To grandmother’s house we go,
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifting snow ...”
That song has always been favorite song of mine at this time of year, especially as a young boy, even though our family Thanksgivings in suburban Washington, D.C. never involved sleighs or snow and my grandmother’s house was hundreds of miles south of the Potomac.
Most Thanksgivings during my elementary school years were occasions for my mother’s far-flung family, the Saunders, to unite at our home in Alexandria, Va., for a weekend of merriment, good food and — high on my mother’s and aunts’ lists, especially — good shopping.
This was the era before suburban shopping malls. “Big boxes” were what new washing machines came in, not stores. So we would all join the hordes shopping along F Street in downtown D.C., where the big department stores of the day (Woodward & Lothrop, Hecht’s, Kann’s, Garfinckel’s) were anchored.
That was fun, but what I mostly remember about those weekends was being relegated to sleeping on the couch or a cot in the basement so that older relatives could sleep in a bed.
My kids, Lucy and Miles, have spent their lives in Georgia and, like their dad, have no first-hand knowledge of Thanksgiving sleighs and snows. Lucy has never driven a sleigh before, but she might find the experience favorable to trying to learn to drive a car, which is what she’s been working on the past year or so.
Many teens, myself included back in the day, can’t wait to get behind the wheel. Laid-back Lucy, typical for her, has taken a much more relaxed approach to learning to drive. I think at times she’d be content to let her parents continue serving as her chauffeurs till she’s 40.
Her toe-in-the-water way of learning to drive seems to be working, though. Her confidence has grown, she hasn’t hit anything and thus far has run over only one curb. (I heard about that one second-hand.)
If anything, she’s overcompensating for her tardy start, leading her family to occasionally call her by a new sobriquet: “Lead-Foot Lucy.”
Lucy, who turned 17 in September, is much more interested in Facebook and playing her cello (she was a semi-finalist last year and this in the prestigious Governor’s Honors Program) than in driving. But she doesn’t have much time for the former or the latter, considering she’s taking nothing but Advanced Placement classes at Harrison High and getting straight “A”s, even in Calculus. She had phenomenal powers of concentration even back in Pre-K, and she’s doing math now in 11th grade that far surpasses the math I took even in college. I eked out a “C” in Algebra I in high school, and it was all downhill from there. So I’m thankful that she inherited her Mom’s “math-whiz” gene, not mine.
I’m also thankful I’m only teaching one kid at a time to drive. Miles’ turn will come, but for now he’s happy just to finally be riding in the front seat instead of the back. Miles is a sixth grader at Durham Middle School and will turn 12 in less than two weeks. Some kids take to middle school like a duck to water. And then there’s Miles, who seems to be copying his sister’s “toe in the water” philosophy, loving school some days and dreading it on most others. He much prefers his Legos, his piano, his laptop and his cats.
And we all prefer the beach. At least up to a point, that is. Our summer vacation to St. Simon’s Island got off to a memorable start this August. We had barely been in town 10 minutes and had just walked onto the beach when we came upon a pair of fishermen who had just hauled in a two-foot-long baby shark that was more than a little PO’d.
Drawled Lucy, “If he’s here, that means Mama’s out there somewhere. I don’t think I’m getting in over my knees this week.”
And she didn’t. I’m thankful I’ve got such a smart girl.
This weekend, the Kirbys are on the road like many of you; not to the beach, but over the river and up I-85 to visit my dad and sister in Spartanburg, S.C. I’m thankful to be with them, thankful that dumb luck brought me to Cobb County in 1986, thankful that the Marietta Daily Journal has survived the Great Recession when so many of its peers have not, and thankful that you have taken the time to read this.
I’ll bet it’s the first Thanksgiving column you’ve ever read that mentioned sharks.
Joe Kirby is Editorial Page Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal.