It’s Turkey Lurkey Time!

28 Nov

Tonight we celebrate Thanksgiving in Las Vegas with a show and then a buffet! That’s right – we’re having our Thanksgiving dinner at 10:30 tonight at a hotel/casino just off the Strip. The producers of the show are treating us to it, which is lovely. Thanksgiving has never been  as big for me as Christmas – I’ve only been home once for it in the 12 years I’ve been in New York – and I usually have to work  a show that night, so it’s really not any different than any other day. Of course I wish I could be with my family – especially since my Great Uncle Ken passed away earlier this week – but I get to be home with them at Christmas. And besides…Thanksgiving at home has never been the same since the Great Pork Tenderloin Incident of 1997.

I had come home from college for the holiday and on Thanksgiving day we went to my maternal grandparents’ house in Lexington for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner – you know…turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. I think we spent the night in Lexington and Friday morning we came back to Louisville with my very pregnant aunt and uncle in tow.

When I come home, there is typically a huge meal of fried chicken that happens as a welcome home dinner. My Dad makes some pretty amazing fried chicken and gravy (I mean, he did work for KFC for many years) and he likes to make it for me because he knows how much I love it. That night my parents made a huge meal for us: fried chicken, fried pork tenderloin, homemade biscuits, gravy, mashed potatoes, sauteed carrots, creamed corn, green beans…the works. It was delicious and, as usual, I stuffed myself. Dad typically makes enough chicken and tenderloin so he can bag some up and stick it in the fridge for “leftovers,” but between me and my brother, those leftovers are usually gone by the time the sun comes up. That night was no exception.

I love to decorate for Christmas, but my Mother hates it. She says it collects dust and puts off putting up the tree until the very last minute and then it comes down on December 26. Every single year. Now she hires a decorator to come in and put up the decorations, but they still come down on the 26th come ruin or rapture. Anyway, I decided I wanted to surprise my parents by putting up the tree while everyone was asleep – a little Christmas miracle! After everyone had gone to bed, I snuck a couple of pieces of cold chicken from the fridge and I set to work putting together our new artificial tree. My aunt and uncle were sleeping in my room upstairs, so I had been relegated to the sofa in the living room, which was just a few feet from my parents’ bedroom, so I had to be particularly quiet.

I got the tree up and laid down to go to sleep at around 3am. Almost as soon as I laid down I started feeling a little queasy, but I dismissed it as having eaten too much and I squeezed my eyes shut and put the thought of vomiting out of my mind. There is nothing much I hate more than puking – I’ve done enough of it in my life – and I will do anything I can to avoid doing it. After about 10 minutes of laying on the sofa, though, I knew there was nothing that was going to stop it and I ran to the bathroom in the hallway just outside my parents’ room.

The men in our family are…how should I put it?…”athletic” vomiters. Some might call our method of vomiting “violent,” but we’re just overachievers. We like to give it everything we’ve got.

The hallway bathroom had a pocket door – the kind that slides out from the wall – and as I was kneeling before the porcelain god, a hand came through the smallest gap that could possibly be made between the door and the wall and my Dad handed me a washcloth. It wasn’t long before I was able to sit on the toilet with the garbage can in my lap (mostly out of necessity – I wasn’t sure from which end the demon was going to exorcise itself next) and before I could even get myself cleaned up, I heard my poor Dad in their bathroom, which was on the other side of the one I was in, tossing his cookies, too. No…not tossing. More like throwing fastballs.

Five minutes later, I heard the door to my bedroom open upstairs and then the slamming shut of the upstairs bathroom door. Someone else was sick up there. It was turning into the pie-eating contest scene from “Stand By Me” – a veritable Barf-O-Rama.

I have never felt so sick in all my life. I was laid up in bed for the rest of the holiday weekend and got myself together just in time to go back to school on Monday morning. The culprit? The pork tenderloin. We only know this because neither my Mom nor my aunt ate the tenderloin, and they were the only two who didn’t get sick that weekend. My poor Dad has never lived it down, either. We tease him mercilessly about the Thanksgiving he tried to poison us all to death. Still, I’m thankful to have a Dad that is willing to cook a huge meal for me just because he knows it’s my favorite.

I’ve said it before – touring is hard. Being on the road for a major holiday is even tougher. I called my folks at around 2:00 Vegas time – 5:00 in Kentucky – and they were just about to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with my grandparents, brother and the dog. I had McDonald’s for lunch. I’m glad to get to spend time with the company tonight at dinner, but I think we would all agree that it’s not the same as being with your nearest and dearest friends and family.

As I drove up to the window to get my cheeseburger value meal today, I was suddenly very thankful for a lot of things. I was thankful to have gotten to speak with my family, even if I couldn’t be with them. I was glad to have heard from so many friends who’d thought to include me on their “Happy Thanksgiving” texts. I was thankful for my job that has put me here and got me out of some pretty dire financial straits. I’m grateful to be surrounded by a company of people that I like. And I was very, very grateful to all the men and women who gave up time with their friends and family to make sure that people like me could be comfortable, fed and taken care of while they’re away from home. So “thank you” to the people at McDonald’s, to the front desk workers at our hotel, to the plumber who had to come out this morning to make sure that we all had hot water again; to the cooks, servers and support staff at the restaurant where we will be having our company Thanksgiving dinner… I think we often forget that these people are working on their holiday – much like I am. Flight attendants, airport staff, bus drivers, subway conductors, taxi drivers, wait staff, hotel staff, gas station attendants, police officers, firemen and women…I could go on and on. I am beholden to and grateful for these people because on the road I need them for my everyday needs and comfort. They are often taken for granted, so I thought I’d take a moment to recognize them.

And finally, I’m thankful for you for taking the time to read this. I hope you’ve all had safe, happy and trichinosis-free holidays!! (Don’t eat the pork).

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