Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sunglasses on Thanksgiving

            Growing up in a military family had its advantages and disadvantages. As I got older and my father grew in rank, we rarely remained home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We would load up in the car, no matter where in the country we were, and head for Cuba, Missouri.  Almost all of my Father’s side of our family lived there, with my Mom’s side in St. Louis, just an hour and a half away.

            1971 found us in Tucson, Arizona for my sophomore year of High School.  We packed up and made the 1,300 miles to Cuba for the week to see everyone, eager to stuff our faces and our hearts.

            We had a huge gathering at my grandmother’s house in Cuba (my Father’s mother) on Thanksgiving day.  There were close to thirty there and lasted all day, everyone bringing their specialties.  By midafternoon, many of us were rolling around on the floor in pain, filling the room with obnoxious smells.  

            The next morning we jumped in the car and headed to St. Louis, to my Uncle Ed’s house in the suburb of Webster Groves.  There would be another large gathering with another large feast and we would then return back to Cuba at the end of the day.  As was the case from the day before, we were all excited to see everyone. 

            We arrived late in the morning at Uncle Ed’s house, a large old home, a majestic two-story built in the early 1930’s.  My Uncle Ed and Aunt Dorothy were always the sweetest people on the planet.  Everyone called her Dot.  They had three sons and a German Shepard the size of a moose.

            As was the case of the day before, each family brought a dish or two of food.  My mom brought a ton of corn because it was easy to travel with and her stuffing.  Here’s the thing about my mom’s stuffing.  There is dry stuffing or stuffing that sticks together and stuffing that is wet.  Mom’s stuffing can’t be classified as either.  It is beyond wet.  You really need to take a sponge to the pan when you take it out of the oven.  If you like wet, and I do mean wet stuffing, you might like my mom’s.  Bring a spoon or a straw.  Let’s talk about Aunt Dot’s rolls.  Short answer here is steak knife.  Only way to open them.  We used to use them to play baseball.

            After we made our way in the back door and greeted everyone, I made my way to the living room, a massive room with a wonderful fireplace at one end and at the opposite end, a long staircase leading up to the second floor.

            You could always hear someone bounding down the stairs long before you saw them.  I heard the familiar creaking of someone coming down the steps.  I looked up and saw a glow radiating off the walls of the staircase before I ever saw who it was.  Seconds later, my ten-year old cousin Steve appeared.  He was wearing a sweater that was a bright orange that can’t be described other than to say a deer hunting vest would be calm.  Aunt Dot must have found a book at Ben Franklin like “Knitting with Neon”.  I had to turn away.  I thought it was going to burn my retinas.  I saw the dog run into the fireplace.  My Uncle Ivan moaned, “My God, Steve, what have you got on?”

            “This is my sweater mom made me.”

            It was as if someone switched on a spotlight.  I could look down and see change in the carpet and old food.  The color of the carpeting changed.  It was actually a different color from what I remembered.  I felt along the walls to the kitchen and dining room, where most of the adults where.  I walked up to my father.  “Dad, can I have the keys to the car for a second?  I need my sunglasses.”

            He looked at me strangely, but gave them up, and I came back wearing them into the house, gave him the keys back, and was about to pass by him when he stopped me. “What’s with the sunglasses?”

            “They’re for Steve’s sweater.  Trust me Dad, don’t go into the living room without protection.”

            He didn’t listen.  They all went in there.  They all walked into various pieces of furniture or each other too.  It was awful.  I might have looked silly, but I was fine.  We ended up having Steve eat his meal in the basement.

            We had a great time that day and the sweater did come in handy when it came time to leave.  My Uncle’s house had no lights to speak of outside, which made it difficult to get to our car.  We used Steve to escort us that night.

            Happy Thanksgiving to you all out there and may God bless you all!  

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