Once again, I embraced the fact that I was an Englishwoman Abroad, as the Thanksgiving holiday approached. Swept away with the rest of the nation, I headed into what is now 'tradition' for my immigrant daughter, and myself, and I must state that it is a very pleasant aspect of our 'ex-pat' life.
The 'unknown quantity' that is the letter 'x' in algebra, defined our working week. If we were to have been given a mathematical problem, asking us to find the amount that is the letter 'x', we would have had to had waited until five o'clock Wednesday evening.
Monday, as we predicted, was busy. The roads were quite empty as most of the local schools had closed for the week, after studies had shown that attendance was erratic. Our workload was prolific as everyone was trying to clear their desks. At lunchtime, Samantha and I took our constitutional, and bought a turkey from HEB. It was rather strange not going to my usual haunt, and probably cost approximately four dollars more. However, when talking about a bird that was just a couple of ounces shy of fourteen pounds, it was not a fortune. 'X' was calculated to be a tiny fraction when petrol and time (especially time) were taken into consideration. With the heavy fowl placed in the back pack, which Samantha insisted was too heavy for me to carry, we strolled (as upright as she could) back to the office and placed our future dinner into the fridge to slowly defrost.
Rather surprisingly, Tuesday was also exceptionally busy. I had made a list of last minute items to purchase on our daily visit to the supermarket, and had made up my mind that I was not going to go 'overboard' with all the 'trimmings' this year. Famous last words ....! Originally, I had been given permission by my daughter to take a mini vacation, should I wish, as she was going to be entertaining friends, and while we were welcome to join them, she realised that a four day holiday away from the office, and perhaps Austin, was probably just what Dana and I needed. However, her friends circumstances were changed, and they were duty bound to spend time with their family, so my daughter asked, if it was not too much trouble, and if we were going to be at home, if I could host the traditional dinner. I obliged.
We left the office at about fifteen minutes past eight on Tuesday evening, and I prepared dinner as quickly as I could, so that we could eat and have a reasonably early night, as Dana was still very much behind at the office. He rose very early on Wednesday, and left the house around five thirty. It was a little too early to do too much preparation, so I made some 'rock cakes' (which are almost the equivalent of what is known as a 'scone' this side of the pond) and took them to Joe. After enjoying some good conversation, and coffee, I headed to my nail technician, and had a new design put on the end of my fingers.
The morning was rather quiet, and we were led to the false conclusion that everyone had taken off to regroup for the holidays. However, as 'x' cannot be calculated until all the other digits are added up, our calculations proved to be slightly off. Returning from our walk, I was bombarded with last minute rushes! Most of the corporations whom act as agents for others, were closing at midday and everyone waited (as usual) until after lunch to ask, "What time do they close today". Another famous one liner was, "They will be there until three, and are expecting you to deliver the paper". This instruction was received at about a quarter to the hour of three, with the epilogue reading, "We will get it to you as soon as we can", thus causing our window of opportunity to narrow to a sliver!
Finally, at five fifteen, I left the office, and headed home, having cleared my desk. I returned home, peeled potatoes, both regular and sweet, and chopped up some green beans. I put my turkey in a bath of apple juice and cola, with some oranges, lemons and cranberries. I cannot remember whether someone advised me as to this concoction of if it was something I made up myself, pulling a few different ideas from different places. Happily resting (I heard not a murmur, so I assume happiness was the emotion) in the fridge, the turkey was left to soak. Dana arrived home a little after six. During the course of my potato peeling, my doorbell had rung. Usually, I do not answer the door when alone, due to the years of unsavoury characters standing on the other side, when I lived in England, (no need to go into details as to why!) but I wondered if Dana had told one of our guys to come and collect something from 'the house'. It was not one of our guys, but a young man who was part of an 'incentive', the details of which were rather vague, and although I do not think the young man, himself, was necessarily involved in fraudulent activity, the 'incentive' has been the topic of many news reports containing the word 'scam'. I politely said, "No thank you", and the dejected millennial left my doorstep. A few minutes later, I heard a car pull into the car port, and Dana talking, and wondered if the youth had attempted to go around the back of my condo, in which case, he would have been read the riot act from my husband about non-compliance to the 'no trespassing' and 'no soliciting' signs. However, when he appeared with an empty cake box, I knew he had met my neighbours whom host the 'Soup nights'. They were on their way to have dinner, and asked if we would like to join them. We did! We drove to a very nice deli, which we had not known existed, and had a very enjoyable couple of hours in their company.
Thursday morning was rather relaxed. Edward was going to be at work until four thirty, so dinner would be later than usual. Samantha arrived with the dog, and the three humans headed out to IHOP to have breakfast. It was like 'old times'. We reminisced over 'pre-Edward' days, and past Thanksgivings. We all agreed we were thankful for our Edward!
Dinner was scrumptious, even if I do say so myself. The turkey (thanks to Delia Smith, the English chef) was perfectly cooked, the potatoes crispy, green bean casserole delicious, corn bread fluffy, sweet potato pie sweet, macaroni cheese soft and cheesy, Brussels and chestnuts roasted beautifully, and the dressing dressed! The only disaster were the sausages wrapped in turkey bacon, as they had spent a little too long in the oven. After dinner, we enjoyed pumpkin pie, and lemon meringue pie, care of Samantha, and then cleared away and said cheerio to the shoppers, who left the dog with us for the night.
Friday morning started early. Dana and I rose to our usual five thirty alarm, and got ready for our road trip. 'X' was not factored into our trip, as Austin, and Duncanville were not expected to have rain. However the three hours worth of towns and counties in between were expecting vast amounts. After we deposited the dog with the kids, we headed along the Interstate. Rain hit the windscreen as we entered our third county, and did not stop until we were entering the Dallas city limits. We arrived at Rick's, Dana's brother, a little after nine, and were greeted with the news that there was a problem with the plumbing. Apparently, the bathrooms were all 'out of order'. At first, the one in the master bedroom was available but upon use, it was also deemed, 'unfit'. Rick called 'the city', and was told that someone 'might' be available to check out the problem. "Ring back if no one contacts you within fifteen minutes", was the advice. "Then what?" was the question. "Don't know", was the answer. With such helpful recommendations, Rick thought it best to call a plumber, mainly because his five guests were going to have to use the facilities at some time during the day, and his ninety three year old mother was experiencing maternal concern. It was of little comfort that her son was sixty seven, and had managed for the best part of half a century to manage problems alone. It took two other mothers to explain that we do not stop worrying, no matter the age of our offspring! However, despite the uncertainty of the city telephone operator, a workman arrived, during our deliberation as to where we were going to go to take care of impending needs. The problem was outside of the house, and fixed within a couple of minutes! Lunch was put in the oven, and within an hour, a new toilet had been fitted by Jim, Dana's brother in law, the second one re-established in its home, floors moped, and all systems were 'go'!
After clearing away, and washing up, (a task that was not going to be possible before the fixing of the plumbing,) Cindy, Jim and I went for a walk. The sun was shining, and although a few degree colder than I had anticipated, it was a pleasant afternoon. Texas hospitality struck shortly after we rounded the first corner. As Cindy explained to me that the lady whom we were about to encounter, had told them the previous day, about her husband's misfortune when bringing the Christmas decorations down from the attic, the lady herself spotted us. Within a couple of minute, I could have written a short, but concise biography of the lady, who had spoken to my in-laws the previous day. Originally from Ohio, this lady had been a teacher of small children before her retirement. Last year, their home suffered a fire, which was extinguished by seven sets of firemen, who arrived on the scene minutes after being alerted to the disaster. The couple's seven pound dog had saved their lives by constantly barking, and was thrown into a white car, parked opposite their house, for safety. The lady owned a green and black plaid skirt, which was not mentioned in the story about the fire, but was alluded to when she told of her trip to the Middle East, via London, where she had a five hour lay over and all there was to do was 'shop', and in the time allotted she had managed to find a scarf to match the said item of clothing. The back of her house had been rebuilt. Her decorations had been bought, at a very competitive price, from a neighbour whom had recently embarked on a garage sale, and had great sympathy for our new friend, which was proved by the sale prices charged for the baubles. We were then invited into view what had been rebuilt, and the decorations, together with a history of the house, and no doubt a few 'before' and 'after' pictures. As Dana had wanted to leave the area by six, and the time was fast approaching three, the amount of 'x' was in the balance. We declined, graciously.
I cheered enthusiastically, when Missouri beat Arkansas in their college football match, and was immediately pounced upon by my Arkansas relatives for 'unsportsmanlike conduct'. Dana and I left Duncanville at around five thirty, and headed home. Rick found the whole thing very amusing, especially as this armchair sportsman was shouting at the players, referees and coaches, giving advice about a sport that twelve years ago, I knew nothing about.
Saturday morning started later than usual, but earlier than expected. Dana headed into the office, and I managed to get some chores completed before being taken out by my daughter and Edward. It was the traditional 'moaning mother-in-law' Saturday, where Edward tells me to behave and constantly berates me for not 'enjoying' myself. Whilst this is all done in fun, those around us are unaware of our humour and sometimes we receive some very strange looks. After some seven hours of going from one store to another, walking through the mall and purchasing one item, we arrived at our penultimate destination. The strip mall contained the Dollar Tree, Big Lots, and Frys. I went to obtain my weekly items, and a couple of dinner plates to add to my 'new' dinner service, which is 'Royal' something, (fortunately for me, the Dollar Tree has been the recipient of a higher end crockery range, and I am the beneficiary!) and some tumblers to replace my ailing and dwindling set. The girl at the check out was unsure as to how to pack my wares, and after wrapping the glasses in paper, putting them into the bottom of a paper bag, she handed me two loaves of bread and two plates, to hold without packaging. Samantha called to say that she wanted my opinion on something and could I travel, as quickly as possible to the next door but one, store. I explained that the check out girl had been slightly less than proficient with her packing and that I would need to put the items in the car, or have some help. As she came to meet me, Samantha started to laugh. I was holding, from the bottom, a paper carrier bag, with two loaves of bread hanging from my fingers, and two plates under my arm. Relieving me from the bag, we entered Big Lots, where she showed me the sectionals she had been desiring, and asked me to 'try them out', Sitting down on one, with my dinner plates now in my lap, I was approached by a rather confused salesman and asked if I was 'finding everything okay'. I responded in the positive, and he walked away mumbling the offer of help should it be required. It was not.
I was seated with a cup of tea in Fry's cafe. Having purchased a 'large' cup, I was a little disappointed when I saw it was only three quarters full, and when Samantha came back to 'check' on me, I sent her to the counter for a 'top up'. She was told that they do not do 'refills', but the lady took pity upon me before I took the time to explain that my cup was only half full (in more ways than one) when I received it, and put some more hot water on the tea bag. I was somewhat confused as to why they charged extra for the amount of hot water, and not just for a tea bag, but did not have the energy to challenge. The 'loud' family entered the area, and once again I found myself wondering if I should compile another short, but concise biography. Three generations seemed rather determined to tell all whom were within hearing distance, their life story, including marriage dates, birthdays, and the (not so) secret items they were purchasing in the store for the forthcoming yuletide festivities. I finished my beverage and found my family, the details of which remained confidential! "Does that hat come with the job?" I asked the cashier. He took a long time to think upon his answer and then gave me a rather detailed explanation as to how he was given the item to wear, by management, as the Christmas season is upon us, and they were expected to look festive. "So I guess the answer is 'yes'.", I responded to a confused employee.
We finally arrived home, with my having purchased a dress, my weekly shopping, a spare coffee maker for the office (which was reduced by an 'x' factor that I am too tired to calculate) and a vacuum cleaner, as the hose on my current model decided to part company with itself, mid section! Of course, there were a few balls of wool that were added to that list!
Dana treated us all to dinner (the dog benefited as well, as Samantha's meal was inedible, and they brought her a replacement, but insisted she keep the original) and we went our separate ways after returning home.
All in all it had been a rather enjoyable few days, with 'x' being calculated as a very high number, percentage wise! I am thankful for time with my family, thankful for the family that I have, and thankful for the life I lead being that Englishwoman abroad. The unknown quantity is about to go into overdrive, as we head towards the end of the year. The only factor that does not require 'x' to be calculated, (albeit probably rather than definite, as no one knows what tomorrow brings,) is that this time next week, I shall be writing ............. another story!