"What about the Gold and Silver?" Mom prodded from the driver's seat, "They always have such a nice Thanksgiving special."
I relayed this to Nick. "Um, I don't really like the Gold and Silver at all," he told me.
Hm. Okay, that was two places that the three of us liked, but Nick didn't. I was starting to feel a bit on edge, as I told Mom that Nick didn't approve of that choice either.
"What about the Nugget?" I offered. "A friend of mine and his wife went there for Thanksgiving once, and they said it was fantastic."
"Sure, the Nugget sounds okay," my brother agreed.
"Except I don't think you can make reservations," I pointed out.
"NO LINES," my mother piped up. "I am absolutely not up to standing in any lines."
Well, for that matter, neither was I, nor, I suspected, was Dad. I relayed that to my brother then mentioned that I was all out of ideas. We agreed to think about it and try to figure something out later.
"Call your father," Mom ordered after I'd hung up the cell. "Maybe he'll have some ideas."
Dutifully, I called Dad.
"Hey, it's your daughter," I greeted him.
"Hey, um, Nick doesn't like Mimi's or the Gold and Silver, and he wouldn't mind the Nugget, but none of us are in any shape to stand in line for the buffet or whatever," I told him.
"Tell him to see if he can think of anything, and have him call your brother," Mom told me.
"Mom wants you to call Nick and see if you can figure something out," I told Dad.
"All right, I'll do that."
"Okay, talk to you later, Dad."
The rest of the trip was peaceful. I saw the doctor, was confirmed in my suspicion that I was, in fact, sick, and we left with a handful of prescriptions and instructions.
"See if your Dad has talked to Nick yet," said Mom as we drove towards home.
I rang Dad.
"Hey, it's your daughter."
"Hey, Mom wants to know if you talked to Nick."
"Well, yes, I talked to him," Dad said. "He really doesn't want to go to Mimi's or the Gold and Silver."
I relayed this to Mom.
"Ask him if he can be persuaded," said Mom.
"What was that?" asked Dad.
"Mom says to ask you if Nick can be persuaded," I said.
There was silence for a moment.
"Um ... " Dad hesitated a bit. "Tell her that if we did go to Mimi's or Gold and Silver, we might as well just go whole hog and go to the Sundowner."
The Sundowner. Holy frijoles. That was a word that carried the weight of ancient evil and terror. Just mentioning The Sundowner was enough to send a shudder through anyone in my immediate family. The Sundowner stood for so many things that were dark and horrifying. It was a name to conjure with.
Of course, as with so many things, The Sundowner was not always an image of evil. On the contrary, at one time, it was just another casino with just another buffet restaurant. Until, one Mother's Day when Nick and I were teenagers, Mom and Dad decided (for some reason) to go to The Sundowner's buffet for Mother's Day brunch.
Now, when you take two annoying, sniping, bickering, and snotty teenagers (as, I'm sorry to relate, my brother and I were), and you go to a casino buffet that is less than stellar (cold, runny scrambled eggs, orange juice that had been sitting a day or two too long, bacon as crisp as a sautéed lettuce leaf, sausage as tender as a dead oak branch), you are not really going to have a good time.
When I say "not really going to have a good time," that does not at all convey the sheer ugliness of that Mother's Day brunch. I don't want to go into too much detail, because thankfully, many of my memories of that day have been locked up and stuffed down in the very deepest darkest part of my mind where they belong. However, suffice it to say that the entire brunch experience from beginning to end was a cacophony of sheer horror and evil that has scarred us all with a trauma that remains to this day.
"Well, what did he say?" prompted Mom, bringing me back to reality.
"Um ... he said 'One word: Sundowner'," I told her.
The temperature in the car dropped a few degrees. Oh yes. Mom knew what THAT word meant!
"You know, I was thinking," interrupted Dad, "I have a coupon for a turkey breast from Honey Baked Hams. Maybe we could just run down there and get one and just eat at home. You know, not do all the trimmings, but just have a kind of quiet Thanksgiving here."
God bless him, Dad may have saved the day again. I told Mom about this new idea, and while she still seemed a bit irritated over the whole thing, she agreed that it would be all right. I breathed a sigh of relief. Dad reminded me that he and Mom were supposed to go out to dinner together tonight, so I mentioned that to Mom.
She groaned. "Oh, I just feel so awful," she said. "It'll have to be fast food."
"Fine with me," said Dad, and we hung up.
After a few minutes, Mom started telling me about how she had always loved making a big production of Thanksgiving dinner -- using the nice china and silver, preparing the meal and the trimmings. It was always one of her favorite days of the year, and she loved putting it together.
"After your Dad and I were divorced, though," she said, "I just didn't have the heart for it anymore."
It saddened me, and I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing. Mom and I drove the rest of the way home in silence.
When we got there, we transferred to Dad's car (Mom's car being temporarily a two-seater), and headed out to Honey Baked Hams and thence to fast food.
"How you doing?" Dad asked Mom.
"Oh, I'm just not feeling well, and I'm a little irritated with Nick for not wanting to go where the rest of us wanted to go," she replied.
"Well, he's not feeling well either," Dad said mildly, "he'd probably be willing to make do if he hadn't been so sick."
Mom "hmphed" a bit. As we drove along, we tried to figure out where to go for dinner. Dad suggested Quizno's, but Mom wasn't in the mood for a sandwich. We went through a few other suggestions, until finally I said, "Mom, what do YOU want?"
"What I want," she said with a loud sniffle, "is to go back to my car and go home and maybe get myself a burger on the way."
Dad and I were a bit taken aback.
"Well, we can do that," said Dad. "Are you sure you don't want to grab something now?"
"No, I just want to go home," said Mom. "I'm tired, I don't feel well, and I'm in a very bad mood. I have had enough for one day."
"All right," said Dad gently, and pulled into the left lane to make a U-turn and head back home. We dropped Mom off at her car, and I stopped Dad as he was about to pull out.
"Wait until she gets her car started," I told Dad.
He looked at me, puzzled. "Why, has she been having problems with her car?" he asked, concerned.
"No, not that I know of," I said, as I turned to look at Mom, "it's just been that kind of a day."
"Ah," said Dad in complete understanding, and we watched as she pulled away.
"So, on to Honey Baked Hams?" I asked.
"Sure," said Dad, and we were off.
At this point, the problem had somewhat been solved. We'd found a place to eat, and stuff to eat, and we'd all be together as a family. Ordinarily, this is where everything would turn out to the good. But this time, it was a little scary.
See, happy, healthy, contented people, when faced with a Thanksgiving that is not what they really want, are fine with that and just take what it is and enjoy the family's company. Ill and grumpy people are another story. A pre-baked sliced Turkey breast and Stove-Top(tm) Stuffing was not exactly anyone's dream Thanksgiving.
After all this, were we headed for another Sundowner after all?
[to be continued here]