Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Dec. 3, 2010

Tradition, turkey day, and texting

We've had a large Thanksgiving meal at our place every year since 1992. That year, 2-day-old daughter Katie and I arrived home from the hospital on Thanksgiving morning and discovered husband Art had fixed a 23-pound turkey for the two of us and 6-year-old daughter Mariya. Most of it was eaten over the next two days by various family members and friends who dropped in to see the new arrival.

That began the big-turkey tradition. Every Thanksgiving since, we've had as few as seven and as many as 13 at our house. Some years, we even had to make use of a "kid's table."

But our Turkey Day this year was the quietest one since the day Katie came home. It was just Art, Katie, Mom, niece Gabriela and me. Brother Dave and his wife Linda and their boys have been frequent guests. But this year, Dave and Linda traveled to Texas, where their boys and families now live. Some of the others who were with us in the past have passed on or have moved away.

Still, it was an enjoyable time. Gabriela's visit was a surprise to all of us except Art. The two of them had been planning her visit since late September. She flew down from St. Paul, where she's a senior at Macalester College, and Art picked her up at the Manhattan airport without any of us knowing she was coming.

Gabriela, Katie and I shopped on Black Friday, something I don't recall ever doing before, since I prefer to stay as far away as possible from the bedlam. But this year, it was kind of fun being with the two young gals. None of us was in a rush, and Art even joined us later for lunch at the mall.

After our shopping spree, we decorated Mom's house for Christmas while listening to Christmas music. Then we had caramel chocolate chip brownies and hot cocoa.

But it was Mariya's absence I noticed the most. She and her partner Lacey were attending a wedding out East and part of their plan was to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

But even though Mariya and Lacey were far away, we felt connected through our various text messages back and forth.

Mariya's first message came through on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 24.

"We just landed! Saw the Statue of Liberty and got a really nice view of the city. Super cool! :-)"

Later, she said, "We made it to the hotel. Now we're eating some pizza and we're gonna go see the balloons (for the Macy's parade) being blown up!"

At 7:35, she texted, "Now we're going to Times Square!"

The next day - Thanksgiving Day - I could tell she missed some of our family traditions.

"Happy Thanksgiving family! I love and miss you muchly!" she wrote at 7:11.

She said they had been up since 5:30 to get a good spot to watch the parade.

When I asked where they were located and whether they could see anything, Mariya responded, "We're even sitting. We found some construction site barriers to hang out on. We're on 7th and 56th."

Art texted Mariya that she was about to see something he had never seen.

She wrote back, "Turn the parade on the TV and maybe you'll see us as two dots. It will sort of be like we are there."

"Art replied, "You'll always be right here, even when you aren't here."

Mariya responded, "Yeppers, I'll always be there. You can't get rid of me."

Later, when Art texted he was getting the meal together, Mariya wrote back, "Mmm turkey. Mmm, green beans."

Three hours later, Mariya wrote that the parade was over and her feet felt frozen.

But after a nap, she and her friends were back on the streets, this time in Chinatown, where they had dinner.

Even the subway rides provided entertainment.

At 7:04 p.m., she texted, "We just saw a subway rat. Very exciting! :-) ... They weren't the size of small dogs though ..."

But that experience didn't deter them. About half an hour later, they were off on another adventure.

" . . . Now we're gonna go to Rockefeller Center. We stopped for cookies and coffee near Times Square."

On Friday, Mariya told us they were going to stand outside the "Today Show" and wave, but the crew moved before the girls got there.

Then they saw a commotion at one of the Barnes and Noble stores and Mariya wanted to know what was going on, so she texted Art.

"Hey, dad, will u do me a favor and look up what famous person is at the Barnes and Noble in New York today. It's the one on 5th Avenue."

When he said he would, she said, "Thanks, Dad ... I heard lots of girlish screams."

I jokingly told Art that it was probably Justin Bieber, the 16-year-old singing sensation so popular with young girls now.

And I was right!

But he's hardly Mariya's favorite.

"Ha, Ha! Gross! Bieber. :-) Guess there's no need to go near there then. I was hoping it was someone cool."

Art texted Mariya he "ckd" (his shorthand for "checked") all the stores, but that was the only one with anyone famous.

Tongue in cheek, Mariya texted back, "Ckd? I don't know the fancy text language you're using. I'm too old. :-)"

I said I hoped she was documenting their trip with photos.

But I needn't have worried. She said, "I've been taking lots of pics, too. You'd be proud. :-)"

And indeed, I am - proud my picture-taking rubbed off at least a bit on Mariya and pleased the girls shared highlights of their adventures in the Big Apple.

At one point, Mariya even e-mailed Art a cell-phone picture of a Kermit-the-Frog balloon from the parade.

So, even though our Thanksgiving was certainly smaller in numbers than any in the past 19 years, it was still big in new experiences.

Left: Katie with big sister Mariya and Dad on Thanksgiving 1992; right: Gloria, Edla, Katie and Gabriela this Thanksgiving.

From the left, Mariya, Christy, Ryane and Lacey celebrating Thanksgiving with New York hot dogs.

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