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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Thanksgiving: Going At The Speed Of A Thousand Smiles An Hour

In a speed-of-light world that oft seems to be racing toward demise, we all need a constant...something steadfast to hold on to as the years race by. For me it is our far flung Family.  

We had another lighthearted and enthusiastic group show up for this year's Thanksgiving reunion in Toledo, Ohio.That everyone showed up again, from as far and away as China, is both commendable and heartwarming.

Sometimes our reunions are a skit right out of Saturday Night Live, from people bent over in laughter and fighting for breath to eyes rolling at the re-telling of some old story from the archives. Such was the "Chocolate Malt Skit," where we tried to convey to Kelli, who recently married into this family, the Art of hand-making the perfect Malt. Suffice it to say, after an evening of overconsumption of food and beverage, we arrived "home" to my brother and sister-in-law's house and proceeded to demonstrate said "Art" by constructing the perfect Handcrafted Malted Milk Shake Malt." It was a hilarious hour... but I guess you had to be there. Chocolate Malts, you see, are a family addiction that goes back as far as I can remember. Many have tried, but so few have perfected.

Last year's Thanksgiving Reunion in Golden, Colorado
Try to imagine Time as an hourglass like I often do. For some in our family there are far more grains of sand at the bottom than on top. Life is running its course, and we all know how it ends. If spent wisely, Time is more verb than noun. It's filled with of acts of love, appreciation, and laughter. Some families don't get along. I'm thankful for a family that does.

So, another year another reunion. I've noted...year in and year out...these common denominators among our family members: Joy, love, and laughter are always present...as are the same old stories, passed from elders to offspring. Over time these tales grow with embellishments, you know,  just to keep them fresh. The Johnson oral history is in part a legacy to future Johnsons. Like any good novel, it has its share of comedy and tragedy. Hopefully, some of these stories will endure the test of time, and be retold long after the elders are gone.  

Anyway, It is my wish that our joy and laughter and love might be contagious. Meet the "players." 

Downtown Toledo on the Maumee River Park is Darin's lovely daughter Megan.  "First-timer," Michael, her betrothed, and a swell guy with a tenured Professor of Creative Writing job, as well as other academic stuff.   Note: Do not try and pin Megan and Michael down to a specific wedding date :)
Darin and Tracey (his lovely wife) decided we should experience drinks at "The Height," a top floor lounge downtown. This is part of our group...before drinks.
Views from "The Height"

Not many smiles in this photo...but hey, we we're on the first round 

Here's the second round...better

Third round...now we're getting somewhere :)

The Aftermath of 3 rounds:  Me, three sheets to the wind, trying to find our car while dragging/supporting a highly intoxicated wife. Behind us, the rest of our gang argues over where we parked.
So what do we do after 3 rounds at "The Height?" Meet up at "Beirut," a popular Lebanese restaurant where wine flows like the Litany River. 

 It wasn't long till we were toasting our toasts...

Pensive Mark

Happy Bobbie

Left to right: Tracey, Sis-in-law, Elaine, Brother Dan, Great Nephew Dan, and Kelli, my son, Caleb's wife.

Kelli, Caleb, Young Dan, Old Dan  :)

Great Niece Maia, with "Granddad" in background.

Old Dan and Young Dan, who teaches Engineering in China and endured a torturous itinerary just to be with family on Thanksgiving! 

Dan and Caleb
Brother and sister, Maia and Owen

Owen and dad, Brent

Our Nephews: Brothers, Brent and Darin

Darin and me, trying to get my iPhone in "Photo" mode after too much wine...

Bobbie (somewhat sobered up) and Niece Megan...Darin's daughter

The wine keeps flowing. Toasts got out of hand and, well, we were asked to leave (just kidding). 

It is tradition to work puzzles at Thanksgiving Reunions...or any other time drinks are being served

Meanwhile, out in the backyard, a fire is built. Men build fire...

Apparently build fire is fun in backyard while drinking (these guys need to get out more)

 There were fleeting moments of deep, meaningful conversation (snicker)

There were pretty flowers, warm candles, and lovely place settings

Darin and Tracey's Sunroom...my favorite room (excepting the bathroom).  Hey! Anyone still reading this shit deserves 4th grade humor.

Everyone but Dog stayed out of Tracey's way

Darin's prized guitars and art

Living room, tho we all know that come Thanksgiving, everyone lives in the kitchen

Oh yeah, this is at the Art Museum and Glass Factory...which happened a few hours before heading off to "The Height" for drinks. Oh well, anyone still reading this needs to get a life.

Really old glass artifacts...like from a long time ago when Jesus was turning water into wine

Darin's chair at the Museum 

Jesus died so that the sins of overindulgence are covered...

A pretty couple, don't you think?

This sign scared me

Ok, detour back to Darin and Tracey's for Thanksgiving

Alcohol and puzzles pair well together

Brent lost his pals after it got too cold and the fire died.  He's stuck on Bird Watch (Turkey is slow cooking over coals in the barbecue). 

Lovely table in the Sun Room
Da Bird is done!

Time to partake

A couple nights later (or was it weeks?), stomachs distended from too many platefuls of yumminess...not to mention Bobbie's pecan and pumpkin pies topped with real whipped cream, frenzied late-night malt competitions, beer and wine enough to drown a hippo, Brother Dan took us out to eat (again!) at La Roes in nearby Grand Rapids (Ohio, not Michigan). It's such a quaint little town. Main Street was lit up for Christmas...all three blocks of it.

We regained our meal modesty, behaved by not ordering dessert, only to walk two blocks to the town's pizza/ice cream parlor. I swear to all non-intervening gods, one can get a humongous five-scoop cup of any (or all six) luscious flavors for a buck! Believe it. 

After the nearly free ice cream we waddled off to the car, fully sated with food endorphins (it's a thing), wondering at all the pretty lights and the uglier side "holidays" that always has us loosening pants...

Many thanks to Nephew Darin and Ms Tracey for hosting this year's get-together. Your reward will be in Heaven...should you make it there :)

And a special thanks to my Brother and Sister-in-law, Dan and Elaine, for their "Bed and Breakfast (and Lunch and Dinner)" accommodations. I love you all and hope to return your graciousness.

Cheers and Peace out,
mark and bobbie


  1. That looked like fun. Have you started your post-prandial recovery program?

  2. You are fortunate to have family that enjoys getting together. Looks like you all had a great time.
    Since we've never seen Bobbie drink more than half a beer, I'm wondering if she wasn't the one holding you up :-)

    1. I must confess, it was mutual support.

    2. I went over my limit, I had 3/4 of a glass of wine��

    3. How many times must I tell you; "never let the facts get in the way of a good story!"

  3. Thanksgiving in America.....a great representation Mark, and presentation. Getting to seei some of Toledo and Grand Rapids was nice too.
    Especially loved the photo of Big Bird, those drumsticks made me hungry just looking at'em.
    We got our 4ft tree up today and some lights on the front porch and around garage doors yesterday so we are ready to sit back and enjoy this last month of 2018.
    Happy Holidays to you Both

    1. That was the best turkey...slow cooked over charcoal.
      Our lights go up this week :)
      Happy Holidays

  4. You have a marvelous family. I can remember following great-nephew Darin early on as he traveled to Japan for school and as he assimilated into their society. Asia seems to have become his 'home'?

    1. Yes...only it was Young Dan, Darin's son, who went off to study in Japan and ended up in China. He does have a flare for "elsewheres"
      Thanks Barbara...
      PS Dan's blog is on my Blog Roll: https://danindalian.wordpress.com

  5. Great post! What fun! Lucky family! I was born in Uh-hi-uh, married to a man from Toledo in a former life before my current witness protection gig, favorite food=CHOCOLATE MALTS so can I qualify for membership?

    1. Anyone with a Chocolate Malt addition is "family." Just show up with "ingredients." :)

  6. This post had me laughing with joy! Thank you Mark :) for sharing

    1. A better day, perhaps? It is good medicine to laugh. :) :) :)

  7. Great post Great Uncle! Thanks for all the pictures. Those selfies at Beirut really turned out! Love from Toledo!

    1. Another Thanksgiving Reunion wrapped up. It was terrific that you went to the expense, effort, and "itinerary blues" to make it here all the way from China. We appreciate that! If the road trip idea catches traction again (pun intended :)) you have a place to stay here.
      Love you, and have a nice, er, better flight home.
      Great Unc.


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