Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Now THAT was a "Thanks Given"

We spent Thanksgiving at my brother's new house in Orlando this year. He invited us all down for Thanksgiving, his treat. He just bought a big house on a beautiful lake and even has a twenty four foot Sea Ray. We were all excited!
Sometimes a lake house is a bit of a walk from the house,  not in this case.
We went down in shifts. My sister, my daughter and I left first on Tuesday around noon. We drove thirty minutes and stopped for lunch...you  gotta love driving with women.

We ate and gassed up the car and headed out for real. My  daughter posted on Facebook  we were leaving and immediately got two or three warnings about bad weather and to drive careful.

That turned out to be a HUGE understatement.

My sister started out driving as the rain began to fall, just a drizzle at first. After about an hour or so she asked if I would drive a while and I said sure.

My Cotton luck kicked  right in around Tifton, Georgia and rain began to pour in buckets. The wind was crazy, the people driving were crazy and then the lightning was crazy. Her defroster only semi worked but the windshield was still hard to see out of and I was a nervous wreck. I hated to be a sissy and tell her how much I despise driving in the rain, especially since she was the one who letting us bum a ride down with her. So I'm in the slow lane, forcing myself to go fifty when the first lightening bolt hit that seemed like it was twenty feet away. My nerves were shot and kept hoping to see an exit sign. We finally saw one and told them I had to stop for a minute. We pulled into  the first gas station and I pulled up next  to a pump even though we had a full tank. (The pumps had a roof over them)

We went inside and the young girl inside said  they were under a tornado warning. I asked where the rest room was, looking around the store when she said "Sorry, they're around the side of the building."

My  daughter and I made  a run for it staying as close as we could to the side of the building and opened the door to the nastiest rest room I think we have ever seen. It was so disgusting I was worried about even squatting but I did, since  that last lightning bolt  about made me pee in my pants.

We  went back around the side and entered the store again. I told Massey  to buy me a coke, handed her some money and tried to calm my nerves outside as I watched the rain blow sideways. My sister went to the restroom next and  came back to announce  she had seen  cleaner rest rooms in Cuba while on a mission trip.

Feeling braver I got back into the driver's seat and off we went again. I got on the highway and the guy behind me started honking. I looked down and saw I was going 40 MPH so I took a deep breath and kicked it up to 55.  Not ten minutes later while Cin was talking on her cell to her husband I heard a thump coming from the fast lane and saw a car hydroplaning then spinning in circles headed straight for the front of our car. It was close enough for me to touch it out the window. I slowed down so it wouldn't hit us and the driver over corrected and started spinning back the other way. The car hit the median and came to a stop against the inside wall facing oncoming traffic. Massey called 911 and I just kept going, praying someone didn't slam into the wrecked car facing traffic. By this point my nerves were completely shot, then it got even worse. The lightning was downright frightening every time it cracked and I saw something on the median wall up ahead. As we got closer we saw it was a huge boat sitting on top of the wall with it's trailer still in the lane of traffic and the car that had been pulling it a little further down. Needless to say I once again started praying for an exit sign. For some reason idiot drivers feel it necessary to put their hazard lights on which only confuse the cars behind them. We limped to the next exit and I was still shaking when we got out of the car. The windshield was so smudged up from us trying to wipe it clear you could barely see out of it so we went to a Dollar Store and bought some windex and paper towels. By the time we got the windshield clear the rain had slacked up but I still handed the keys back to my sister. Tag, you're it.

At least the rest of the drive was uneventful although we didn't pull into my brother's driveway until almost eleven. My brother asked us if we wanted a drink and told him I'd wanted one since Tifton, three hours back.

Chris had gone grocery shopping with a detailed shopping list my sister had sent him and the kitchen was stocked with everything we needed to cook the Thanksgiving dinner. He also had a full supply of anything you might think you may want to drink. Water bottles, Snapple, plenty of wine, red and white. All kinds of beer, scotch, vodka, tequila and all the mixers...things were looking up!

The next morning he worked a half a day and we went out for a couple of last minute items we'd forgotten about. We were driving back home when a flock of tiny white birds fluttered in the sky above the car. Just as we noticed them, a huge Bald Eagle swooped  into the flock of tiny birds. It was the most amazing, tremendous bird I've ever seen and was so close we could see it in detail. You certainly don't see a Bald Eagle every day!

Chris got home around noon and took us out on his boat. it's a beautiful boat and large enough for him to take out in the ocean. We backed out of the slip and I shouted out "Take off, Sonny Crockett!" and he did!

There was a cool little canal leading to the next lake over and we tooled through it. It was absolutely beautiful.
The like the great Uncle he is, said "Your turn to drive, Massey" even though she had never driven a boat in her life. She was put- zing along when Chris leaned over her shoulder and gunned the engine.
Cin and I stayed in the back and left Massey and Cap'n Chris up front.
It was a beautiful but windy day and we had to hang onto our hats but had a great time. By this time our next crew was on the way down, Tim and Cindy's son, Casey. Massey and Chris left to go pick up a Honey Baked Ham and brought us all back subs for dinner. Cindy and I got busy doing some chopping and preparations for Thursday. we got most all the casseroles put together and a lot of little things out of the way.

We played cards after dinner around the huge dining room table Chris bought since we were having Thanksgiving at his house. It seats ten easily.  It was nice just being with my brother and sister again. Massey got to see first hand how funny we all (think we) are when together, especially when it's cocktail time.

Tim and Casey rolled in around ten and the party started over again.

Thanksgiving morning Massey went to the airport to pick up Cin's husband who flew down and the party grew even larger. The boys played golf and Cin and I got busy cooking. Let's just say we outdid ourselves.
Menu: Turkey and dressing with Giblet gravy
Honey Baked Ham
Green beans with new potatoes
Collard Greens
Sweet potato casserole
Potato salad
Squash casserole
Hash brown casserole
Green bean casserole
Deviled eggs
Heavenly hash
Sweet potato biscuits

Chris' next door neighbor and his girlfriend joined us for dinner and the feast started. Everything turned out great and we totally stuffed ourselves. A bunch went out on the boat after dinner and we got everything put up into the fridge.

We played cards after dinner and some watched football. Cin taught us a new card game, Nertz. You have to get the hang of it first but turned out to be a pretty fun game. Once again the beer, wine and cocktails flowed freely. Some more friends of my brother's were dropping by later on and my other nephew (Griffin) and his girlfriend were flying down around seven to join us. Griffin's girlfriend is a cutie pie,  Hawaiian and they make a really cute couple.

Around eight or so we had probably six or seven of us around the huge table playing cards and the football games were blaring out in surround sound on the huge flat screen in the living room and were partying up a storm when the kitchen door opened and Griffin's girlfriend appeared to appear in the door way while my sister and I shouted "How'd you get here, Jamie?" (We were supposed to send either Massey or Harvey to pick them up) When Griffin didn't walk in behind her but some dude we had never seen did, finally realized it wasn't Jamie but another one of Chris' friends dropping by with her boyfriend. The girl was very pretty and just happened to be from Laos. When you're partying it up, playing an intense card game and the room is loud, Hawaii and Laos are (so it seems) easily confused. The girl looked at Cindy and me like we were idiots but soon enough we were all laughing again. The leftovers came out of the fridge and we started over.

Jamie and Griffin DID arrive after Harvey went and picked them up and party number three started. More food was eaten and Chris shot off massive fireworks from the dock. It was an awesome Thanksgiving.

The next day we all went out on the boat again. Casey got to drive this time and we stayed out for quite a while. When Chris asked Griffin if he wanted to drive the only thing Griffin asked when he took the wheel was "How do you make it go fast?"  We survived, came home and ate more leftovers. We had enough food to feed a small army.

That night after watching football games we decided to play games. We started with Charades, boys against girls and all laughed ourselves silly. Then my sister and I wanted to play Kangaroo; it's a game my parents used to play at church socials. The only ones who knew how it worked were Chris, Cindy and me.

Short version: everyone continues what they are doing, playing cards or watching TV. I say to my sister, "I'm clearing the air and sending you a message." Nobody much pays attention but the thing is who ever talks next is the unknown Kangaroo. After a couple more minutes go by I ask Cindy if she received my message? If she is sure she knows who the first person to speak was after I cleared the air she says she has the message, if she's not certain (maybe two people spoke at once) she says she hasn't received it and I clear the air again. (Let's just say it was Griffin who spoke first when I cleared the air) A couple more minutes go by and I ask her if she got my message? Once she has the message, we send her out of the room. I begin pointing at different people in the room and say "Kangaroo" and from outside the room she repeats back "Kangaroo." Finally I point to Griffin  and say to her outside of the room "Kangaroo, who am I pointing to?" and she says "Griffin."  I wish you could have seen their faces...they thought we were magicians! A couple of them tried it, always failing then Cindy and I would do it again, this time with her clearing the air. By the third time we did it they were all guessing different ways they thought we were doing it.  Finally Griffin's girlfriend caught on and we had another few rounds including her. It's a great party game.

By Saturday we had just about eaten and drank Chris out of house and home but he was a terrific host the entire time. The boys played golf again and us girls had a movie day.

Sunday morning Chris had to work (we thought he was probably just sitting around the corner in his car waiting to see us finally leave) and we cleaned up our mess, put all the sheets and towels on to wash and bagged up the mounds of trash bags we had filled in the garage and headed home.

Tim, Massey and I were in the lead car with Cin, her two boys and Jamie behind us in another car.(Harvey flew back home early)

Chris, always the nice guy had bought us each a Sun Pass for the cars so we didn't have to pay any tolls and sailed through quite a few long lines of people heading home waiting in line to pay the tolls. It easily saved us over thirty minutes.

We were sailing along in Gainesville, Florida. Tim was driving. We were in the passing/fast lane when we heard a loud "BAM" and Tim yelled "Was that us?" We were still rolling along but we saw a tire tread behind us. About then Massey said she smelled the burning rubber so we pulled off into the tiny emergency lane by the center median. Casey stopped behind us in their car. The entire tread had blown off. Cars were whizzing by going eighty and were literally about four feet from the car. It was the passenger side back tire.

Cindy backed her car up about thirty feet or so and put her flashers on. The boys started getting the spare out and cars kept right on whizzing by, making my sister and me nervous wrecks. I made Massey get out of the car and stand far into the grassy median. Cindy and I walked well down past her car behind the car with the flat. She stopped there and I continued down about another twenty feet. As the cars approached I waved my hands frantically down in an effort to tell cars to slow down. Cindy was motioning for cars to move over a lane to give us more room to change the tire. For the most part people were fantastic and although we caused a small traffic backup with our antics at least it slowed most all the cars down.

Of course there is one in every crowd. As Griffin was wrestling with the tire iron with his back no more than three feet away from passing cars, one idiot blew his horn as he passed going at least seventy. You can't fix stupid.

We got the little donut spare on and then had to  manage to pull two cars out of the center median back into the fast lane of traffic, no easy feat with every one and their brother returning home from Thanksgiving holidays.

We finally got back into the lane and maneuvered all the way over to the slow lane. I was just happy no one had gotten hurt or killed. Then we had to find a tire place open on a Sunday afternoon, Thanksgiving weekend.

Three hours later we were finally back on the road after having to put almost two hundred bucks on my sister's credit card. Tim and I are going to help pay her back but you can't drive one of these donut tires on the interstate, especially for two hundred miles so it was the only option we had.

So the trip down was horrible and the trip back was scary but the in between was marvelous! I guess that's what they mean about taking the good with the bad. We didn't get Massey back to her dorm until almost ten and got home around eleven.  We had been shooting for seven.

So all in all it was a "Thanks Given" to remember. I give Thanks I didn't get anyone killed while freaking out in the torrential thunderstorm on the way down and I give Thanks no one got killed changing the tire by a packed out holiday weekend interstate fast lane. I give Thanks I have such a wonderful brother who was an ultimate host to our crazy band of misfits. I give Thanks for days of fun and laughter with the ones I love. I give Thanks to the two who had to stay home for work and couldn't go with us but took care of all our pups, eight in all.

Most of all I give Thanks that all these people love me, it's a wonderful feeling to be loved and as the song says, 

Love, love, love.

There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
It's easy.

Nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
It's easy.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

Nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

All you need is love (all together, now!)
All you need is love. (everybody!)
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need (love is all you need).

This is all that's left of the Leach clan but we're all still as close as we were on this old station wagon. There are so many families who don't get along or even speak to each other much less love each other.

I give Thanks I'm one of the lucky ones.
Til Next time, a VERY grateful COTTON

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