Oh What Fun. . .
Picture this. . .
Friday, November 29, 1985.
November 28 was the latest day that the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day, could have fallen.
That, in itself, should have been a dire warning.
As usual, my immediate family members on the more social/slightly dysfunctional side of the family (i.e. "Irish") had planned to meet at my Aunt Jo’s house in Dallas Texas.
Aunt Jo had always pulled off the best Thanksgiving dinners, especially since her own four young-adult kids lived nearby in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area.
I was 26 years old at the time and was living in Austin, three hours south of Dallas. My mom and grandmother lived two hours south of Austin, so they planned on driving up to Austin and then have me drive them through the Dallas Metroplex to my aunt’s house.
Let me preface this by saying that driving across the Dallas Metroplex to visit my aunt was, by far, THE most horrifying thing for my mom EVER to attempt.
She tried it, once, when I was ten years old. She was a young, single mother and we'd never been to a big, intimidating city like Dallas before.
After blazing past the Texas School Book Depository, we ended up phoning my aunt from a pay phone somewhere near Little Rock.
Since then, a relative (me) had usually driven us to my aunt’s house.
So, we took off from Austin in my mom’s car with her in the passenger seat and my grandmother in the back.
Keep in mind that this was the Autumn of 1985. The Honda CRX’s were just out - - do you remember the Honda CRX?
Oh my goodness, the Honda CRX was JUST the totally coolest little car. It was a two-seater sports car and I was completely bonkers over this car. I was totally obsessed with them, had to have one, and very few of them were available in Texas at that time.
So, about an hour north of Austin, my mom had just finally relaxed enough from the Horrifying Trip though Austin traffic, enough to not pay attention to my driving. My grandmother was dozing off in the back seat and then - -
- - I spotted a Honda CRX traveling south on I-35.
That was not the best time for me to suddenly shriek with delight,
“AAAAGGGHHHH!! - - LOOK!!!!!!
We ended up with a shoebox of pimento cheese sandwiches all over us after my sleeping grandmother bolted from the back seat like an F-15 pilot on an emergency maneuver. (She always traveled to Dallas with shoeboxes of homemade sandwiches and snacks -- heaven forbid we should have to stop at an over-priced Stuckey’s along the way).
That was the only time my mother ever struck me - - it was an incredibly accurate backhand across my chest, evidence of her being a champion tennis player in college. . . THWAAACK!
We made it to Dallas three hours later.
Luckily for my passengers, there were no more Honda CRXs spotted along the way.
My aunt pulled off her usual Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.There was a giant Texas-sized turkey. My cousin’s wife brought her stuffed eggs.
My cousin, Joanna, would ONLY eat Del-Monte green beans ever since she was four years old, so they were always a holiday staple.
I brought some home-made cranberry sauce which went un-touched (only the canned stuff with the ridges would do)
It also had orange peel in it which, perhaps, raised a few eyebrows.
Orange peel by single men in Texas was not as accepted as it is nowadays.
Anyway, my aunt tried a new recipe which included some of that fake crab meat and served it an appetizer. It was new at the time and my aunt was known for trying new and interesting things; as far as Dallas suburbanite women in the 1980s went.
Most of us tried her crab salad and enjoyed it.
Well, except for Joanna and her family, who would only venture as far as Del-Monte green beans for the past 20 years.
The only other holiday tradition was that I would make a mincemeat pie for me and my Uncle Don. He loved mincemeat pie and so did I. The rest of the family would leave the mincemeat pie completely alone for me and Uncle Don.
Especially his daughter, Joanna.
I left for Austin the next day. Aunt Jo would drive my mom and grandmother down to South Texas later that weekend.
I made it to Waco, halfway back to Austin, before THE CRAB SALAD made itself known to humanity.
Oh my goodness, it’s exactly one hundred miles between Waco and Austin, and believe me, that was the longest hundred miles I’ve ever traveled.
Did you know that there were eight Stuckey’s restaurants evenly spaced between Waco and Austin along I-35 during the 1980s?
My grandmother may have kept us from stopping at any of them during the 1960s, 70s and 80s by catering food in her shoeboxes, but lordy, I hit them all on November 29, 1985.
And I hit them HARD!
I was never so glad to make it home to my little apartment in downtown Austin that night. That trip was horrible.
I phoned my relatives, very weakly, back in Dallas. . . .
“Mom? ? Mom?? I’m home in Austin. . . ."
“Buck! We’re all sick!”
"Everyone's sick? Everybody?"
"Well, . . . . except for Joanna. . . "
I still shudder, thinking of Aunt Jo’s crab salad.
None of us will eat that fake crab to this day.
Tomorrow, I could call my mom or Jo and mention ‘crab salad’ and they’ll instantly remember that Thanksgiving in Dallas in 1985 when Aunt Jo poisoned us all. . .
Oh, by the way. . . .
In 1986, I purchased a Honda CRX and it was the best car EVER!.