In my family, we traditionally have a “barn party” on Friday after Thanksgiving. Over the years, the party has been held in a variety of different places. When I was a kid, the barn on my Uncle Brownlee’s property was owned by someone else, so we had to rent somewhere for our party. Some years, we had it at the Natural Bridge Hotel, either in a room in the basement or in a reception hall.
In 1987, we had an all out par-tay in one of the big ballrooms. It was complete with an open bar and a full band featuring my Uncle Brownlee and his brother, Stephen. There was much drunkenness, especially from yours truly. I was 15 years old and one of my cousins, who shall remain nameless, was passing me bourbon and Cokes. I drank four and got good and hammered. That was the first time in my life I ever got drunk, and boy was I a mess. Fortunately, my Aunt Nance filmed the whole thing for posterity… LOL. I made myself scarce during the drunk part, thank GOD. I still like to watch that video, though, because that was a wild party and there are people in it who are no longer with us.
In later years, we had the party at the Fire Station in Natural Bridge, which wasn’t too long on character. There were lots of stories told, though no dancing or music. One year, we had karaoke in the barn. And finally in recent years, we started having the whole celebration in the barn, which my handy and talented Uncle Brownlee has fixed up for dancing and music. The last few years, we’ve even had live bluegrass music from The Plank Road Express. In 2010, during our last visit for Thanksgiving, I got to sing a number with the band, which was a lot of fun for me. In a former life, I think I was a rock star.
I had a feeling we were going to be a bit emotional after my dad’s memorial, so I arranged a date night for Bill and me. We had dinner at The Southern Inn in Lexington, Virginia. We ate there once or twice before and there are other restaurants in Lexington. I will admit that part of the reason I chose that place is because they participate in OpenTable, which is a restaurant reservation service. I get points every time I make a reservation and have been collecting for over ten years. But if I don’t reserve a table at least once a year, the points expire. Since I don’t know when we’ll be back in the States, I figured it was a good opportunity to keep current. And I wanted to enjoy a nice dinner with my spouse, too.
So we stayed dressed up for dinner, though we really didn’t have to. The Southern Inn is a fairly casual place and it’s obvious that it’s popular with locals. Our waitress was very experienced and clearly knew a lot of the people at the surrounding tables. We enjoyed a very nice meal, too. I started with baked Brie and a glass of prosecco. Bill had a bowl of Andouille sausage soup. I had sea scallops and parmesan grits for my entree. Bill had a huge steak. For dessert, I had a Brandy Alexander, while Bill had pecan pie.
Bill reacting to something smartassed I said.
Baked Brie… it was a little like a grilled cheese sandwich on steroids.
Bill’s yummy soup!
Scallops, grits, and greens!
Pecan pie… this was good, but my brother-in-law, Mark, makes an even better one.
We got back to the home place just in time for a spectacular fireworks show put on by one of my cousins. I wish we’d gotten there a little earlier so I could have gotten more than a few shots. I was pretty impressed by how professional the show was!
Then we went to the barn for dancing and more singing… and yes, I did get to sing with The Plank Road Express again. It was funny, too, because the lead singer spotted me and said, “I’ve been looking for you for four years! Where have you been?” I sang “Walking After Midnight” and fumbled with the words a bit… but probably the most special moment of the night came when I saw the words for “On Heaven’s Bright Shore” on her music stand.
You see, I really would have liked to have sung “On Heaven’s Bright Shore” at my dad’s memorial. That would have been my choice for a solo. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone to accompany me. I did record an acapella version, but it’s not as good as it would be if I had someone on guitar or something.
The Plank Road Express in the barn…
Anyway, I asked the band if they would mind if I gave “On Heaven’s Bright Shore” a whirl. They asked if I could sing it in “C”. I said, “Just play it. I’m drunk and so is most everyone else in here!” It turned out pretty well!
I thanked the band for obliging me and explained that I had come all the way from Germany for my dad’s memorial. The lead singer said, “Oh, so that was your dad who died? I sang ‘On Heaven’s Bright Shore’ for my dad, too.” I got the sense that we bonded a little over that song!
Another highlight of Friday night was my Uncle Ed, who is just hilarious. He said, “Hey Jenny, we have some ‘moon’ here…” “Moon”, for your edification, refers to moonshine. Yes, many people in my family enjoy it as well as the odd Miller Lite beer. My tastebuds have evolved beyond Lite, but I don’t mind if I do enjoy a little “moon” when the opportunity presents itself. It was good stuff, too– pretty smooth and I haven’t gone blind…
We didn’t get back to the Hummingbird Inn until after 1:00am. We would have been there sooner, except I left my bag at the house and had to go back and retrieve it. On the way into the house, I skinned the hell out of my knee. That may have been yet another sign from my dad. Many years ago, when I was a kid and we were celebrating Thanksgiving with the family, my dad decided to go jogging. Possibly in a pre-menstrual moment, I said “I hope you fall and skin your knee.” My cousin, Suzanne, thought that was the funniest thing and reminded me of it this year. So maybe it was a little karmic payback. Despite my smarting knee, I had a great time!