Thanksgiving with Family

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Cross posted from my blog

Cranberry sauce.

I need more of it.

And this isn’t just any ol’ slop of cranberry “sauce” that you slide out of the can. It was more like dessert than sauce. It was delicious.


12 years… or so


My trip to Milwaukee to be with family for fives days was great. Of course, in some ways I wish I could still be that awkward little preteen who could just get away with not actually saying anything. But alas, that’s no longer the case and being a little wiser to the nuances of my dad’s family love-hate complexities, being older made the vacation a wee-bit more fun—if not, perhaps a practice in social observation.

The last time my dad’s side of the family—nephews and nieces included—came together was about 12 years ago, give or take a couple of years, before the grandparents passed away. So the timing of all this was spectacular, especially given the size of the family.

It’s difficult enough to get my family, living overseas to time family get togethers, but it’s another matter when you’re also getting the aunt and uncle from Portland, Oreg. to join the rest of the family in Milwaukee.


To Milwaukee

Traveling alone isn’t always fun, but unlike my last solo-trip to Milwaukee when I was about 12 years old, my total traveling time was only about five hours (compared to 14-or-so hours). It was an interesting experience to get myself from where I lived to where my parents were staying in Brookfield, Wisc.

There was an eerie calm the morning I left to catch the first train at 5:10 a.m. Usually, by the time I’m awake the East-West Highway, 16th Street, and Colesville Road corridors are packed with drivers and bus transit shuttling people between Maryland and the District.

There were one or two cars here and there, dump trucks, delivery trucks and other service vehicles but the streets were empty. Quiet.

Too quiet.

The breeze had a biting chill to it, and the falling leaves were dancing along the sidewalks.

I was half expecting the smell of stale urine to be kicked up by the cold breeze but surprisingly, no urine smell. No vomit smell. Just crisp, cold air.

The ride to the airport was quick. I got to the airport way too early, and though the waiting was utterly boring it was deliberate, since it would’ve only been Murphy’s Law that had I not taken the first train at some ridiculous hour, the Red Line on the metro would’ve encountered problems and I would’ve missed my flight.

The Metro is not something to be fully trusted.

Though next time, perhaps I won’t leave so early.

The difference between flying domestically and internationally was made obvious. When I was younger and my family traveled from Japan, it seemed like everything was nonstop—from checking in at the airport, going though security, boarding the plane, deplaning, grabbing our bags, re-checking our bags, going through security again, riding the plane, etc.

This time around, it was a slower pace flying from D.C. There was no sense of urgency to get from the international terminal to the domestic terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. It just seemed like a lot of waiting this time around.

Sitting and waiting. And lots of it.

With the exception of this father who looked ready to karate chop his daughter in the face for being obnoxious, the full flight to Chicago was uneventful. Then there was navigating the airport itself, which I never liked even when I was with my well-traveled dad. Eventually I found my way to the shuttle station where I caught a very empty Wisconsin Coach bus to Goerke’s Corners in Brookfield, Wisc., where my folks picked me up.

Riding along I-94 is nothing like riding along I-495/95 or your arterial roadways like MD-4 or 2 or 355.

It is a different existence in Wisconsin, one I never fully noticed until this trip for Thanksgiving.

Everything seems more spread out, and bigger (but not Texas “bigger”). There are lots of cars—the need for which is created by the spread of residential and commercial areas. It’s also very industrial with all its warehouses, semi-trucks, road-side quick stops, and large commercial spaces. In short—this is not your city center.

I tried to pinpoint exactly what I was feeling on the bus to Brookfield, but I couldn’t equate it with any other experience I’ve had. The closest I can think of is riding down through Southern Maryland on routes 4 and 5, or even on Route 2 to Annapolis, but it’s not exactly the same.

Riding along that stretch of highway through the vast nothing of Racine and Kenosha is its on version of empty. It was unsettling.

I also noticed the sun seemed to be a lot brighter out there compared to D.C. I’m guessing it has something to do with smog and overall air pollution.


All The Food

If there’s one thing we’re guaranteed to eat when visiting Milwaukee, it’s sushi. Family loves the stuff and never fails to take us to a local sushi place that is great. Japan sets a pretty high bar for sushi quality, and I have yet to really give my “awesome” mark for any places in D.C. but this place we went for dinner wasn’t too bad. The fish was fresh, and the portions were acceptable—though I still prefer the rotating belt or “kaiten” that I grew up with back home.

Thanksgiving fare was the usual but something about this year made it better. It may be because this is the first Thanksgiving since I left Japan that I had with my family, instead of M’s family. It was a nice change for me.

Of course, I’ve never seen a turkey as big as the one my Aunt K was cooking up in the oven, and I’ve never had cranberry sauce as delectable as the one Aunt B made. Calling that cranberry sauce doesn’t do it justice because it’s not really a “sauce”. It’s more like a dessert. A sherberty, delicate, angel food cake-like, cranberrylicious dessert that tastes good on turkey. (MOAR PLEEEEEZE)

And what’s a family gathering without knocking back quite a bit a few drinks? There was much wine flowing and beer bottles and cans popped open Thanksgiving evening.

There was also pie. Pumpkin and apple. With whip cream. Heaven.

Our last full evening in Milwaukee, the family got together for one last, simple pizza dinner. But again, much wine had been consumed along with a good two dozen or so bottles of local brew.

Fun times.


The Shopping

And yes, we did go shopping. Mom has a thing for outlet malls so it’s standard to try and squeeze in a trip to an outlet mall, and take advantage of the cheaper prices you can’t get in Japan. We also did venture out on Black Friday, but after the sun had already been up for a couple hours. This was the first time I was on the consumer side of the shopping day without worrying about covering some kind of shift at a store. It was interesting, and equally exhausting. It was also curious to notice that there was hardly anyone around when we went out between 9 a.m. and noon, though I’m guessing this is because the midnight rush had already gone home, and it was the (relative) “lull” period between the midnight shoppers and post-lunch shoppers.


The holiday was short, though perhaps spending a week extended family is just enough to bring us together, but short enough where we don’t go at each others’ throats. Though… in my estimate, some family members would probably get offed after only two days in a “stranded, isolated island with family” scenario.

How was your Thanksgiving holiday?

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