One thing newly married couples decide early on is how to spend the holidays.
For many of our married years, Susan and I rotated: One year, we’d spend Thanksgiving with my parents and Christmas with her mom and dad; the next year, it was Thanksgiving with her folks and Christmas with mine. We even did this a couple of years after we adopted Kristin. But soon, hauling Santa got to be a hassle, so we settled on this arrangement: Thanksgiving with my mom and dad, Christmas with her folks coming to our house for Santa Claus and then New Year’s weekend with my folks for a belated Christmas.
On Thanksgiving, we often ate at the home of my older brother and his wife, and often my sister-in-law’s folks joined us there. It was a good time with good food. But that routine changed in 2013, in what would prove to be my mom’s last Thanksgiving. That year, with my mom too weary to cook, the Bolejack clan assembled at the beach, and Thanksgiving lunch was at a Golden Corral. It was far from traditional, in both location and the chefs, but it is likely the Thanksgiving I will remember most.
The next year, my father died just a few weeks shy of Thanksgiving, and suddenly, a Bolejack tradition was at an end.
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But thanks to an invitation that came not long after my father’s death, I think the Johnston County Bolejacks might have started a new tradition.
That Thanksgiving, we dined at Heidi’s Two-Wheel Cafe. The West Smithfield eatery is closed on Thanksgiving Day, but the owner prepares a meal for friends, family and really anyone who provides advance notice and promises to bring a dessert. I ran the idea by my wife and daughter, who said yes. And so we went, carrying a homemade cheesecake that proved tasty, if kinda crumbly.
It was such a good meal among good company that we eagerly returned this year, this time with a key lime pie my daughter and I made the night before. Trust me, the Bolejacks got the better of the dining bargain. The fried turkey I had was the second best I’ve ever tasted; I wish I could say the same for the key lime pie. The filling, my wife swears, was tasty, but the homemade crust, too thick and too well done, was essentially inedible by anyone but the two people who made it. The poor fellow who tried to cut the pie with a plastic knife eventually had to appeal to Heidi’s kitchen for a much more substantial blade.
But again, we enjoyed the company, including Heidi’s mom and dad, who come to North Carolina from Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. And in another emerging tradition, we took home a half-gallon of apple cider made by Heidi’s father, who hauls his press down from Pennsylvania for the occasion.
Many years ago now, a friend sent me a framed cross-stitch piece that says, “Friends are the family we choose.” This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for friends who become family.
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What do you think?
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