I was considering writing about the Thanksgiving that my grandmother threw my mother, me, and my brother out of her condo, not because I wanted to expose family secrets, but because I happen to think it’s one of the funniest stories I’ve ever been privileged to actually be there for, and every time someone says the word “turkey” all I can think of is that it’s a “dirty, filthy bird,” though I have, to my credit, stopped saying it aloud, except to my husband.
And then we laugh, and laugh…ahh, I am laughing now.
But over the past several years, computers and the Internet have ceased to be my own private thing (I swear it was!) and I’ve learned that many members of MY family are actually online. And they don’t laugh nearly as much as I do. They haven’t sued me yet, but there’s not a lot of chuckling when I relate these things either. There are even accusations of embellishment, which I firmly and unapologetically deny.
And then I laugh, and laugh…
Anyway, so instead I’m going to tell you about my very best Thanksgiving ever, and, as do all my “best _________ ever” stories, it starts with my husband.
We were married in 1995, and in 1996 we built out first home. We sold everything we could to raise money for the down payment, I cashed in my 401(k) (just, it turns out, before the stock market took a HUGE dive, it would never be worth that $ again, and was, thus, one of the best financial decisions we ever made). We were gifted a bit by my husband’s parents, and we stuck to a very strict budget.
It was hard, but it was so worth it for me. We moved around a lot growing up. A lot. I remember coming home from a few weeks in Tennessee with my grandparents, being picked up at the airport, and driven home to a completely different town. Never even knew we’d moved. So the idea of having my OWN HOME, well, that was in some ways an almost unreachable goal to me.
My husband says the best day of his life was the day we got married (I know, I know, he’s sweet as can be, isn’t he?). It was a great day, there’s no question. But I loved, and love, him so that it seemed within reach, knowable, to me. Love him the rest of my life? No problem. Own my own home? Not evaluate every box I laid eyes on for packing suitability (liquor boxes are best, small ones for books, large ones for pillows)? Well, that was the stuff of fairy tales.
The building process was an odd mix of exhilaration and panic. Though it was strongly discouraged, we visited the construction site every single day and have the pictures to prove it. Then I went through an existential freak-out period in which I was convinced that the only reason I chose the colors I did was because they were the colors my mother would have chosen and had to be nearly physically restrained from changing from neutrals to green tile, black cabinets, and red countertops. And then there was the six weeks in which our roof trusses sat in the front yard, being alternately rained upon then baked in the sun to increasingly more warped shapes, because of a labor shortage.
Because of that delay, the lease on our apartment ran out before we could close on the house. Luckily, my in-laws had rented a condo they weren’t using at the time and we were able to stay there for the month it took to closing. In setting the closing date, our agent frowned at her little calendar, clearly thrown by the fact that we COULD close the day before Thanksgiving, but really, did we want to do that?
Are you kidding? I was getting in there the SECOND I was legally able, and so we set the date. But of course we’d put all of our furniture into storage to move into the condo, and no way were those people working that day. We could close, but we’d be sleeping on carpet.
We bought a big TV and surround sound system at Sam’s Club and set that delivery for closing day. We bought a pool table and set that delivery up for same. But what about, ummm, Thanksgiving? We didn’t even have silverware, much less pots and pans and plates. We looked around town and found that the Registry Resort offered a full turkey dinner that we could pick up the day of. Done.
The day of the closing, we pulled the pull-out sofa bed mattress off my in-laws sofa (sorry Lambie and Russ!), stuffed it in our car, and went and signed the papers. We accepted the keys and were in our home for less than twenty minutes when the deliveries started. The TV and surround sound system sounded great in all that empty space (we didn’t even have neighbors yet, just empty lots and an orange grove!), and we had plenty of room to play pool.
We slept in the living room, sofa mattress on the floor, in the glow of our new TV, and listened to the silence that only exists in a single-family home. No thumping bass from the neighbors, no cars squealing past at three in the morning, no rented refrigerator buzzing in the background. Speaking of the refrigerator, ours had an ice maker. AN ICE MAKER!
On Thanksgiving Day we went and picked up our dinner, ate it sitting on the mattress, watching the parade on our new TV and getting LOTS of ice for our sodas. That night, we dragged the mattress out to our big, screened-in lanai with its not-yet-functional hot tub and stared up into space while the Leonid meteor showers threw stars across the sky.
Nobody could ever make me leave.
The next day our furniture and boxes arrived, and we officially moved in, but that Thanksgiving of so little, but so very much, stays in my mind as the best day of my life.