My Thanksgiving Vacation

Brian D. Shrock
(Presented as a Toastmaster Speech in Garland TX, 2/94)

January is over, and we all know what that means. Less than 330 shopping days until Christmas! Thanksgiving through Christmas, what a wonderful time is that holiday season! We could wish for those merry occasions again, or maybe we could just wish it were Friday. I once heard a conversation that went like this:
"I wish it was Friday!" pondered a voice. "You're wishing your life away," came a reply. The voice parried, "Then I wish it was last Friday!"

Today I want to take you forward by taking you back, back to the Thanksgiving holiday just gone by a mere two months ago. Do you remember the occasion? The icy finger of mother nature? The bountiful banquets and the feasts of fellowship? Can you still feel the mirth of that occasion? Do you still bear the weight of it? It is the stuff memories are made of, some sad, but most merry and good.

Thanksgiving of 93 was for me an uncommon collection of eclectic emotions, and I want to share some of them with you today. My purpose is both to entertain you and to give you cause to reflect on the important things and times of life.

My Thanksgiving started with the drive up I-75, in a car we had just bought that month. I grew up near this highway, where it crosses the Kansas border, about 350 miles north of here. I took the entire week off work, which was a glorious start to a wonderful vacation, and we departed on Monday. We gave proper instructions to our 3 and 5 year old sons to notify us in the event they started feeling carsick. We acquired this prudence unfortunately not from wisdom or foresight, but from firsthand empirical observation. We learned on previous occasions that pleasant motor trips and pungent spewing lips are just a "hurl" apart. Happily, we made it to the land of Oz with all lunches in their proper places.

Thanksgiving is a happy time, but it has its share of 'Tales from the Dark Side'. This Thanksgiving was the 20th anniversary of an automobile accident that claimed the life of my grandfather and hospitalized my grandmother for more than 6 months. We were visiting my sister's family in Ulysses, Kansas when we got the news. Now 20 years later that family must take a new job, uprooting them from a happy home in Lafayette, La, moving them back to Ulysses. And 20 years later, with both of her parents gone, my mother has inoperable, chemo-therapy resistant cancer. Yet, these dark situations did not detract from our holiday, but served to strengthen not only the bond of our families, but our heartfelt appreciation of what we have today.

The family I grew up with on the farm was one that, unfortunately, showed little emotion, other than aggravation, anger and dissatisfaction. But this Thanksgiving was special, because it rose above that. My closest brother whom I had seen for less than an hour during the last eight years came home this year. We had to bite our lips and choke back our tears at the joy of seeing each other again, all the while afraid the cows might see us getting mushy. Our hundred year old house was packed with friends and family and memories. So this Thanksgiving, we shared tragic reminders to be thankful for what and who we have now, and to make the most of today, and the present, because that's all we really have. And we shared more joy than ever before because of it.

Sometimes there's a dark side, but when my family gets together, there is often a lark side! We have our Christmas exchange at Thanksgiving. Long standing tradition between 2 of the sibling families is to give obnoxious live animals as gifts. This time the older sister gave a pot-bellied pig! The "out" was given of taking the pig back. But the recipients did live on a farm, so brother-in-law Kevin went to buy a leash. My Dad and I went to Kevin's house to use some equipment, neither of us knowing where the other went, but passing by each other on the road. Kevin put the pig in the leash, but he soon squirmed out and ran off. Kevin and his wife (my sister Joy), and my wife then tried to catch him. Imagine 3 overweight people chasing a swift young pig! My wife was completely incensed at the pig, which would run ahead of them and lay down and rest until they caught up, before running off again!

Finally, my Dad and I returned home, wondering where everybody was. Soon my oldest brother Jay returned from his ventures and happened to see the pig chasers in distress, an hour and a half into the pursuit. Jay returned to the house long enough to pick me up, and I caught the pig 5 minutes later. Upon returning to the house, Kevin immediately called to return that troublesome ham and sausage on legs. But brother Jay, being a vet, decided he would keep the elusive pork chop and bacon delight.

Sunday came along with the infamous Cowboy-Miami game. Again brother Jay served to make it more memorable, rooting for Miami, mostly because we were rooting (like the pig) for the Cowboys. The pig was rooting too, but we're not sure who for. The jesting went back and forth until the Miami FG attempt we thought would end the game. We whooped and hollered when the attempt was blocked and I jumped into the air hitting my head on a solid wood light fixture. This bump on the noggin made it all the more enjoyable for Jay (icing on the cake) as Leon Lett slid through the ice on the field snatching defeat from the jaws of victory that infamous day.

"He who laughs last, laughs best", quoted the scoundrel brother. That night at the behest of my wife, she and I and my brother Travis and his wife hatched a scheme of revenge. Jay was sleeping in his van in the shop. Dark figures with devious intent, a late hour, a metal bucket, and a packet of black cats converged in a building covered in tin. The noise was deafening and the light blinding. Ahhh, revenge was sweet!

To punctuate the festivities we purchased the nonsensical but hilarious game of Balderdash, and laughed until we cried (with words like Shadoof, Sprog, and definitions like 'the sound a fish makes when it gets caught on the hook', or 'a four toed lizard with Mexican breath', or 'the sound made when Klingons and Vulcans shake hands').

What a great time Thanksgiving was for me. The dark shadow of death was there. Many shadows were there, but the joy of our hearts and the strength of our faith kept them at bay. Though during the drive home, we sensed trouble from the mini homosapiens in the back of the car. We pulled over to the shoulder and questioned the oldest one, who decided he just needed to go to the restroom (#2 format). So, we started to pull away and immediately, right there in the new car, it became a "hurl" of a holiday. But it was still the best one of my life!

© 2002 by   Brian D. Shrock;   All rights reserved.