Monday, November 21, 2005

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Tomorrow I battle the elements, technology, and 40 million of my closest friends on my journey home for Thanksgiving.

In my family, Thanksgiving is a much bigger deal than Christmas. My mother insists that all of us are home on that day. She doesn’t so much care where we are for Christmas, but on Thanksgiving Day she wants all of us around her table. My brother Matt lost a job at Lowe’s during college because he couldn’t work on Thanksgiving. Mom didn’t bat an eyelash. She doesn’t ask much of us, so it’s really easy to give her this one day.

Mom has a large family, with 5 sisters and 3 brothers. All of them are married and all have children and grandchildren. Some of her siblings even have great-grandchildren. And they ALL come to my parents' place for dinner. My mom began hosting Thanksgiving at her house in 1971, the year her father passed away. This year marks Mom’s 34th year of playing hostess.

We traditionally begin eating in shifts at 2:00 around two large tables. First, the men eat so that they can retire back to the living rooms (Mom has one and Dad has one) to watch whatever football games are playing. Second shift is when all the kids eat, after which they all go upstairs to one of the bedrooms (where Dad has put a Playstation in one, puzzles and books in another, a television with videos in another) or they head outside, weather (and God) permitting. Third shift is the women (I know this all sounds horribly Mesolithic) which is actually the best time to eat because then you aren’t rushed or have to get up for the next person. It is also this shift that Mom finally eats and all of us (her four kids) eat with her.

My trip home will take me almost 12 hours. My flight out of O’Hare is at 11AM, but I figure I need to get there by about 9AM to allow for all the delays I would expect (so I am leaving my house around 8 tomorrow morning). I arrive in DC at 1:30 and then catch the train from Union Station at 4:00. I finally arrive near my parents’ town a little after 7, then my folks will pick me up and drive me another 30 minutes or so.

I am anxious to get home. This is my first visit back home since I left there following my surgery this summer. I am anxious for them to see how well I am doing. I think it’s important for them to see me as the strong, able-bodied person I have always been, instead of the frail man they got used to seeing. Besides, who doesn’t want a good dose of parental love, some laughter with your siblings, more food than you should eat, and to be told by 50 people how good you look?