Sunday, November 20, 2005

Item from the Past: Thanksgiving 2001

This Thanksgiving was the first one with the whole immediate family together in many years — since sometime in the mid-70s, I think, when the family was considerably smaller. It took a long drive — a series of drives — to get there, but was worth it.

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, we headed out and made it to Rolla, Mo., for the first evening. The next day we drove southward from Springfield, Mo., gateway to Branson. Had lunch in Branson, a Chinese buffet with quantity, not quality on its side, and then took a drive down the main road, the hillbilly equivalent of the Strip in Las Vegas.

From there, southward on Arkansas 7, a fine drive, that is until it gets dark. Eventually we made it to the obscure Mena, Ark., for the next overnight. The only thing memorable about driving on darkened rural roads in Arkansas are the eerie, luminous chicken farms near the road. Rectangular, windowless buildings glow pale amber, with the light that keeps the chickens up and laying eggs all night oozing through the thin walls.

Enjoyed our visit with Jay and Deb from Monday to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Monday was Lilly's fourth birthday, so we had a cake and candles and some presents for her. Throughout the week, she took up a lot of her cousin Robert’s time, playing with him. He’s the closest in age to her, but not too close — he turns 13 soon.

My mother and Jim came up for Thanksgiving itself. Besides Thanksgiving dinner at Jay's at a long table, other events included outings to the Dallas Zoo, the Dallas Museum of Art (just Y and me), and downtown Dallas, sometimes riding DART, a fine new train system. We ate other meals together, fooled around with Jay’s computer (an iMac), watched some videos (Chicken Run and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a fine Thanksgiving movie), and gabbed a lot about this and that.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we headed home via Ardmore, Okla., spending some time with my aunt and uncle (Sue, my mother’s younger sister, and her husband Ken). It was nice to see them, but it did make for a longer drive that day, much of it into the evening. We made it back to Rolla in time to go to bed at the same motel we stayed at on the way to Dallas, Zeno’s, a non-chain brand if there ever was one.

The only bit of sightseeing we did in Rolla was at the University of Missouri at Rolla, not far off the Interstate. I had read about a half-scale replica of Stonehenge there, so we looked into that. I wasn’t expecting anything as grand as the actual Stonehenge, which I saw in 1983.

This replica was built by the engineering department at the school, and it had the look of engineers about it: concrete and asphalt. According to the signs attached to it, it is aligned with the sky in the same way as the original, correcting for the fact that Missouri is somewhat south of Wiltshire, England. Lilly enjoyed playing around the stones, but Yuriko was completely unimpressed. I wasn’t all together impressed myself. Carhenge, now that’s a replica I need to see.

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