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Survivor Journals

Bob of If I Die Before I Wake has invited nine journallers to participate in a Cyber Survivor Adventure.

Every couple of weeks, the group will be issued a "challenge entry". The site will post a excerpt from the challenge entries, as well as the link to the complete entry found on the journaller's own journal site.

After the challenge entry is posted, the nine journallers will vote one of the writers off the site.

The "ousted" journaller will actually remain on the site, but rather than posting further challenge entries, they will act as a judge and commentator.

The first challenge entry has been issued, and can be found at the Survivor Journal website. The actual entries should be completed by
October 1, 2000.

Please take the time to visit, especially once the challenge entries are posted. There is a message board to post your thoughts/comments and also a instant poll where visitors can vote for who they would want to see kicked off the site.

The reasons behind Survivor Journals are simple.

1. To try something new.
2. Increase the interaction of the journal community.
3. The challenge.
4. Increased exposure to all journals involved.

So take a look around, explore all the journals involved.

If you would like to take part in Survivor Journals, Year Two, let Bob know!


November 23, 2000

It’s midnight on Thanksgiving morning and in a few hours, after I get up at 5 a.m. to bake pumpkin pies, we will be heading over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house. Or Grandma’s condo. We’ve been going to this condo for nearly 30 years now. It started when Grandma bought a place at Lake Tahoe, a place that would be a summer and winter playground. Nobody actually lives there, so it takes the pressure off of any person to do all the preparations for the Thanksgiving feast.

The whole family comes. That would be: Walt’s mother, his sister, his brother and sister-in- law, Walt and I and all the kids, and then, depending on the year, their cousin and wife (one year they got married at Tahoe over Thanksgiving weekend), any foreign visitors we might have had living with us, occasionally my mother and her husband (though since his death, she is always with us), and the odd friend or acquaintance who finds him/herself with no place to go over Thanksgiving.

Because this is not anybody’s home, the dinner becomes a pot luck. Walt’s mother cooks the turkey and everyone else fills in with other food. My traditional contribution is pumpkin pie. Ned makes mashed potatoes (careful to follow Uncle Ernie’s “recipe,” which includes adding an egg to the mixture), Jeri does salad, Paul did creamed onions (it was perfect for him--he opened a can and put them in a pot and heated), Walt’s sister did veggies. Whoever didn’t bring food did the clean-up after dinner. And on the morning after Thanksgiving, Walt and his brother make eggs benedict for everyone.

Traditions are wonderful, and we have a lot of tradition invested in our Tahoe Thanksgiving. The biggest started shortly after we began coming to the lake for the holiday. Tom and I happened to go out to dinner with Walt’s cousin and for dessert we all decided to try Baked Alaska. Tom thought that was the greatest thing since sliced bread, so, gourmet cook that he has always been, ever since junior high, he decided he wanted to learn to make it and would test it out at Thanksgiving dinner. It was such a success that it has been Tom’s job to make baked alaska each year. (Which means that the pies I bring are usually eaten as a pre-breakfast snack the next morning.)

But there are other traditions. We play a lot of solitaire over the weekend. Sometimes board games. And for many, many years, there was a rousing game of charades after dinner Thanksgiving night. Some of our happiest times were spent watching Grandma try to act out some ridiculous title that the kids had thought up, or trying to get the idea of “charades” across to someone who was still struggling with English and couldn’t quite get the notion of pantomiming a title.

Another holiday tradition is the silly Hallmark stand-up turkey that has graced the dinner table every year for so many years nobody can remember when he first arrived. It’s one of those fold-out things and the cardboard has long since lost its ability to support the weight of the turkey, but Jeri has resolutely worked at making the damn thing stand, and stand he does, proudly loooking over the plates of food.

There is a lot to be said for tradition. It’s the stuff that holds a family together. When the family is starting to fall apart, tradition can be very painful. The first Thanksgiving after David died was very difficult. Dave loved going to the cabin for Thanksgiving. Even when he was going through periods in his life when he wasn’t all that connected to anybody, he was the “old Dave” at Tahoe. He loved laughing with Uncle Norm, teasing Grandma, and playing a mean game of charades. It was his very favorite holiday and his favorite thing to do, and so when we got to the house that year, the absence of Dave was everywhere. And when we sat around the table, holding hands and thanking God for our blessings, it was an extremely emotional moment because there was an empty chair at the table.

It started to get better. By 1998, the third Thanksgiving since Dave left us, things had started falling into place again. We had given up charades. There was no way we could play charades without Dave. But we substituted it $21,000 Pyramid? Another word game that everyone enjoyed. I had started my own weird tradition, the purpose of which I never shared with anyone. I insisted on a group photo. That was because we were all together and I realized that we never knew when we would lose someone else. We took our group photo in 1998.

And then Paul died. As much as Dave loved Thanksgiving at the cabin, Paul loved it more. He talked to me so often about how he felt about being there and how much he loved everybody and loved spending the weekend with them. He died in April and the closer we got to November, the more I absolutely panicked. I simply could not go to Tahoe that year without falling apart. I told the family how I was feeling and everyone agreed that we would find another way to celebrate Thanksgsiving last year.

Tom said he’d agree to pass on Tahoe last year if I would promise him we could return this year. I did. So last year we spent a very pleasant evening with Marta’s family. It was the first holiday that our two families have blended together and I was so grateful to Marta’s stepmother for taking all of us in. There were 24 of us for dinner and it was a tour de force for the stepmother. And it was just what the doctor ordered for us. There was absolutely nothing of our own holiday tradition about the evening and so it was easy to look on it as just a family gathering, not as “Thanksgiving.”

But later today we will return to Tahoe and we will celebrate Thanksgiving at the condo again. The loss of Paul and David won’t be as noticeable as it would have been last year. Ned and Marta can’t come either because Ned has to work at 5:30 a.m. the next morning (the fate of a radio man); and Jeri can’t get home from Boston to be with us this year, so Tom will be the only “kid” there. Perhaps it won’t be quite so bad.

I also managed to get to Tahoe a couple of times when Peggy was here and so have been at the cabin at non-Thanksgiving times and thus have other associations with the house, for the first time in a long time, and I imagine that will ease the pain of not having the kids there too.

We will continue with as many of the “traditions” as we can. We will give thanks for the blessings we have received this year--and thank God for giving us Paul and David for as long as He did. Jeri and Ned will call, just because they can’t not be a part of the celebration, even if it’s only by telephone.

Tradition will continue. The family will continue. And somehow, I know Paul and David will be with us, if only in spirit.

My love to all of you as you enjoy your own traditions. Hug everybody you love. Mend fences. Speak your love. Give thanks. And have another piece of pumpkin pie for me.

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created 11/5/00 by Bev Sykes