Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks For Family and Football

I spent the first few hours of a cold, clear Thanksgiving morning finishing the Carol Higgins Clark book Iced, then watching cartoons and TV shows as I got organized for my trip. Garfield's Thanksgiving becomes rather frustrating when Liz the Veternarian puts the fat cat on a diet, and then Jon invites her over for dinner. Peppermint Patty invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over to Charlie Brown's house for dinner in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Trouble is, Chuck's family is going to his grandmother's to eat. When Peppermint Patty gets upset with the small toat and popcorn supper Chuck provides, Linus and Marcie reminds them that there's a lot more to be thankful for than food. The Peanuts gang joins the Pilgrims on their fateful voyage to America in the This Is America, Charlie Brown episde The Mayflower Voyagers. The Three Stooges do their best to defend the Pilgrims from not-so-peaceful Indians in "Back to the Woods." Balki and Larry have more problems with a turkey that may have swallowed Jennifer's wedding ring in the seventh season Perfect Strangers episode "Wild Turkey."

Rose picked me up at 10 AM. It was surprisingly quiet as we headed down the highway to Mom and Dad's house in Erma. There was no traffic, or even a line at the gas station we stopped at on the Black Horse Pike. We spent the time discussing the holidays and all the trouble our family on the Cape May side's been having. Rose's 3-year-old son Khai whiled away the hour and a half playing games on Rose's iPad.

We arrived around 11:30. Our sister Anny pulled in behind us just a few seconds later. With her were her boyfriend Jay and her 9-year-old son Skylar. Khai was thrilled to see his oldest cousin again. He talked about playing with him during the entire trip. Skylar is currently using the unfinished den/laundry room as a playroom. There's a blanket covering the bare wood floor. I sat down with them and set up a huge, winding Thomas the Tank Engine track while we watched Disney Junior cartoons like Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Doc McStuffins, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Dad put on the first football game of the day, the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions. The Lions went on to dominate the game, 40-10.

We ate snacks as the kids played with the trains and Duplos. Mom always has a small appetizer spread to whet appetites until the main meal. This year, she made an especially good cheese ball from cheese bought from a fair at Skylar's school. The creamy ranch dip was really good, too. There was a basket of whole wheat crackers and a tray of broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and celery sticks.

At one point, Rose and I noticed that the boys were chasing each other and wrestling on Mom's hardwood floor. We figured they needed to let off some steam, so we bundled them up and took them outside. The boys happily chased me around the yard, laughing all the way. Skylar showed off his biking skills as he pedaled through huge piles of leaves on the curb. Khai couldn't quite pull off the same feat on a tricycle, no matter how many leaves Skylar jammed into the compartment under the seat.

After they complained about being cold, the boys went back inside. I once again joined them in creating a huge, winding world of Thomas the Tank Engine wooden tracks as Skylar messed around with some of the buildings and Khai raced trains down the bridges. We switched the cartoons to some of the more eclectic offerings on Nickelodeon, like Spongebob Squarepants and Sanjay and Craig. When the boys got restless again waiting for Mom to take the turkey out of the oven, Rose and I put them back in their coats and took them in the backyard to toss frisbees and play catch. That didn't last long. It was just too cold, barely in the 30s.

We finally had dinner shortly after they came in, just as the big Cowboys-Raiders game was starting. Dinner was Mom's usual wonderful feast. In addition to turkey, there was sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows (yum, my favorite - dessert at dinner!), honey-glazed carrots, pearl onions in white sauce, home-made stuffing (nothing boxed on Thanksgiving), mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and stewed apples with lots of cinnamon. It was all sooooo good! I had a little of everything but the mashed potatoes. As I mentioned with Mark and Vanessa's dinner, I'm not a fan of white potatoes.

While the boys ran around under the table, Mom, Rose, Anny, Dad, and I laughed as we recalled all the antics my sisters and I got into when we were kids. Rose and her childhood best friend Tiffany used to get into all kinds of mischief, from painting a neighbor's house because they left the paint out to Rose losing her shoe in a marsh when they were treasure hunting. We were in our young teens when Rose nearly set the house on fire while trying to barbecue alone for Tiffany and her guy friend Anthony. There was also the time when Rose and I were barely three and four and somehow managed to climb over at least three fences between houses in Cape May before Mom and Dad realized we weren't there. I generally tried to stay out of Tiffany and Rose's crazier adventures, but I was around the time Dad shaved his trademark mustache and scared us all half to death by showing up at the beach without it and tossing us into the water!

The boys and I returned to the den as Mom, Rose, and Anny had coffee and set up for dessert and Jay left for work (he's a sailor on a commercial fishing vessel). By this point, we'd traded the trains for Skylar's huge toy space shuttle and his large trucks and had switched to Cartoon Network's marathon of the odd fantasy-themed show Adventure Time. (Evidently, the marathon was honoring the balloon that represented the show in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade this morning.)

It was around 6:30 when Mom called us out for dessert. For once, I had no trouble deciding where to begin. Mom opted to make her lucious pumpkin and apple pies with a butter crust instead of shortening. I thought it was delicious, light and flaky. Anny helped Mom with the pumpkin pie. She complained it was too fluffy, but I thought it was just fine. Mom's chocolate chip cookie bars were nice and moist, too. Anny made these really cute cupcakes with caramel apple icing and topped them with sprinkles and nuts (with Jay's slightly embarassed help). She even stuck popsicle sticks in them to make them look like caramel apples! They were wonderful, just sweet enough, with a black sprinkle in the center of each to resemble a seed.

The game started to wind down as the little boys did. They'd been running and chasing each other and chasing me all day long. Poor Khai just would not go to sleep, no matter how tired he was. Not even after his mom put him in his new polar bear footie pajamas. He cried very hard when Skylar and Anny finally left. Rose and I finally got him to sleep over ABC's annual showing of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Khai didn't even make it to the Peanuts' toast-and-popcorn meal. I finished out Charlie Brown, then went online to wish everyone at Dinosaur Dracula, including its proprietor Matt, the best wishes of the day.

(Oh, and much to everyone in the Tri-State Area's annoyance, despite a slow start, the Cowboys went on to beat the Raiders 31-24. The Eagles are just barely behind them in the division now and are hoping to catch up to them this weekend.)

I hope all of my American readers had an equally fun Thanksgiving (and my Canadian readers enjoyed their Turkey Day last month)! I'm writing this at Mom's house. Rose decided this year that it's too much hassle to bring a three-year-old down here and take him home in one day. We'll be heading back to Camden County tomorrow morning.

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