Thanks for the Memories

Our Thanksgiving travel took us to the St. Louis area, where we visited Jon’s family. Although his mom lives in Alton, Illinois, our destination for the duration was about 40 miles away at Symond’s Dutch Hollow Village, described by Google as a “manufactured home community.” Jon’s nephew, Adam, lives there in a single-wide, two-bedroom, two-bath mobile home with his partner Gene. It’s located in Dutch Hollow, a neat little community of well-kept homes, manicured lawns, and tree-lined streets on the outskirts of Belleville, the city in Illinois where Jon spent many years of his youth and where he was ordained a Catholic priest.

We left Dallas on Wednesday at 10 a.m., with trees still awash in fall colors, and arrived in Joplin, Missouri, with its barren woods and gray fields, around 4 p.m. After a quick set-up, we nestled into our overnight accommodations and enjoyed an early Date Night dinner of grilled steak, baked potato, charred asparagus and shishito peppers. We left promptly at 7 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day so we could arrive in Belleville with plenty of time to set up Cloud 9 and get the Greenberg smoked turkey and spiral-sliced ham into the oven.

Like many families across the nation, we feasted. In addition to the abundant food, we also enjoyed sharing memories and laughs and stories. We were so pleased that Jon’s brother, Jody, and his wife, Erin, were able to join us all the way from their new home in Moorhead, Minnesota.

On Friday, we visited Jon’s aunt Mary at Twin Willows Nursing Center in Salem, about an hour’s drive from Belleville. His aunt has lived there since suffering a stroke some time ago, and this was the first time in more than two years that we were able to bring Jon’s mom and her sister together. Jon’s cousins Jim and Tina were also on hand to help with the visit, in addition to Jim’s daughter Kaitlyn and her son, Hunter. As both sisters are in declining health, it may well be their last in-person visit. The long drive home under darkening skies and pouring rain seemed to punctuate the sad departure.

Upon returning to Cloud 9, we faced the challenge of getting five chihuahuas outside to do their business in the drenching rain. But soon we settled down to a fine crock-pot roast and vegetables, after which we returned Jon’s mom to her little apartment in Alton. It was a long day, but one filled with blessed memories.

On Saturday, we welcomed Jon’s sister Judy to Cloud 9 for coffee and conversation, and then made our way to Alton for lunch with Jon’s mom and sister Jayme. Leaving Alton at 2:00, we made our way back to Joplin for our overnight stay. Construction zones and onlooker delays at a highway accident delayed our arrival by more than an hour, but we finally sat down to dinner around 7:30 and our official kick-off to the Christmas holiday season–a viewing of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Sunday found us lingering amid regular routines, including drinking Bloody Mary’s, reading The New York Times, and watching “CBS Sunday Morning.” We left for Dallas before noon, the final element of our long holiday weekend.