In my family we are used to having people just drop in for the holidays. I can recall a Thanksgiving years ago where some guest who couldn’t make it back to Australia for the week showed up about an hour before the meal was set down. They had no where else to go, and back then you could go to the movies and maybe a few restaurants, but nothing else. So one year when I was living in Florida, it was refugee Thanksgiving. I invited people who had no place to go, family too far away to visit for such a short turn around to come over and just relax.
The meal plan was simple, a turkey and a ham. Nothing crazy, there wasn’t going to be 12 meat Lasagna, no Beef Bourguignon; just the staples of the holiday with mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, and probably a bit of alcohol for those who really wanted it. So getting up and figuring out the timing of things was simple enough. It was a 25 pound turkey, stuffed full, so maybe 5 hours. The ham just needed to be reheated since that particular item was not something I typically ate, I left it to another to tell me what to do. So the by noon we have things moving along and people have started to arrive. It’s Florida after all, there was a pool in the backyard and games on the televisions to watch. Board games out on the deck, video games before the football coverage filled the house with so much life you’d think 50 people were there and not 15!
About 2:30 the strangest thing in the history of South Florida happened, the lights went out. Normally this is a few minute event that only occurs during storms, but okay lets roll with it. !0 minutes pass, 20 minutes pass and by now we are starting to wonder how to fix this issue. A call to the power company lets us know that someone had too much to drink and had hit the converter station. It was going to be a few hours before they could get things restored. Great, half warm turkey, and cold ham and side dishes that had yet to even be pulled from the refrigerator! Then the collected minds of people in their mid 20’s kick in – Let’s grill everything!
Ever tried to get both a turkey and a ham going side by side on the grill. Not a pretty picture. Arguments about how to maintain the proper temperature ensue. The sides now sitting on the counter, trying to reach at least room temperature. The rolls we had thought about now forgotten. Could we run to the store and fill the missing items, sure! But then we’re young and think we can solve this. By now I have “borrowed?” the neighbors grill and set it next to mine. We just doubled the cooking surfaces. The first rational decision we have made. Now the turkey is cooking and the ham is getting ready to be placed on our guest grill!
It took until maybe 6 p.m. until we sere in agreement that the turkey wasn’t going to send us all to the hospital by the next morning. We’d even pulled out the stuffing to help ease our minds. The ham was perfect, or so they tell me; not a fan! The sides have been warmed up to the point where everyone is happy and we sit down for a meal.
Candles light the table, one of my friends brought his guitar and was sitting in the corner playing something suitable. his way of letting loose on the stresses of the day. And we all sat there looking at one another, knowing that this story was going to be something we told out children and grandchildren. That’s when the laughter started. And the fun came back for everyone. No longer worried about anything except finishing the game of Monopoly on the living room floor. Or maybe it was the couple who we later learned got engaged while walking around the park behind my house.
And the power came back around 8 p.m. Just in time to get things in the dish washer and sit down to finish those games!
I don’t know what to be grateful for as tomorrow approaches, but right now that memory is a good one.