Giving Thanks in Grass Valley

Before we even got underway, our flight was very aware that we have so much for which to be thankful.  With our time on the road, our blessings have become even more apparent and we’ve been living in a season of thanksgiving, making this short stretch with extended family that much more poignant.  We were thrilled to be invited back to Grass Valley to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  Neema and Teepa are the parents of Flight’s sister’s husband or, as I like to refer to them, they are our in-laws totally removed.  They have adopted our whole flight as an extension of their own family and our kids thoroughly enjoy their bonus set of grandparents.

Perhaps a little peek into my relationship with turkey day would help set the stage for our time in Grass Valley…  Most Americans can’t think of this holiday without evoking delicious eats centered on a roasted turkey, mounds of mashed potatoes, and enough pumpkin pie to choke a horse.  However, Thanksgiving was never really a huge celebratory event while I was growing up.  My father emigrated from The Netherlands when he was 15 and, although he wholeheartedly embraced his new nation’s citizenship, there were many aspects of quintessential Americana that he never really took to.  For example, I didn’t learn how to catch a ball with a mitt until I was a freshman in high school when a good friend (and phenomenal softball player who is now coaching at the college level) showed me how it was done and convinced me to try out for the softball team.  That was a terrible idea for everyone involved as my ball throwing skills weren’t particularly well developed either.  An aside, VW actually made an ad highlighting one of my own personal nightmares centered on the translation of this glaring omission in my physical development to our offspring.  Fortunately, Flight’s hand-eye coordination is exceptional and appears to be a dominant trait eclipsing my less than satisfactory skillset.  But I digress…

Back to our festive fare… There was never a turkey involved in celebrating Thanksgiving at our house growing up.  Rock Cornish Game Hens anyone? Yep, kinda like turkeys but smaller.  We had those a few times, which was far from the norm across the nation, but that particular culinary choice came with the added bonus that everyone got a wish bone… How about pizza? I think we managed that once or twice when my father was on a mission overseas over Thanksgiving.  Because our nearest relatives were my mother’s family who lived at least a 12-hour drive away from our house in Evanston, Illinois, we rarely gathered with extended family and never around the holidays.  Aside from the extra two days off from school, I don’t remember celebrating that day as a major holiday event.

Having already spent last year’s delightful gathering hosted by our in-laws totally removed, I was pretty excited about enjoying a repeat performance.  Last year we had stayed in Neema and Teepa’s 5th wheel and this year we pulled our own rig onto their 5 acres and plugged right in next to their house.  Our kids were inside and playing games with their cousins as soon as Davista was parked and likely before the engine shut down.

Food preparation had started before we even pulled up.  There was so much food on hand, which is important when you’re feeding 6 kids (two of whom are elite waterpolo players and can easily pack away twice their body weight in mashed potatoes), and everyone pitched in to prepare an incredible spread.

We finally sat down and each shared something for which we are thankful…

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After dinner, a round of various games started before the annual poker game got underway.

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Since I am well known for having the worst poker face ever, I tend not to play and instead just heckle.

With football games offering an exciting soundtrack to just being together, we reveled in sharing this time (and eating leftovers), which was capped by taking several family photos.  Of the dozens we captured, here are few of my favorites…

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Although I thoroughly enjoy visiting with our family, especially in the beautiful Grass Valley setting, my melancholy was deepening as our upcoming departure from our new way of life was growing near.  I couldn’t want to go back to Maryland and was acutely aware of my inner 5-year old stamping her foot and wanting to rebel at the fiscally responsible path we’d chosen, namely storing Davista in Southern California and overwintering in Maryland.  We absolutely need to get back to our house, fire our realtor team, hire a new crew, and do some house projects before we put the house back on the market.  My inner 5-year old couldn’t be bothered with that reasoning, so instead I just pacified her outrage with copious amounts of pumpkin cheesecake.  She quieted almost immediately, but I’m sure I’ll hear from her again once the sugar buzz wears off, hopefully after we reach Maryland.

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