SLOAN COLUMN: A Thanksgiving to remember
By: Bob Sloan
The unmistakable smell of Thanksgiving drifted from kitchen to dining room to living room and all throughout the house.
After days of planning and preparation, the feast was nearly complete. The table was perfectly set. Dozens of dishes lined the kitchen counters, each with an accompanying spoon or fork. The buffet was covered with cakes, pies, and other assorted desserts. The bird, juicy and golden brown, had been carved. Steam rose from an opening in the tin foil covering.
Guests were already starting to arrive and it would not be long before we joined together to hold hands and say grace. Each of us would then take our seats and begin filling our stomachs to bursting. This was definitely going to be a holiday to remember.
Boy, was it!
The preceding scene took place last year at my girlfriend’s home. Knowing I had no other family living nearby except my grown daughter, she had invited me to join her family for Thanksgiving dinner. My daughter and her boyfriend were invited as well.
Just minutes from calling everyone together for the prayer, all appeared to be perfect. Debbie, my girlfriend, asked me to complete one final task - fill the glasses with ice from the refrigerator. I was just two glasses in when I heard the highly troublesome grinding sound of an empty icemaker.
“No big deal,” I said. “I’ll just run to the store and pick up a bag of ice.“
The closest open convenient store in Hartsville was about a 10 minutes drive away. The guests would have to be patient just a little while longer.
I grabbed my coat, headed out the door and hopped into my Jeep Wrangler. I assumed – and we all know what that means – that my cell phone was in the pocket of my coat. Pulling out of the driveway, my only thoughts were on getting back as quickly as possible.
About a mile and a half from the house I heard another horrible grinding sound. The Jeep gradually slowed and my heart rate rapidly accelerated. Nearing an intersection, I turned right and pulled onto the shoulder of the road. I did my best to contain the growing anxiety.
The Jeep would not move. It was stuck in neutral. From the grinding sound I had heard moments before, I felt certain the problem was either the clutch or the transmission. Neither was good.
Reaching into my coat pocket and finding nothing but lint, I made a hasty check of the vehicle only to realize my cell phone had been left at the house. No way to call for help and they had no way to call and check on me. This could not be happening.
I decided it would be futile to put off the inevitable and began the mile and a half walk back to the house.
At this point in the story it might be wise to mention something else. While I failed to bring my cell phone, I did not forget to bring Colby, my eight-year-old black Lab. I also did not have his leash. Needless to say, this made the walk home much slower and much more eventful.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 minutes to an hour had passed before Colby and I returned to my girlfriend’s house. It had been daylight when we left. It was now twilight.
After locking Colby in the fenced-in backyard, I opened the front door and walked in. Every eye in the place was on me. They had not waited for me to get back and I could not blame them. Thanksgiving had proceeded, iceless and, yes, Bob-less. “What happened to you?”
“Where in the world have you been?”
“Is everything okay?”
Rather explain all the sad and sordid details to everyone, I said I was fine and asked my daughter’s boyfriend to step out on the porch. I told him what had happened and he drove me back to my stranded Jeep.
Having retrieved my phone from the house, I called roadside assistance. As one would expect, finding a towing service on Thanksgiving Day around 6 p.m. is darn near impossible. The roadside assistance operator said the closest towing service was in Timmonsville and he could be there about an hour and a half.
I told my daughter’s boyfriend to go back to the house while I waited. I sat in my Jeep in the dark on the side of the road as time crept by ever so slowly. The tow-truck eventually arrived and we returned to my girlfriend’s home. My Jeep would sit in her front yard until I could arrange for it to be towed again.
It was close to 9:30 by the time my girlfriend and I sat down and bowed our heads before eating our reheated Thanksgiving dinner. Exhausted both physically and emotionally, I did my best to find reason for giving thanks amidst all the events that had taken place over the last few hours.
Somehow, someway, I thought, it could have been worse. I was safe and unharmed. I had a hot meal. I had a wonderful and caring girlfriend. The Jeep could be repaired or replaced. In spite of everything, I was grateful – and tired.
I’ll be eating at my girlfriend’s house again tomorrow. We have chosen to go non-traditional, opting for Frogmore stew rather than turkey and all the trimmings. Less preparation and stress, I am hoping. I feel certain it will be another Thanksgiving to remember, but this time for more pleasant reasons.
And yes, I will arrive carrying a bag of ice.