by Chris Goff
Thanksgiving―traditionally a holiday to celebrate the harvest―has become a time to celebrate family and friends, to over indulge in all things yummy, and the day before Black Friday. In our home, we gather around the table, make a toast to those present, those who couldn’t be present and those who might be present. Then, once the turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts and cranberries have been passed around, we follow suit with each of us stating that which we are most thankful for this year.
A variety of things are shared. We are thankful for jobs, opportunities for travel, business and creative successes, delicious food, new houses. We are thankful for all of the blessings in our lives―things we have and are acutely aware that others don’t, such as healthcare, education, transportation, food and warm clothes. We celebrate those among us who have devoted their lives to making life better for others and reaffirm our commitment to do more for others in the coming year.
This is also when all the stories come out. Friends and family top the list of things for which we’re all thankful, so it’s only natural it’s they who anchor the stories.
My kids especially love stories about them, or about me or their dad. I was raised an only child (my dad had two sons from his second marriage, but not until I was in my twenties). That meant there was no one to blame when things went wrong. One day, I was sitting on my mother’s velvet settee while she talked on the phone. When she hung up the phone, I climbed down to reveal a large wet spot on the velvet. My mother tilted her head and said, “Christy!” And like any two year-old worth her metal, I looked horrified, pointed to the family pet and said, “Vicky, naughty dog!”
Then there was the time I was speeding through Soda Creek, taking my youngest to preschool. She was four. The day before a sheriff’s deputy had been at school for safety day, so Addie was less than approving that I was driving ten miles an hour over the speed limit on the narrow winding road. So was the deputy parked in the hidden driveway. He pulled me over and I was resigned to getting a ticket, when I heard Addie from the backseat. She’d climbed out of her car seat, rolled down the window and was waving at the approaching officer yelling, “Officer Joe, Officer Joe.” Then she broke into yesterday’s safety song, “Buckle up for safety, buckle up. Buckle up for safety, better buckle up.” Officer Joe (who wasn’t) and I both tried not to laugh as he gave me a warning
Stories of funerals are not usually funny, but I have a weird family. When my mother died, she wanted to be cremated. My grandmother was horrified. In fact, she was so upset, we lied. We had Gram pick out a casket and buy a cemetery plot, then we spent $6,000 burying an empty casket. As far as anyone knows, Gram never found out. So it was only fitting that when my father died, my brothers decided we’d have a Viking funeral.
My dad was a Scot, and descended from Vikings, so it seemed fitting. But, to set the stage, you have to know that when it came to the sea nothing ever came easy with my dad. He lived in Maine the last twenty years of his life, and he’d sailed the waters off the coast every summer since he was fifteen. Still, there were many stories of his misadventures.
There was the time he tried a new way of keeping the bottom of the boat clean. Rather than use bottom paint, he’d read somewhere that Desitin (baby rash cream) smeared on the bottom of the boat would keep the barnacle growth at bay. He put his kids and grandkids to work, and we documented the process. If it worked, we figured we could pitch a great commercial. Not! Instead of repelling the barnacles, it actually attracted them. There was so much growth that when they pulled the boat from the water that year, it slipped off the sling.
There was the time we grounded on Otter Island. He’d pulled the boat to shore so he and the boys could climb off and pee and the tide had gone out. That meant we had to wait for the tide to come back in. Which wouldn’t have been so bad, except, while Dad has gotten the wok aboard, he’d forgotten the cooler with the food and drink. Fortunately a yacht happened by (sheer luck in those waters) and I hitched a ride back to Friendship with the three grandkids and picked up the cooler and a few sleeping bags. The yacht’s captain (a bit incredulous) then delivered me back to the boat. His donation (in addition to the ride) was to leave us with a two gallon jug of rum punch. Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum.
It only stood to reason that the Viking funeral would have its moment, too. My brother the sea captain, had built a beautiful replica of the dory my dad had sailed as a teen. My father’s name was Harry deLorimier McKinlay, Jr., so after drinking some Harry’s beer, some deLorimier wine and some McKinlay whiskey, a small contingent of us launched the replica off the beach. My other brother shoved a roman candle in my hand and told me to point it at the boat, which the boys had doused in gasoline. It was then we discovered the captain had forgotten to put any ballast in the keel. The boat listed, spilled some of dad’s ashes into the water and turned back to shore. Long story short, we burned the boat on the beach.
Naturally there were more stories, more laughter, and then the evening ended with rousing game of Pictionary. That’s when someone remembered the best drawing ever. The word was vineyard, and Addie, the youngest sibling, drew a circle inside a circle. One grape. To everyone’s disbelief, the word was guessed correctly.
I’d love to hear some of your family stories if you’re willing to share. Happy Thanksgiving!
O, Lord, Chris, that was a delicious series of family stories. And of course since I live in Maine now, they were all the more personal to me. What a creative, vital family you had and have. Thanks(giving) for the tales!
Loved the family stories (especially being stopped for speeding when your young daughter intervened with the officer!) Yes, this entire long weekend is indeed a time to reflect and be ever so grateful for all of our blessings. Thanks for sharing your memories.