HAINES -- I am not up early making stuffing and rolls, washing the napkins, cleaning like crazy. Instead, my bag is packed and I'm ready to go and hoping daylight brings the sound of a small plane flying over the house so we can make it to Juneau for dinner with the family there.
There have been no planes for four days because of bad weather, and the last ferry was Monday. We are kind of stuck, although there is a ferry today. But it leaves at 4 p.m. and arrives in Juneau at about 8:30 tonight, so if we can't make dinner we will at least be there in time for pie and leftovers tomorrow. I prepare for every trip -- even a weekend in Juneau -- as if I may never be back.
Our will is in on the shelf. The chickens have fresh bedding. The grumpy terrier has been groomed and trimmed and is now really mad at me (more so than usual) since she prefers the messy mop look. The house is clean, plants watered, the house-sitter's bed is made up, and she has all the instructions to keep Pearl happy.
After all the flights were canceled yesterday by 2 p.m. in the afternoon. I cried and put away the salmon and shrimp I was bringing for dinner. Then I got out of my traveling clothes and into my corduroys and sweatshirt, braved the horrible rain-on-snow-and-ice kind of day and stopped in at the market to pick up a few things for supper. (My fridge is clean, too.) I saw an old friend shopping with her daughters, whom I had been thinking about lately -- and was so happy to wish her Happy Thanksgiving in person that she saved my mood and the whole day, though she had no idea, I'm sure.
That good feeling inspired me to drive on over to Haines Assisted Living and visit with another old friend who had cooked many Thanksgiving dinners in her time, and a few of which I had attended gratefully when my children were small and I was missing home and family. We watched the "Price is Right" and caught up on our families. On the way home I stopped in to see another old friend, my neighbor Betty who was resting after a big Thanksgiving dinner at the Senior Center. She said the food was very good (and she is a fine cook -- no easy sell) and more importantly, the portions were just right for elders.
She said Jasmine's pie was especially fine. She also said how nice it was to share a meal with all the "real old timers" and that every table was full. Betty gave me three Christmas books to share with the grandchildren from her extensive collection, and then said her late husband's favorite holiday stories were from Saki. She took down a well-worn book of short stories and opened to the one she said I should read right now. I forget the title, but I figured I might as well read it out loud -- for both of us to enjoy. It was about visiting relatives during the holidays that you'd rather not see, set in an English country house that was not at all warm and friendly. But the narrator had great fun with it.
We both laughed and thought about her husband, too, in a fond way. It's not so bad being stuck in town an extra day with your bags packed and affairs (and chickens) in order, with no big meal to prepare, waiting for a plane to fly or a boat to dock. There really is so much to be thankful for.
Haines writer Heather Lende is finishing her third book of essays, "Finding the Good." This post originally appeared on her blog. It has been reprinted with permission.