Thanksgiving in the mountains " a story of survival |

Thanksgiving in the mountains " a story of survival

“Keep it simple, potluck-ish,” my old roommate Rin wrote when I invited her and another college friend, Karen, with families, for Thanksgiving. “Don’t try to be Martha Stewart.”

Later, as I mumbled about baking, she scolded: “Alison: Martha Stewart is in jail.”

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Karen and corps headed here from Boulder, and Rin and crew from Salt Lake. Karen’s two older sons, plus her husband, Cam’s, stepbrother Rick, a soldier just back from Iraq, split off into a second car-halted all evening by the jackknifed beer truck that closed Highway 70 for three hours.

In a weekend of disasters, we hit most of them.

On Thursday, my sister Lucy and her son, Sam, 3, headed out from Denver only to meet the massive Glenwood rockslide. While I nervously dealt with my 25-pound turkey, having anticipated her expert help, and with Sam in his car seat in the back, she circumnavigated practically into Wyoming.

Cam pitched in as my turkey co-pilot, and after her seven hours on the road Lucy walked in just in time for dinner. Our toasts consisted of raucous cheers, until the quiet moment Cam thanked Rick for his military service.

We had nine adults, one placid 3-year-old girl, and eight boys, ages 2 to 16. We created our own mayhem.

They fired off old boxes of firecrackers (held back during droughts) in the driveway. They swam in the pool in the Days Inn. Downstairs in our padded climbing room, Rick (honorary ninth boy) and the 16-year-old Sam tackled the 11-year-olds in indoor football, and tossed the smaller boys across the mattresses, as we later learned.

Eventually big Sam and Rick staggered upstairs, pouring sweat, to gulp long drafts of water. Then all ” Sam shirtless from the exertion ” went out into the snow for “whitewashes.”

They sledded, learned archery, jumped on the bed. They yelled. One burp-talked.

“I’ve just realized, it’s not that none of our friends have had

girls,” Karen said. “It’s that the ones with girls avoid us.”

Across town, another last-minute dinner was composed of chicken-pox families. Another was the annual open potluck held by a generous friend, Randi. No doubt some dinners, somewhere, were decorous, quiet.

On Friday, starting with the predawn blizzard, the power went on and off in my house all day, smoke alarms blaring, guests looking outside for ladders to reach them.

We laboriously assembled a straggling mass hike, strafed by snowball ambushes. Lucy and I, at the end of the line, kept shouting, “Casualty!” as we came upon another child lying in the snow alone, tired. Some of the children had groused about coming: “Hiking is boring! Hiking sucks!” None turned back.

Here is where the Thanksgiving miracle came in. Eric, 11, rode little Sam patiently around on his back. When little Sam flagged hiking, Will, 12, hoisted him on his shoulders, and promised another ride if he napped. Karen, like the rest of us parents of rambunctious little boys, has many a time fled, apologizing, from disrupted gatherings or dismayed restaurants. Her boys, bigger now and truly nice, gave the rest of us hope.

On Saturday, 16-year-old Sam left early; he had a date, he told his young admirers. In the snowstorm, on I-70, his car did two 360s, ending up backwards in the median strip. Said Karen afterwards, calmly, “Everybody’s all right, and some lessons were learned that needed to be learned.”

Lucy, returning to Denver with little Sam, idled in an eight-mile backup to the Eisenhower Tunnel, unable to turn around, in dark and zero-degree temps, then threaded between wrecks on black ice. The drive took eight hours.

Rin and John’s return took seven, with small Andrew throwing up half a mile from home.

In the end, we had no injuries. No huge damage (oh, one bumper; one bent lamp; one towel half-flushed down a toilet). Everything went wrong, and everything went right.

Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at Please write “GSPI” as the subject heading to avoid a spam block.

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