For Thanksgiving 2011, 31 of us gathered in a brick rancher in beautiful downtown Glen Allen designed for a maximum occupancy of perhaps 15. Upon arrival, I noticed a wave of intense heat coming not from the kitchen, but from the front porch. My instincts told me that this was trouble. After preliminary greetings I made my way towards the thermostat and discovered the problem. As if the combined body heat of 31 human beings wouldn’t be enough to heat the house, my parents had thoughtfully enlisted the aid of their 10,000 BTU heating system, setting it at a toasty 74 degrees. I took the liberty of intervening by dusting off the “cool” setting, and quietly opening windows throughout. By the time we all left 4 hours later the place felt great.
My sisters had come out the day before to devise a scheme whereby 31 people could eat sitting down and the food could be displayed and accessed properly. They are the unsung heroes of the day. The resulting space and flow miracle allowed all of us to enjoy a delectable meal with minimal droppage or spillage. The food itself was a culinary feast. The turkey was juicy, the ham smokey and delicious. The homemade rolls were exquisite and amazingly still warm from the oven. There was cranberry casserole, sweet potato deliciousness, creamy mashed potatoes, green beans, some sort of fancy cooked carrot dish with onions that sounds disgusting but was quite tasty. Then came the dessert bar which had to be set up out on the back porch. The too small table was crammed full of pies and brownies and more pies and pumpkin spiced whoopee pies and pecan pie nirvana made by Paula that was so good it came with a diabetes warning label. Of course Ron provided three different types of coffee with at least 16 varieties of sweeteners and creamers. Think of it as the Black Friday of dessert indulgence.
Once the Packers-Lions game reached halftime, it was time for our own Dunnevant men’s football game. This year’s edition featured a team of Ron, Ryan, and Jon vs. a team with Ruaridh, Patrick, and yours truly. Paul played a couple of series, but then staged a contract holdout on the terrible advice of his agent. It was a spirited contest that featured fine quarterbacking by Ryan, although his completion percentage left something to be desired. Jon made a fine touchdown catch, but later in the game was on the receiving end of a tipped pass with, shall we say…an unfortunate trajectory. He bravely soldiered on and later failed to offer the injury as an excuse for dropping a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from Ryan. My team was blessed with the fastest player on the field. Ruaridh has made the transition from whatever the heck game he played back in Scotland, to American football beautifully. Saving his best for last, Patrick scored when he got behind a clearly gassed Ron, to make an over the shoulder catch of the winning touchdown!
Most families would then lay around and fall asleep until they were hungry again and then break out the turkey sandwiches. Not the Dunnevants. It was now time for the Thanksgiving Play, a revival of the 2007 classic, The Dunnevants at Jamestown. Acting talent was on display as Patrick, Kaitlin, Jenny, Becky, Ryan, and Ruaridh gave spirited performances. After the play, Nanny, in a style and manner that came precariously close to preaching, led us in a devotional from a bible that looked so old and beaten up, one wondered whether it came over on the Mayflower. The best line of the day was delivered by Rick when he was flipping through her Bible later and said, “Nanny, this is an amazing bible..its autographed by Moses!” Then later he added…””Oh, and look what I found tucked in the pages of Exodus…a recipe card for manna” Hilarious! Then it was on…”Look Nanny..a seating chart from the Lord’s supper!”
When Rick first arrived, he was wearing a black fleece jacket and a gangster stocking cap yanked down tight over his eyes loaded down with grocery bags of food. Nanny whispered to me..” Douglas, who is that man?” To which I replied, “ Oh, he’s a bum we picked up at the corner of Pump and Broad. He says he’s homeless or something.” Nanny then says..”Well, bless his heart, there’s plenty!”
And so ended another awesome Thanksgiving. Except it wasn’t really finished. My family then headed the mile and a half over to Russ and Vi’s house to have more dessert with them. We are so lucky that everyone lives so close! After a couple of hours of overindulgence there, we finally started on the drive home and the last tradition of the day. For the last three weeks or so we have been forced to listen to second string Christmas music. You know what I mean…the Ray Coniff singers, Jim Nabors sings Greensleeves, that sort of thing. Our rule is that the top-tier stuff can only be brought out once the last piece of pie is consumed and we start the drive home. There are 4 choices. Nat King Cole, The Carpenters Christmas, James Taylor, and Harry Connick. A vote was taken and soon Christmas officially began with the velvet tones of Nat singing..”Chestnuts roasting on an open fiyah…” Once we got home, we decorated out tree, drank hot chocolate and wolfed down more turkey sandwiches, then watched Jim Carrey play the role of his life as..the Grinch. Just about the most perfect day ever.