My father loves to tell the story of the time that he, my cousin Todd, and I were riding in grandpa’s 1972 F100 pickup truck. We were out at the ranch, driving the pastures, and I was probably two or three, around the same age as my son is now. My cousin Todd, significantly my senior, pointed out the window and said “Look, Mark — a birdy!” to which I reportedly responded: “Actually, that’s a duck,” thus beginning my life as a know-it-all.
Sonja, the kids, and I arrived late last night to that same ranch, thirty-some years later. Having left home at noon and stopping to see friends along the way, the four of us had had quite enough time in a car by 9:00pm when we pulled in to the gravel drive. We unloaded the car, set up the cribs, put the kids to bed, had a drink, and chatted with my parents briefly before heading to bed for some much needed sleep. Tomorrow would assuredly be a big day.
We arose Thanksgiving morning to the smell of cinnamon rolls, and Titus and Zooey wrapped up in their grandparents, playing with toys I’d never seen before. We drank our coffee and took a long walk; it was uncharacteristically warm for November in Nebraska, somewhere in the mid-60s most of the day. Family began to trickle in around noon, and soon after, we were all sitting down to feast.
The Thanksgiving table was as full as it has ever been, populated by heaping portions of all the usual suspects: Aunt Linda’s mashed potatoes, Sonja’s stuffing, mom’s cranberries, pickled beets, dad’s asparagus wrapped in bacon, salads, butternut squash, rolls, and, of course, a turkey. And for my contribution? A really beautiful bottle of wine. I’d been communicating with Tom Meadowcroft a bit lately by email, and in a recent exchange had been inspired to include one of my favorites of Tom’s at our Thanksgiving table.
The 2013 Meadowcroft Grenache from Bennett Valley in Sonoma County is in every way a wonderful wine. Balance and silkiness with very fine tannins hold it all together, while elegant notes of baking spices, blackberry, currant, smoky notes, and more make up the flavor profile. From its elegant nose to its lingering finish, this wine checked all the boxes, was enjoyed by all, and was fun also for Sonja and I as we remember our numerous visits to the Meadowcroft tasting room every time we share a glass. The conversation and wine flowed, and by the end, of course, I had eaten far too much and required a nap.
After the huge meal, the present family spent time enjoying the ranch. My dad and my cousin Albert went out to try to start the old well-drilling rig, unfortunately with no success. Titus played outside, we found a snake, and explored the old sheds. I walked past the “ghost vineyard” — a failed experiment from a decade ago, sadly. Then we all came inside to get pie.
Later that night, after everyone had left and all that were left at the ranch were my folks, my wife, and my children, we sat back and relaxed a bit. Zooey lay rolling around on a blanket, while my mom played with Titus, putting animal magnets on the refrigerator. He handed her a magnet. “Thank you for the bird,” she told him, placing it on the refrigerator. He looked at it, then up at her. “Grandma, it’s a duck,” he told her. My father, drying dishes in the kitchen, nearly dropped the plate he was holding. He smiled at me. “Must be genetic,” he said.
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for a lot of things. I’m thankful most of all for my family, and for our countless memories. I’m thankful for great food and excellent wine to pair with it, and for a bit of time off to reflect. I’m also thankful to the many people who take the time to read these musings every so often, and I hope that you, also, had a wonderful holiday.
Happy Thanksgiving 2017,
Mark I dare say the Midwest experience is unique and yet ubiquitous for those fortunate enough to have lived it. What a great heart filled post… The photos really added to the experience and made it come alive! I actually LOL’d about your dad’s comment! I can relate to almost all the insights of this. I look forward to meeting you, we have much in common. Cheers & thank you!
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Perry, thank you so much for your kind response. I’m especially appreciative that you found it relatable. Yes, I look forward to meeting you. The sooner the better I say. Enjoy your weekend, my friend! Cheers!