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An American Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania


This 2008 post combines a few of my favourite things: relationship troubles, a visit to a winery, and American Thanksgiving… 

… In fact it was my first (and, so far, last) American Thanksgiving; I’m still quite astonished at the extremes to which our neighbours to the South go, really extending the hands etc. Canadian Thanksgiving was never like this.

An American Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania

(originally published December 2 2008 at

A crowd was just beginning to gather for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as the cab made its way from JFK through midtown, to the Dunkin’ Donuts where we were to meet up with the Texas Twister’s younger sister, S., and her boyfriend, M. The atmosphere between the Twister and I was frosty; we’d had a row, as the Brits say, the night before over the general dishevelment of our homestead.

But by the time we arrived at the old stone farmhouse, in the Pennsylvania countryside, relations had thawed. The house itself was magnificent, a converted horse stable dating back to around 1750, with the original stone walls, a fantastic fireplace in the main room, and all the modern amenities. Bud, a white-haired, pink-faced family friend, greeted us, and the Twister and I retired to catch up on some much-needed sleep. (And hey, a thumb’s up for Cathay Pacific, which kept the wine coming throughout the flight.)

The dinner itself was magnificent; the Twister’s mom, sister and sister’s boyfriend M are all foodies, so the side-dishes, the appetizers and of course the turkey itself were all exceptional. Kudos to the sister’s boyfriend, Marcus, for not only cooking but weathering the withering criticisms of the mom (“Did you clean the sand off the leeks?”) For post-dinner, the sis brought out a selection of cheeses to go along with a pumpkin cheesecake.

Everything was going along swimmingly. I’d been warned that Connie, the Twister’s mom, is crazy, and can be a little bit hard on prospective suitors (I was told I might be asked, “Have you had a vasectomy?)”), that the Twister has been known to ruin past Thanksgivings with emotional outbursts, and that no boyfriend has yet survived to attend a second Thanksgiving. But the dinner was great, and the next day—a visit to a winery, Crossing Vineyards, and the nearby town of New Hope—went without incident.

The other shoe dropped sometime after midnight, Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. We’d all—Connie, Hal and Bud, S. and M., and myself and the Twister—enjoyed an excellent meal out (at Rick’s, an Italian joint across the Delaware in Lambertville, NJ). After watching a few minutes of a cheap-o but effectively sick horror flick with the family the two of us retired to our room. I was fast asleep when I was woken up by an angry tone. “Who’s this?” she demanded.

She held my digital camera to my sleepy, unseeing eyes. When I focused, I saw a picture of a woman’s crotch in an off-white bikini bottom (or panties, it was hard to tell), obviously taken at the beach.

“I dunno,” I said. “You mean it’s not you?”

Well, apparently, that was the wrong thing to say. I couldn’t think of who else it might be, but it wasn’t her. She was sure of that. Blinking myself awake, I found myself in the midst of a full-blast conflagration. The Twister’s fury grew in the face of my (admittedly confused) denial, and she told me to pack up, and leave. Keep in mind this was in the middle of the night, in unfamiliar territory (Bucks County). When she decided I was taking too long to walk out into the cold dark night miles away from civilization, she started to prepare to leave herself. (In a typical Twister move, she gave the dispatcher the wrong address, and the cabbie had to call back.) It was while she was waiting for the cab that I decided it best to wake up the sister, S.

After talking to the Twister, S. came back to tell me I could stay, but that I would have to sleep in the room I’d been sharing with the Twister (rather than in one of the empty rooms on either side), and on the floor. The reason for this soon became clear—if I’d slept in another room the Twister wouldn’t have been able to swipe pencil eraser shavings onto my face while I slept on the floor beside the bed. She also woke me up to tell me (angrily, and twice) that I was snoring, that I was a terrible person, that I’d betrayed her trust, blah blah blah.

Early the next morning, I encountered Connie and Hal, Connie’s boyfriend and the house’s owner, in the kitchen. Hal had seen me packing, and so I tried to sketch in the details of what happened. When I was through, the Twister still insisted I leave (“Why are you talking to them? What are you saying? You’ve betrayed my trust in every way!”), so Hal was nice enough to drive me to the Trenton, New Jersey, train station. It was only by luck that my buddy Former Wingman was staying in Manhattan, so I could bunk with him Saturday night before flying home Sunday.

I didn’t know what to expect when I got back. But apparently, she was still feeling justified and righteous in her anger. She offered to pick me up at the airport, but mostly so she could give me the cold shoulder on the ride home. All day Monday, at the office, my inbox filled up with emails berating me, telling me how I’d fucked up her life (my favourite: “I’m really upset at you for fucking this whole thing up. I was happy, and now everything has gone to shit because you just can’t have your fucking sexuality compromised, and you want to play tough guy and not pick up the phone when I’m in one of the worst living situations possible. You’ve really shown your true colors with this one. I really didn’t think I’d ever see you treat me like that. I can’t even leave.”). Needless to say, I was in no rush to get home.

When I did, the Twister passed me in the hall downstairs and barely acknowledged me as she went about doing her laundry. The frostiness continued upstairs in our apartment. She complained, “I really hate having to move again.” This was getting ridiculous. I checked my email, found one that was an invitation to her to go to the beach the same day the picture was taken, and showed it to her.

To say that I enjoyed watching her write emails of apology, absolving my good name and explaining she didn’t recognize the image was because she wore her underwear that day and not her bathing suit, to her family and ex-boyfriend, is an understatement. It’s not over yet, either; she’ll have to deal with the replies, asking how she could ruin yet another Thanksgiving dinner. Me, I’m wondering if this is what all American Thanksgivings are like.

Published infood and drinktravel


  1. […] Sonoma was a few days, the same with Portland and Seattle and, just last month, that misbegotten American Thanksgiving weekend in Pennsylvania. As long as she keeps sleeping through most of the day and fooling around […]

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