The first thing that happened to me on Thanksgiving morning was a surprise presentation of gorgeous flowers by Gerald for my birthday! It was so nice to start the day calmly with beautiful flowers. Two of our three great grandsons were already outside, and I quickly put on some bacon to bake for when they showed up at the kitchen table. After I ate my egg and toast, I started looking at my small to-do list.
The Freeport Eilers were going to eat with their church family this year. Their church provides a community dinner for anyone who will come much like Herrin does. Last year Jeannie had a cold and had to stay home and the rest of the family came without her. This year they were staying home; and when Cecelie called me with birthday wishes, they were on their way to their feast, and I assume to pitch in to help. Jeannie and Rick's daughter Leslie and husband Mike were in Ohio to be with Mike's family. Geri Ann in Oregon and Sam in Waco were both going to a friend's home for dinner since they are tied up until Christmas break. Erin and baby Caroline down in Texas were having Josh's parents to be with them from Oregon or Minnesota --they live both places, so I am not sure of their current location. I liked knowing that Josh knew his folks were there to celebrate with his wife and daughter, and I was pleased that Gerald brought up and placed with our group the 8 by l0 photo of Josh holding two-week-old baby Caroline before he had to return to South Korea. Josh stays in our thoughts and prayers.
We have had a lot of excitement crammed into little more than a week's time! Last Saturday we drove over and took flowers to Katherine who was in the hospital at Carbondale. Before we left the house, we were shocked to hear that Gerry, our son who had just gone to Auburn University as associate softball coach two months ago, had accepted head coach at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and that it would be announced at press conference on Monday.
Gerry invited us down; of course, Gerald and our daughter Mary Ellen wanted to be there. Me too, but since doctors warned me to not travel without resting every two hours or so after a pulmonary embolism several years ago, I knew that would be out of the question with the race down there. Mary Ellen double checked that Gerry really wanted them there despite how busy as he would be. She had a terrible coughing cold, and Gerald woke up somewhat weak on Sunday morning, but they went anyhow. They were making good time until they hit a couple of very long traffic delays, so their 8 pm arrival time stretched out till 11 pm. Ready to fall into their beds in their reserved room, they could not locate the room for their key. They went back to the desk, and found that motel with their very expensive room had no night clerk! She left evidently after as soon as she gave them their key and no directions. After a continued search, they finally gave up and went elsewhere and got to bed at 1 am. and were up shortly after 5 for Monday's exciting activities starting with a tour of facilities and meetings before the 11 o'clock press conference . All the fun and pleasure of hearing Gerry's career praised gave them adrenaline, and the many hugs and laughter provided serotonin and endorphins to get through the day happily and wide awake feeling good. They were back home by 11 that night after the second 630 mile trip in two days. (Yes, they received an apology and no charge at first motel. Evidently there were two buildings and the night clerk in her hurry to leave failed to properly explain.)
Gerry's wife Vickie cares for baby Caroline during the week while Erin teaches, so she had used Erin's break to go to Normal here in Illinois to see the Archibald family--Tara and Bryan and her three grandsons. Suddenly she had to shorten her visit and fly down to Lafayette. Yet she looked rested and beautiful in her red dress that perfectly matched the bouquet they gave her. (Vermilion is the school color, and I had to google it to discover that bright red or scarlet is close enough. I suspect I will be doing quite a bit of googling to learn about Lafayette and the Ragin' Cajuns.) I was at home, but I was able to see much of the festivities with all the videos on Facebook and spent most of the day doing so, although I was aware it was three days till Thanksgiving.
It was difficult to think with all the excitement, but fortunately I had the pumpkin pies that Gerry loves all baked and in the freezer and an angel food cake and one pie made without sugar for Gerald. and a large frozen pecan pie someone had brought once upon a time that did not get eaten. Gerald had bought our frozen almost 22 pound turkey and it was thawing in the garage fridge. I figured I would make the dressing and fry the okra, and I had ingredients and assignments for everyone else to put a simple holiday meal on the buffet. I was disappointed that now Gerry would not be with us as planned, but I was glad he would at least have a day to get some sleep. Mary Ellen had wanted to do the dining room table, and I was relieved to let her. I went to my physical therapy Tuesday afternoon, and then I ran by Katherine's house as she had just come home from the hospital the night before.
On Wednesday. Gerald helped and we cut the plastic wrapping off the thawed turkey and made it ready for him to put it in the oven early the next morning. Oh yes, I set the oven's self cleaning mechanism to take care of some pumpkin pie batter I'd spilled the week before. Later while I was at Katherine's and then running by the store for last minute items, Gerald cleared out the smokey air from the burned-up oven gunk. When I got home, things were in full swing with the great grandsons having arrived. Vickie had flown back to Normal from Louisiana and came down for Thanksgiving with the Archibalds as originally planned. Aidan, our oldest great grandson had to play in two basketball games on Tuesday night, so they could not come sooner. But it did not take long after they arrived for the three boys to be outside doing all the things they do on the farm. As soon aas I was back at the farm and after hugs and greetings, I put away those last minute items and then swiped out the coating of white ash left in the oven; our grandson-in-law Bryan reached the back of the oven for me. We all had a party to go to!
The Archibalds had invited both sides (Johnson and Glasco) to an early birthday party at Pirate Pete's. That was what Maddux wanted for his and his cousin Kinsley's birthdays I had never been to Pirate Pete's but knew where it was. In our day, Tara and our other grand-kids would lure us to Chuckie Cheese's in Paducah. So going to Pirate Pete's was an adventure, and we quickly understood why the kids loved it. Gma Shirley and I and other adults too staid to participate as some did in a laser fight were comfortable in a quiet dining area. We enjoyed visiting until the kids (and adult kids) wore down and joined us for pizza and opening gifts. The blow guns the boys chose with the tickets they won provided soft “bullets”xxxxx flying through the air the rest of our holiday. I liked that and hearing them fiddling with the piano in this sometimes too quiet adult household. The boys are extremely kind and well mannered, and I love watching them grow up.
After Mary Ellen and Brianna arrived Thanksgiving morning, Mary Ellen added to the table decorations she had started on Wednesday. She had new yellow clothes for the dining table and adjoining kitchen table, and she had made a tan burlap runner and placed red candles inside two large glass vases with the candles held up by harvested soybeans. All was quite lovely and symbolic, but Thursday she added bows on the vases and a centerpiece between them. Come to find out, that centerpiece was a gift wreath from Jeannie for my birthday, and in the middle of it was a chocolate pecan pie with two chocolate candles announcing I was 84.
In addition to my assigned tasks for a simple menu, Mary Ellen and Brianna carried in a potato casserole and creamed corn, and Vickie made her deviled eggs that we all love. So our buffet was full with a a variety of foods. I really make giblet gravy for Gerry as I am not sure others eat it, but I decided to go ahead and make it in case someone did want it. Mary Ellen had emphasized we needed to eat on time for hungry kids' sake, but she had also brought sausage/cheese balls and dip to keep people from starving.
Gerald had gone to town to drive Katherine and her wonderful aide out to the farm in her van, so Bryan took over getting the heavy turkey out of the oven and then carving it, which Gerry used to always do. My dressing was not getting done since it was such a big pan. As usual, we really did not make the 12 noon deadline, but everyone was there and laughing and talking. Katherine had seen baby Caroline's photos that decorate our kitchen thanks to Gerald's photographic hobby, and she was back to her spot for her wheelchair. Food was prepared and placed. Brian and Trent had joined us, and we had congratulated Trent on SIUC's success in a cyber security tournament. The two college students had seated themselves with the three boys at their table. We were almost ready for Gerald to thank God for our blessings when there was an uproar in the kitchen. The kitchen door slammed, and suddenly there was Gerry who had driven from Louisiana to be with us after all. Suddenly we had even more blessing for Gerald to express thanks for.
After a meal of fellowshhip, Mary Ellen and Vickie put away the food put and did the enormous kitchen clean up while I visited and enjoyed my birthday. (They did leave that difficult dressing pan for me.) Katherine was getting very tired and her aide had another dinner to go to. Gerry and Vickie and the Archibalds also had yet another to go to that night with the Johnson family at Terry and Sheila's. Brianna had come home from Murray with great relief from turning in her senior thesis--and yes it was excellent her professor said--and she wanted to celebrate with a movie with her family. So the house quieted a bit until Gerry and Vickie and the Archibalds returned, and everyone needed to get to bed.
Although the Archibalds left early Friday morning (for another Thanksgiving celebration with Bryan's family), the boys had kayaked and created a neat tunnel in the lime pile and ridden on all the things with wheels that they love. Bryan had already washed and put the kayaks back on their storage ropes. Gerry and Vickie left soon after with the bird dogs Gerald hd been feeding for Gerry. They were headed to Erin's house where Gerry would be able to cuddle baby Caroline—the perfect ending for his brief break. Gerald and I went back into the empty house.
Saturday was a catch-up day, and I boiled the turkey carcass and put bags of broth into the freezer, which will make good soup to go with our sandwiches on cold winter nights ahead. On Sunday we worshipped grateful for our abundant blessings and askiing God to help us with our heartaches. Today there is casserole in the oven from left-over turkey. Atractive green pods have burst into bloom adding orange lilies to the other beautiful colors of my birthday bouquet gracing our living room. Brianna will be defending her thesis in front of four professors this week, and I must think about boxed-up Christmas trees stored in closets.