Thanksgiving is to me a special day. I don’t know if it is because it lies between two of Monica’s favorite holidays – Halloween and Christmas – or because of the time of the year, the crisp cold, falling leaves, winter around the corner. Perhaps it is memories of holidays long ago, and long forgotten but still alive in the heart. Perhaps because it centers around food — and I am for sure, a foodie!! This year was our first holiday without the traditional home. Our house is sold, our address is a post office box that changes as we move, our home is a Class A RV. Now to be completely honest this is not our first “homeless” anything because with 27 years of military service behind us we’ve spent many a holiday in a hotel somewhere waiting for a house to rent or for furniture to arrive. But this time was still different. This time we’ve no intention of renting sticks or stones; our lifestyle like our age has changed and we are really enjoying this total freedom.
This year we decided to do something we have always wanted to try and that was to rent a cabin at a state park for Thanksgiving and that is exactly what we did. At Cumberland Mountain State Park in Tennessee, just before you cross the bridge to the restaurant on the right sits the Mill House Lodge. Built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the forerunner of today’s Americorps where Jessica spent a year of her life, the lodge, the bridge, and many surrounding homes stand as testament to the abilities of the people of those tough economic times.
This Thanksgiving however was made additionally special by the fact that for the first time ever, all our children, and all our grandchildren, were together under one roof. This would have been cause for the single greatest family feud, if it had not been for a special angel watching over all of us. My Aunt Margaret died just before Thanksgiving. The one relative closest to me than any other passed away and if it had not been for the most gracious of phone calls from my cousin, her daughter, Margaret telling me it was OK not to come, I would have left this Thanksgiving celebration and gone to my Aunt’s funeral. But, like my cousin Margret said, if I had gone, and if my Aunt could have gotten up out of casket, she would have killed me for coming! I loved her dearly; I know the success of this week is entirely due to her presence.
The first two nights were extremely cold, in fact in the middle teens, and the primary heating sources for the lodge are two inefficient wood burning areas. A large fireplace in the living room and a wood burning stove in the lower bedroom that went through wood like our coach goes through a tank of gas. Keeping it going with wood was key to keeping your toes warm as everyone quickly discovered.
Everyone contributed to the Thanksgiving meal: Either they cooked, or they brought supplies, additional food, or desserts. And beer. And vino. And vodka.
The kids (big and small) loved the cabin because it was a rock climbing wall inside and out. The waterfall just outside the door was beautiful and the surrounding area wonderful for a hike. We took thousands of pictures; many that should never see the light of day — videos too. Monica and I had the coach in an RV park less than a mile from the cabin.
Our first night at the RV park the pipes froze — not our pipes but the exterior pipe feeding our site in the park. The owner brought out one of those propane flame heaters and had it defrosted in no time. I suggested that next year, he either reduce the height of his water pipes (has them out of the ground by two feet) or he insulate the pipes before winter!
Karaoke night was a big hit. While the annual football game is usually the big event, this year because Monica and I had to make a run into Nashville and were not present for the football game and the fact that the game itself had to be held across the street sort of put a damper on the game. Well, age definatly played a factor too — some people are getting old.
Five days we will remember for the rest of our lives and Monica and I are quite happy to have been a part of such a wonderful celebration with such a great group of people!