Last week I drove down to Virginia Beach to spend the long Thanksgiving weekend with my family. I invoked my foolproof method for avoiding traffic, leaving the D.C. area at 3:30 in the morning on Wednesday. You may think I’m crazy, but nothing mars a vacation for me worse than hitting significant traffic. And the clogged artery of the east coast that is I-95 can suffer a cardiac infarction at any time of day or night. (I’m a huge fan of the word “infarction.” Say it a few times out loud. It’s a fun one.)
Since I’m a morning person, I’ve found that leaving between 3 and 4 am is the most reliable option, but even so, I passed a traffic accident in Wednesday’s dark pre-dawn hours that closed lanes in both directions. Nonetheless, I made the 180 mile drive in just over three hours. Success!
Once I got to my mom’s house, I stretched my legs for a while before tending to my loaded car. If you recall, my mother has been gracious enough to let me store some of my belongings at her house while I’m hiking the A.T., and I decided to take the opportunity to move things down.
As I was unloading some items into my mom’s garage, I had a moment of pause in which it occurred to me that I might not actually need some of this stuff if I can easily leave it at my mom’s house for the next few months unheeded. But reflecting further, I rationalized away that logic with a flick of my hand, deciding to store away those thoughts in the garage along with my stuff. After all, a bike is always useful. It would be short-sighted to get rid of it, right? Right?!
I was the first to arrive home (“home” being where the heart is), but within hours my older sister, eleven year old niece, and six year old nephew flew in, at which point the chaos began to build. When all was said and done, we had 23 people over for Thanksgiving, and 10 people staying over in my mom’s three bedroom house. And let’s not forget the two bears. Haven’t I mentioned that my family has a pet black bear, and my aunt has a pet polar bear? I guess it slipped my mind.
Fifteen conversations ensued at any given time. Fighting was surprisingly minimal. We ate obscene amounts of delicious foods.Two monster dogs begged and stole food. We ate obscene amounts of delicious foods (It warrants mentioning twice). And when all was said and done, we still had leftovers for the rest of the long weekend and then to divide among my mom, sisters, and me for the following week.
Apparently, 203 million pounds of turkey is thrown away on Thanksgiving, not to mention all of the other prepared accoutrements. Beside the fact that I find this fact disheartening, I also don’t understand. If my mom’s house were a microcosm of the greater Thanksgiving universe, it would indicate that not a morsel of food makes it to the garbage can. And we had enough food to feed an army. What can I say? We like to eat.
This was the best Thanksgiving holiday I’ve had in recent memory, and that’s saying a lot since Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I set the bar high. Not only did all my sisters, niece, and nephew manage to make the trip, but also my aunt and two cousins drove in from New Jersey, which hasn’t happened in 20 years. April joined us on Friday, after working a midnight Black Friday shift. And I don’t want to forget the many other friends that celebrated with us.
The only little hiccup was on Saturday when my mom announced a neighbor’s arrival. This neighbor means well but has no social grace. I prefer not to interact with her because conversations became interminable and painful. When she said “hello” to me in her megaphone loud voice (I guess nobody ever taught her how to use her indoor voice), I strategically waved (saying “hello” creates a trap from which there is no escape) and promptly shifted my eyes back to watching Brave with niece (attempting to indicate I was busy).
Ten minutes later, I heard my older sister Lauren say, “Jordana is going to leave her job and hike the Appalachian Trail in the Spring.” You know those moments when everything seems to be happening in slow motion, but in reality your brain is racing a mile a minute? I first processed my name being spoken and then what Lauren actually said. My next thought, “I’m going to kill her. Dead.”
Within a split second, this neighbor had come into the room and was yelling (I think she was, at least…she’s so loud) that it’s dangerous and I better not and people have been killed. Platitudes, another good word. I have good instincts, though. I know how to react during bear attacks. “OK,” I said. After all, what else is there to say when someone is not willing to listen and I’m trying to watch Brave!
Funny enough, this is the first person I’ve come across that has responded so irrationally. Many people have reacted with curiosity – and even skepticism, but ultimately for the most part I feel awash with support. At the risk of sounding cheesy, this Thanksgiving I was so thankful to be surrounded by so many family and friends. For the record, when we get together, my sisters, mom, and other family are loud and boisterous and demanding and exhausting, and I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have them all in my life.