Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Retrospective

I am thankful for my good friends Russ and Candy, who hosted a wonderful thanksgiving dinner for me and some other "orphans" in our group of friends. I just walked home from their apartment, arms loaded with tupperwares of leftovers, under the beautiful full moon. Leaves of the tall oak trees were whispering in a cool Northwest wind, sweeping away today's blessedly warm weather. (I am also thankful for 20 fabulous knots of Southwest breeze that allowed me to windsurf at Messick Point this afternoon with my 5.2 sail.)

All through the day I've been reflecting on past Thanksgivings and some of the nice memories I have accumulated...

The first one that I remember was ages ago in deep, dark Olympia, Washington. We had friends visiting from Seattle. I can't recall exactly who was there, but they were from what we call the "playgroup"; a close-knit network of 6 or 7 liberal yuppie families who bonded when they all had babies around the same time. The playgroup stayed together and became like an extended family as the kids grew up. Anyway, that Thanksgiving there was a rare, early snowstorm and the power went out at our house. I remember my folks cooking stuff on the woodstove, and us eating by candlelight while the snow piled up outside. It was a really cozy, nice feeling.

Other Thanksgivings growing up also tended to involve the playgroup, and/or our only relatives in the area; my Aunt Laura Jean and Uncle Craig in Seattle. Sometimes we'd go to Seattle, sometimes they would come down to Olympia. It was always an adventure to see the special friends and relatives who I didn't usually get to hang out with. The kids' table, always in a basement or a backroom, tended to get pretty rowdy at those reunions.

One of the coolest Thanksgiving traditions that was developed when I was a kid was the post-Thanksgiving, extended-overnight trip to the Winstead's beach cabin on Hood Canal. Nadia Winstead was close to my age, but since I was kind of immature and shy around girls, I usually hung out with Alex, who was a couple years younger than me. We went around like brothers, exploring the beach, the logging roads, and the Dosewallips River delta (picture), where pink salmon would run, seals would splash, elk would graze, and eagles would swoop. When I learned to scuba dive in highschool I would dive with my dad off the Winstead's beach and collect a bunch of dungenese and red rock crabs in a bag. The water was equally cold all year so it was no worse diving in November.

At college in Texas I never made it home for Thanksgiving. But when I was a freshman I saved my money from working the library desk to fly out and visit my long-distance infatuation in Charlottesville, Virginia. Needless to say it was a giddy, exciting time. I remember walking blissfully with so and so around the UVA campus and being impressed with a massive ginkgo tree, whose perfect, yellow leaves had carpeted acres of lawn.

The year after that was not my favorite Thanksgiving. I hung out with some people who I didn't know well at the dormitory advisor's house on campus. Oh, well. The weirdest Thanksgiving ever was the next year when I went to my roommate's friends' house in the suburbs of Houston. It was a giant McMansion with enormous pickup trucks and SUVs in the driveway and a pool in the backyard with a fake rock waterfall that had red lights in it so it looked like a volcano. The woman of the house had frozen, news-anchor hair and big, gold earings, and she wore a tight, zebra-striped shirt. The man of the house, who had made his fortune marketing life rafts for oil rigs, was recovering from a multiple mole-removal operation, and his bald head was covered in band-aids. We deep-fried two huge turkeys, even though there weren't enough people there to eat even one. The giant TV stayed on during dinner.

The furthest from home I ever was on Thanksgiving was senior year of college studying tropical biology in Costa Rica. We must not have made a big deal of the holiday there, because I don't remember at all what we did. We probably ate black beans and rice and fried bananas because that's pretty much all we ever ate for every meal.

In grad school I started a new Thanksgiving tradition of driving down to South Carolina to see my Grandmama and Aunt Mary Garland. (I feel bad that I didn't make it down this year, but I'll be seeing my SC loved ones for Christmas in a couple weeks.) One time I brought Russ with me, and my relatives loved him so much that I had to step-up my good-grandson charm to make sure they wouldn't trade me in for him. When my folks built their beach house in Edisto Island I started bringing my windsurfs down with me to enjoy some slightly-warmer-than-Virginia fall sailing. The first time I ever sailed a shortboard in the ocean was at Edisto in Thanksgiving 2003. Out away from shore I saw northern gannett flying.

And all that brings me back to here. I'm lucky to have had 28 Thanksgivings full of family, friends, and cool nature experiences. That's a lot to be thankful for.

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