I love surprises! So you can imagine my overwhelming happiness when my son, Brian, surprised me (and his Dad) by showing up in town for the combination of Thanksgiving and Chanukah. My "dream" had come true.
Thus, instead of having to have him join us in a "virtual" sense" we were able to spend some real quality time together these past few days. It was incredible.
Keeping in mind that Brian is a vegan, he watched as I "molested" the turkey and began preparations for it to go into the oven. It was "quite bizarre" to have him watching over me as I did the work necessary to get "Mr Bird" ready for dinner. At one point, I pulled out a part of the turkey from its "inners" and both Brian and Edward questioned what the "part" was. They actually thought I was pulling out the "bird's penis" and in fact, it was the "neck" of the turkey. Already knowing Ed's frame of mind, I could only laugh when Brian made his comments. He really had no idea what was happening -- and of course, he would not be eating "my masterpiece" anyway. But, to his credit, he did help clean up the kitchen including many of the items used to "molest" the holiday bird. Our kitchen was always a source of fun anyway -- and now, having this opportunity to cook and to share this moment with Brian was very special.
Later that same day, he treated us to a hockey game at the new Amway Arena in Orlando. To keep things a secret, we told Adrienne to meet us nearby the stadium and we would all drive there together. Needless to say, she was "thrilled" to see her big brother jump out of the car to hug her. Unfortunately, Jason had to work that evening. But, the game was fun to watch (the Solar Bears did win) and we ate lots and lots of food.
The next morning, Brian treated the three of us to breakfast at Disney's Polynesian resort and its Kona Cafe. This has always been a big favorite of ours, and Brian had learned via a friend that the restaurant offered a vegan Tonga French toast. It is a first -- we all ordered the same dish, although Brian's would be prepared vegan style. The chef came out of "his kitchen" to talk to us about our needs. Brian said he was a vegan and I mentioned I had diabetes. Instead of getting the strawberry syrup with my dish, he offered me fresh strawberries. We all enjoyed our meals -- delicious doesn't even come close to describing the overall experience. Besides talking all through breakfast, each of us devoured our food. I, however, could not even finish my entire entree. The Tonga French toast serving size was enormous! I could have easily shared the dish. But, let me assure you that Ed, Brian and Adrienne all cleaned their plates. And, yes, we all left very satisfied.
After dropping Edward off to work, Brian and I were onto the next adventure. The rest of our day was driving from place to place -- exploring a variety of locations. We first visited the Seminole County site of the Senator tree, now just a stump of burned wood -- the victim of an arson fire. Brian and I recalled how beautiful the tree was and what a tragedy had befallen this special tree.
Next, we stopped by a location in Orlando known as the "east end market." There were a variety of vendors -- mostly, vegetarian or vegan. Brian enjoyed a fruit and veggie smoothie. I also snapped photos of the vegetable garden outside the marketplace. Since I am now a part of the Oviedo Y's Community Garden, I wanted to show my fellow committee members how this garden was organized and what vegetables were being grown. It turned out to be an educational experience for me -- besides being a fun way to spend time with Brian. There was also lunch at Dandelion Cafe.
We eventually made our way to Whole Foods, where Brian picked up some items for his Thanksgiving meal. Then, after a visit with another friend, Brian joined me in lighting the candles on the menorah for the first night of Chanukah.
Thanksgiving Day, Brian had rented a car and met us at Adrienne's & Jason's new home in Davenport. He had a special housewarming gift for his sister and brother-in-law ... an original movie poster of the Mel Brook's film "The Frisco Kid" which he had shipped to a friend's house here in Florida. Brian presented this framed version as a gift and both Adrienne and Jason were ecstatic.
The holiday meal was perfect. Everyone had plenty to eat. Trust me, no left the table feeling like he or she did not have enough. As Adrienne put it -- "we had latkes and turkey." Since the two holidays coincided (such a rare phenomenon) many referred to it as Thanksgivukah. Thanksgiving eve was the second night of Chanukah -- thus we lite our menorahs as part of the festivities. The lights of the candles burned brightly as did the electric menorah in the kitchen window. We used two different table covers -- one with fall colors and the other a Chanukah theme. It worked perfectly.
One of the most beautiful and profound moments was when Brian shared with me the reason he joined us for the holidays. This was a last minute decision on his part; we had no idea he was coming down from Washington, D.C. to join us. I had really thought we would be talking by phone that night.
Turns out, Brian had visited Philadelphia recently and during his short trip, he went to the cemetery where my parents are buried. Brian knew his maternal grandmother -- Henrietta Wattman, or as he called her "Bubbie." He never knew his "Pop Pop Bernie." I named Brian in his beloved memory. I had never seen my Mom's grave marker. I last visited Philadelphia in October 2006 when she passed away. He took photos and sent them to me via text. That meant so much to me. But, there was more. This experience left a greater mark on Brian. He told me that when he "looked at Bubbie's marker" he saw the dates. There was the date of her birth, January 10, 1928 and then, the date of her death, October 18, 2006. It was the "dash" between the dates that got to him. It was those memories that mean the most. So, he had to be with us -- with the two holidays coinciding in such a unique manner, it was "important" to Brian to be with us. Plus, he wanted to be with his sister within the first month she was in her new home. All these "moments in life" -- the "dash" of our lives ... that's why he traveled by bus to be with us. I felt "tears" welling up in my eyes as I heard him share these thoughts.
If I ever doubted my parenting skills, I had no reason whatsoever to doubt I had done something right. I love holidays -- especially when I get to share them with my family and friends. I love creating memories. I treasure the thoughts of those three precious days and nights. The laughter...fun..more laughter..all the food (lots of it) ... the stories ... the experiences.
Life is an adventure and I intend to live it fully in 2014. Are you willing to join me? If so, be prepared for just about anything. (Okay, I'm not a daredevil, so anything "stupid" or "scary" or "dangerous" is off the list.) I'm being real here. I'm all about enjoying life. I plan to keep exercising because I know it's helping my body and my mind. I hope to travel next year. There's a wedding I want to be at in Sheffield, England. It's next July. (I still need a passport. And I need money! But, I haven't given up the dream of being there.) And if I make it to England, I want to get to Paris, France and see Disneyland Paris with Adrienne and Jason. I would also like to visit Brussels -- where I could meet up with cousins who live there. And a cruise. Or a chance to visit Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. Travel!! It's on my game plan. I also want to get a car -- that's freedom spelled -- CAR.
Plan your adventures or -- just ab lib. Either way, experience life and all it has to offer. And build those memories! (So many more stories -- guess I can share those later.)