Over the river and through the woods, to Grandma’s house we went. Life was good with Dad at the wheel, Mom beside him in the front, and me in back watching the world speeding by as we drove the 18 miles to Grandma’s.
In the ways of childhood, the ride seemed much longer, much farther, than a mere 18 miles. We were crossing mountains and entering under the forest canopy, curving first one way then the other, to make our way back from our city house into my Dad’s childhood, heading “out home”.
As an only child, I could barely contain my excitement at getting to see the cousins again.
The food was the food – plenty and good and hot. So many years later, I have yet to master my Grandma’s skill at getting everything to the table hot. I mourn that it’s too late to ask her how she did it.
And in our family, long before the retail merchants caught on, Thanksgiving was always the immediate segue into Christmas. Our last gathering before the big holiday, on Thanksgiving we would draw names for our gift exchange, some of us secretly making trades: you got your Mom? Oh no! Of course, I’ll trade with you!
And I’m pretty sure it was on Thanksgiving when I cooked up the ill-fated scheme to have cousin Doug play Santa Claus for his younger sister Lisa, who still believed. Ill-fated because Doug chickened out at the last minute (or maybe he planned it that way all along; with Doug, you can never tell). I was probably about 11 at the time, so my concocted costume required lots of imagination – red tights and pillow-stuffed sweat shirt, black boots and a home-made cotton-ball beard looked much more like Santa in my imagination than in real life.
Because Doug bailed, as the creator of the costume, of course it fell to me to jump in, and jump in I did. And of course, my loving family would memorialize my humiliation with photographs snapped just at the moment when little Lisa asked in her child’s soprano, Why is Beth dressed up like Santa Claus?
I wish I could tell 11-year-old Beth not to sweat it, we were making memories.