Today is Thanksgiving Day, and a chance for Americans to reflect within their own family circles, and to be thankful for all they have. It is a wonderful holiday, without the overt commercialism of Christmas. It is always fun to be here to share it.
I start slowly, by drinking coffee and writing my blog, before going to the restaurant for a simple breakfast of fruit and pastries. In a booth next to my table is a father with three young sons, and they have TRASHED their table which is hidden beneath a covering of Cheerios. Bagels have been picked into tiny crumbs, which have become mixed with the cereal. The whole mess is spilling over the edge and onto the floor where it is being ground into the carpet by sneakered feet. The strange thing is that nobody (father, or staff), seem the slightest bit perturbed by this. When the family leave, trailing Cheerios in their wake, the server comes to clear away and says, ‘ahh, what cute kids’.
After breakfast I return to my room in time to watch the coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade from New York City, which is always fun. The parade is a masterclass in stage management, with everything timed so tightly. Broadway casts, school marching bands and troupes of dancers all move into the space in front of the grand old store, do their bit and then move on, as the tsunami of the parade follows inexorably on down 34th Street.
At 11.30 I get into my car and drive to the nearby town of Sutton to meet Gary and Judi Vaillancourt for Thanksgiving lunch. As I drive I discover another little quirk in my VW Tiguan – it is originally registered in Quebec, and so the speedometer reads only in kph, not mph: I wondered why I was going so slowly and yet seemed to be breaking the speed limit! Fortunately the Garmin GPS unit shows the speed in mph, so I must rely on that for the rest of my journey.
I have been performing for the Vaillancourts for 7 years now, and my shows are always over this particular weekend. As with so many people on tour (and this is something I am truly thankful for), I regard them as close friends, and it is always wonderful to see them again.
We are actually going to a restaurant for lunch, as the Vaillancourts are in the process of having a new house built, and are currently living in a tiny apartment. We meet on the forecourt of the business, and I climb into their car for the relatively short drive to Providence, Rhode Island (I had never realised that we so close to the city|). We spend the journey catching up on our news, and soon pull up outside Miller’s Tavern in the heart of downtown.
Millers is a fabulous place with a bustling and happy atmosphere (although if you can’t do bustling and happy on Thanksgiving, you are probably in the wrong business!). We are shown to a table in the window, and offered cocktails.
As the server fusses around us he does something that I never seen before, but which shows great attention to detail: the tables are set with crisp linen napkins, but Judi is dressed in dark colours, so the waiter takes her napkin and replaces it with a black one, so as not to leave lint on her clothes.
In a few minutes, we are joined by another Gary, who is the Vaillancourts German agent and lives in nearby Newport. Gary, Gary and Judi are excellent dinner companions, and we chat about this and that, as our lunches are brought. Gary (V) choses a swordfish dish, but Judi and I both plump for the traditional turkey and trimmings: it is as delicious, as you would expect from a restaurant that pays attention to the colour of its napkins.
We spend a good long time at Millers, and are not rushed by the staff. The restaurant is full with happy family groups and the sound of laughter is the prevalent one.
When we finally finish, it is time for our whole party to move back to Sutton and to join Gary and Judi’s son Luke for dessert. Luke and his wife Anna built their own house three years ago, and it is elegantly decorated (last year it was featured in one of those Christmas lifestyle magazines which gives you some ideas as to their sense of style).
22 months ago, the Vaillancourt clan was joined by little Nathanial and it is he who has the centre of the attention. Also watching little Nate are Anna’s parents Bob and Karen, and her brother Evan with his wife Stephanie. It is exhausting to see the energy of an-almost-two-year-old, but he is surrounded by four grandparents, an uncle and aunt, not to mention a couple of strangers, and plays to his audience well!
This is lovely family time, and it is a pleasure and an honour to share it with Luke and Anna, who are generous hosts.
Afternoon drifts into evening and one by one the guests start to make their moves. Gary and Judi are keen to show me their new house, which is actually right next door, so we make our way over the grass and in to the construction site.
Judi is a trained artist, and has designed the new home in the style of one of the Colonial Williamsburg Cottages. So often a modern recreation of a historic home looks ever so slightly wrong, and becomes a mere pastiche, put the proportions of this house are perfect.
The construction is complete, but all of the interior has to be finished yet: electric light there is, plumbing there is not. If the contractors really push ahead and there are no unforeseen delays, the new home should be occupied before Christmas. It is going to be an amazing house and Judi’s vision is evident throughout.
I say my goodbyes on the doorstep (yes, Judi and Gary look just right waving to me from the porch), and drive back to Worcester and my hotel. There is no need for any dinner this evening, so I go to my room and find a film to watch – Forest Gump gets the vote.
What a lovely day Thanksgiving is, and I am thankful to have been part of it once again, but on this day of family celebration I so miss being at home with Liz, and Cameron, and am thinking of them as I fall asleep.