Across the Miles
by Valerie Nusbaum
With Thanksgiving and the holiday season upon us once again, I’m reminiscing about years past and feeling blessed to have such wonderful memories. I’m sure you are, too. These are just some of the highlights of my Thanksgivings with Randy.
For our first Thanksgiving together, I had the bright idea to host the meal at our house. No small feat since we didn’t yet have a dining room table and there were eight of us. We borrowed folding tables and extended them from our small dining room into the living room. Cousin Linda had given us a lovely non-stick roaster for a wedding gift, and we were anxious to try it out. I used my mom’s tried-and-true method for a juicy turkey and started the bird in the oven at 400 degrees at 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday. At midnight, I turned the oven temperature down to 200 degrees and planned to slow roast the turkey overnight. At 1:00 a.m., the bird was falling-off-the-bone done. You can imagine how the rest of the meal went.
We visited my brother and his family in Rutland, Vermont, in 1997. Because of our work schedules, we drove to New York on Wednesday night. After getting up before dawn on Thursday and driving for hours, we needed a pit stop but couldn’t find anything open—not even a gas station. Finally, we saw some cars at a Friendly’s, so we rushed inside. The young woman at the takeout window looked us over and informed us that the restaurant would be closing at noon. My watch showed 11:52 a.m. Randy said, “We’d like two Diet Cokes to go. Where is your restroom?” When she opened her mouth to protest, Randy looked her in the eye calmly said, “This is happening.” It did.
For many years, while our parents were with us, Randy and I hosted Thanksgiving dinner. We made it a point to include anyone we knew who didn’t have plans. Some years, there were five or six of us. Some years, there were twelve. We found Mary’s slippers in the fridge, inside a bag with fresh sausage. Bill made a loaf of homemade bread and left the paddle in the loaf. Pat enjoyed making a turkey picture by tracing her hand on paper. Dale, Randy, and Bill fought over the oysters. Andrew got sick and gave it to the rest of us. The Johnsons came for dessert. There were pilgrim costumes and feathers, hand towels folded into turkeys, acorns made from kisses, and the list goes on.
In 2001, Randy and I were on vacation in Ocean City, Maryland, and we made Thanksgiving dinner reservations at The Bonfire. My mom had plans to dine with her next-door neighbor, so I knew she’d be taken care of; but when I spoke to Mom on Tuesday of that week, she told me that her plans had been canceled. I couldn’t leave Mom all alone (Randy’s parents were with his brother and the kids, so they were okay), so on Wednesday, we drove four hours back to Brunswick to pick up Mom and her luggage, then drove back to Ocean City that night. We changed our dinner reservation from two to three and had a lovely time sitting by the fireplace, watching football and feasting on five kinds of stuffing and various turkey parts. Afterward, we rode the train through the Festival of Lights and had hot chocolate with Santa.
In 2008, we again visited my brother who had moved to Bozeman, Montana. Dinner was hosted by friends of theirs at their horse ranch, and we were all seated around a huge dining table. It was so gracious of them to include us. My sister-in-law was responsible for the pumpkin pies, which I found amusing since she rarely uses her kitchen. She gave it a go, though. Randy and I took some hostess gifts and treats for the kids. Our host, Chuck, asked us to go around the table and tell what dish our family always ate that wasn’t featured on their table. Silly me. I didn’t realize the correct answer was: “Why nothing. Everything is here.” I mentioned that our families ate sauerkraut with a turkey dinner, probably going back to the Dutch/German settlers in our area. There was dead silence at the table. Kind of reminded me of the time Randy had the gall to show my cousin, Craig, a photo of a trout he’d caught on another trip to Montana. That did not go over well, either.
Twice, we ate out at the Epic Buffet at Charles Town Races. We missed having leftovers.
For Thanksgiving 2021, we thought it would be brilliant to be vendors at the Holiday Fair in Ocean City. We got takeout dinners from Cracker Barrel. Not great and not even real turkey. With setup on Wednesday and working Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, it was an exhausting but enjoyable time. Michele Tester even came to visit!
Last year, we traveled to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for Thanksgiving and stayed at Hershey Farms. The breakfast buffet was included with our stay, so that made three buffets in two days. I kid you not. What does one do after eating all that food, you ask? Well, we went to Green Dragon on Black Friday and stocked up on fresh fruits and vegetables. And Long Johns.
We’re doing the Ocean City Holiday Fair again this year and taking dinner with us, so I know the turkey will be real.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, Randy and I hope you have a happy, safe, and delicious Thanksgiving!