmas present: Rex and Ronna will be expecting baby #4 in July of next year! So we are truly thankful for all of the blessings of a growing family. We'll have our quiet Christmas, and cherish the peace, because it looks like next year is shaping up to be exciting already! I'm also going to see if I can slip my brother a bribe to include us in Thanksgiving dinner next year.