I like this time of year. Winter is rapidly approaching, sure, but so are the holidays — the social season.
But I like this time of year mostly because Thanksgiving is just around the corner — a week from today.
I am the youngest of seven kids. There are 11 years between me and what was the oldest when I was a small child. And since my older brothers went away for high school — to The Abbey in Canon City — I rarely saw them during the school year except if we went down there to watch a football game.
But I was missing at least one brother, the oldest, from the time I was three because he was already away at high school.
So Thanksgiving was the only time other than the summer and Christmas that we all gathered at the house.
When I think of the holidays, there is one particular Thanksgiving that comes to mind. We had great Christmas Days too, but this one Thanksgiving kept giving and giving and giving for many years.
I was about 4 or 5 at the time, but I was sitting in a high chair for the great Thanksgiving dinner, so I was up high enough to eat off our massive dining room table.
We were living in Colorado Springs, and Mom and Dad had started a tradition about a year or two earlier to invite four or five cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy who either couldn’t afford to go home for Christmas or were members of the football or basketball teams and had games over the holidays so they couldn’t go home.
These guys were always flashy in their uniforms and were absolute gentlemen.
They would throw the football with the five boys in the family while the girls helped Mom in the kitchen. They would watch football games on TV with us boys, but they were also very attentive to Mom and my two sisters, always asking if they could help in the kitchen or do some other chore.
They were always so thankful not to be back at the Academy for the holiday, and we enjoyed them as much as they enjoyed us.
As a matter of fact, several of my siblings and my Mom kept in touch with several of the cadets we met in the 1960s up until the last couple of years or until Mom died in 1982, and a couple of them even came to her funeral.
But this one Thanksgiving was the one I keep remembering. It started out just like all the others did before and after. The guys would get to our house about noon, and Mom would have some hot chocolate or hot apple cider ready for them with a snack or two to hold them until dinner.
We dispersed the group as a couple of the guys would want to throw the football outside and maybe a couple would want to watch the traditional football game between the Lions and the Bears back then.
We’d be doing our thing for a couple of hours, having a lot of fun and exercise because inevitably the football game would evolve into all five McMahon boys playing “tackle the cadets” even though they were in their military uniforms.
We had dinner in the formal dining room of our old Victorian-style home, and the floor was hardwood, shined to a spotless luster.
There was a swinging wood door between the kitchen and the dining room, so one had to be careful which way they were going at any given time, not to kill a person coming through the door.
We McMahons and the cadets were all seated and we were waiting for Mom to come through the door with about a 30-pound turkey to feed the 13 or 14 of us. After all, we wanted leftovers and we figured the cadets did too.
This particular day, we were going to be sitting with Mom at one end of the table, Dad at the other, and my high chair was stuck in the mix just to the left of Dad. The siblings and the cadets were seated with one cadet every other seat and my brothers and sisters filling in.
We had been waiting a really long time for the turkey to arrive, and we were wondering what was going on. All at once, one of the cadets sprang up and said, “I’ll go see if I can help her,” and started to push the door in before anyone could say anything.
Half way through the door we heard a shriek from the other side and the door stopped swinging quite abruptly.
Finally, Mom came crushing through with the platter on its side and the turkey up against her chest. … until the door was all the way open and the greasy turkey took off across the nicely oiled and shiny hardwood floor. And it kept going… and going… and going until it stopped about six feet into the dining room, right in the middle of the carpet, laying flat on its back like it was ready to carve.
You know, sometimes it is tough being a kid, and I think it is really tough to be the youngest. I know most people say the youngest is the most spoiled and that they get away with murder.
Not always so.
My older and wiser siblings and the cadets had looks of horror on their faces. The only sounds heard around the table were their gasps.
Until I, alone in my high chair, passed some gas because I was laughing so hard.
To this day, I am not sure how Dad’s left hand struck out at me so quickly, sending me over the back of the chair and sliding toward the turkey. I’m also not quite sure if Dad was outraged that I had passed gas or because I broke the silence with the laughter before I passed the gas.
After I stopped rolling, there was a dead silence for about 10 seconds. Everyone looked at each other, eyes wide open, but no one wanted to be the first to speak.
Eventually, after I had picked myself up off the floor, not in pain but with a look of bewilderment, we all looked at Dad — you know, he was there for us all in thick and thin.
He looked at us, shrugged his shoulders and exclaimed loud enough that the neighbors could hear, “Oh (expletive).” I won’t say the people sitting at the table had never heard Dad use a four-letter word in front of the family, but it took something quite memorable for it to happen.
After a few more minutes of silence, Mom finally said that she would go back into the kitchen and wash off the turkey the best she could and that we would proceed with dinner because, thankfully, the turkey had not been carved, nor had the stuffing been removed.
I see that turkey in my eyes as Thanksgiving approaches each year. I kind of liken it to a football game when the running back comes shooting through the line and then fumbles the ball. It’s like the turkey or the ball slid or rolled out of bounds.
Yes, we ate that turkey.
And all present loved every bit of it — the stuffing, the gravy and the other fixings. And not a single one of the people there at that dinner said another word about the day’s dinner events.
But you can bet your bottom dollar that it was the very first thing every one of us brought up annually once Mom started talking about the holidays. She truly never lived it down, and even today, some 50-some years later, and 31 years after Mom’s death, the topic still comes up.
My sister invited my wife and I this year to have Thanksgiving dinner with her at her daughter’s home near Castle Rock. It would be me, my wife, my sister, my niece, her husband and their son.
But before I could get out a single word in response to the invitation, my sister said, “We’ll all have to be careful because the dining room has a wooden floor.” Then she burst into laughter.
Then I burst into laughter because I didn’t even have to try and figure out what she meant. Like I said, that one day just really stands out as the holiday to remember in our family.
And that is why I like Thanksgiving the most. The family was together and while there was one tragedy followed by a clear case of what would be deemed child abuse today, the humor that incident has brought to my family members in these subsequent years has been worth it.
Here’s hoping you have a family-filled, fun-filled, memory-filled holiday season. Filled with love, togetherness, fun and good food. And without all the drama!
Just a quick FYI:
I called the Meeker Post Office the other day and Karen answered the phone. I wanted to do an update that Karen was the new postmaster at the post office, but it seems I was misinformed.
Karen is the interim postmaster, she said, filling in for now until a new postmaster is chosen.
She said the U.S. Post Office has not even advertised the opening yet, which it must do, and that she had no idea when Meeker will actually have a new postmaster assigned to Meeker.
Karen was very friendly and informative but she said she didn’t want to say anything regarding if she will apply for the job when the opening is advertised or if being interim postmaster will give her an advantage if she wants the job.
Either way, we eagerly await word that we have a new postmaster, either male or female, as “postmaster” is the name used regardless of the person’s gender.