Happy belated Thanksgiving to you Americans. I am actually posting out of the sheer relief that I’m able to do so at all. Being safely home is what I’m thankful for today. More on that after the break.
I drove up to Grand Rapids, Michigan yesterday morning under the cover of cloudy skies. But nothing could dampen my spirits; the drive was smooth, I was off of work, and my mind was focused on the delights that awaited me. I made wonderful time (just over 3 hours) and was greeted by the smiling faces of my West Michigan relatives. One highlight was visiting with my Grandpa in his new in-law apartment. I see a change in how he treats me now; I’m not the little granddaughter anymore. I’m an adult with a mind and experience to share. I truly love him, and the whole trip was worth it just to see him show off pictures of my great-grandmother and sit in his living room having a grown up conversation.
Soon the rest of the family arrived, totaling 1 grandparent, 3 of his children and their spouses, and 10 grandchildren. Seven of my beloved relatives were missing from the fray, and we kept them in our hearts and conversations throughout the day. The volume level increased with our jovial banter as it always does when that side of the family gets together. We have a way of creating such a din that any moment of complete silence feels like a tragedy. The typical merrymaking ensued, filled with delicious foods and ripe conversations about anything from boyfriends to old family jokes, from traditions long missed to religious relics.
There are so many moments to carry with me: The way Grandpa sang “Sweet Lorraine” to my youngest cousin as they slow danced on the carpet; how I felt like a child again playing with my cousins in the basement, but yet wise enough to know that in a few years they will feel “too cool” to play games anymore (at least until they are my age and can appreciate those moments as well); the hilarious display of dancing at the end of the night after sharing embarrassing old stories around the living room circle.
I love it all. It’s all a part of me. How could I wish to be anywhere else by with my family on the best holiday of the year? Thanksgiving is about family, food, and non-commercial enjoyment. There are no cards, no gifts, no pressure. It can be as cheap or as lavish as one wants. Traditions are formed, bonds are tightened, and people of all beliefs and backgrounds can enjoy it together…
So about my thankfulness today.
I decided to spend my long weekend back in Illinois instead of traveling to the east side of Michigan with my immediate family. I just couldn’t afford the gas nor the energy of the long drive. So after the sun had set, the party was starting to die down, and my belly had long become fluffy with food, I made my way back to Illinois, knowing that I would hit some soggy, snowy weather on my trip down. I was prepared for a long drive, but not this long.
After 60 miles or so the weather turned messy. A sudden snowfall nearly blinded my line of vision. The flakes fell slowly, but seeming to rush into my windshield, giving me the sensation of flying through hyperspace (can you tell I’ve been watching Star Wars lately?). The dizzying effect caused my knuckles to whiten as I strained to spy the lines of the road. No one had plowed, no one had salted. The few drivers who were braving this weather were seemingly just as lost and desperate for safety as I was. My speed slowed to a crawl, my concentration on my wheels, the lines of the road (wherever they were), and anyone within 200 feet of me. The last thing I needed was to lose control and crash down a steep hill into some ravine or tree along the dark the highway.
After about 15 miles of trudging and worrying, my motivation had reached its endpoint. Why was I risking my neck just to get back to an empty apartment, when I could be in serious danger from the effort? The final moment of resolve disappeared as the comforting tail lights and head lights around me all disappeared, leaving me alone on a road I could not see in a weather system I did not trust.
The next exit became my only choice. And getting off the highway, might I add, was even more frightening than being on it in the first place. With no tracks or lines to follow, and nearly spinning out on the way down the curve… well, I was more than relieved to be out of there.
After calling my mother to let her know my situation and calling a wonderful friend with an internet connection to look at the radar for me, I decided to stay. The funny part was that nothing seemed open for miles, and I didn’t even know where I was. I finally found a Walgreen’s tucked away next to a farm feed store, got some snacks and contact solution, and bunked down in the local Inn for the night. The bleach-smelling, dusty room was better than any ditch on the side of the road. The heat worked, the tv kept me company, and it was worth every cent I paid for it.
My world was bright and shining white this morning when I finally awoke from my fitful sleep. The roads were perfect, the sun was dancing, and my spirits soared all the way home.
So yes, I’m thankful for many things: family, laughter, love, food, cars, inns, Walgreen’s, favor-lending friends, and even my lonely, empty apartment.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!