Thursday, November 27, 2014


Sometimes it’s the small things for which we can be most thankful. This Thanksgiving, in addition to being thankful for my family, I was specifically thankful for specific family members with better driving skills and more patience than I have. And alcohol.

When my family overruled my first choice activity for the Day of the Turkey, which was to spend it at home with my two dogs and Netflix, I was forced to choose between two options. I could go with Mom and Butch to dinner at Butch’s sister’s house in nearby Westminster, or I could go to my sister’s in-laws’ across town.

The alternatives were fine, I just didn’t feel like being around people, which were a feature at both houses. This was one of those supremely rare times when I wished I had a boyfriend or a husband, because I’d have someone to blame for my non-attendance.

I chose the destination starring my sister and my nieces and headed “up the hill,” which might be more of a descriptor if most of the 28.1 square miles of the city of Fitchburg wasn’t hills. Heck, even some of our streets have “hill” in the name -- Oak Hill Road, Westminster Hill Road, Ashburnham Hill Road, Pearl Hill Road.

The view on the way up the mountain to dinner.
Having visited the dinner location only once, maybe 10 years ago, I knew only that it was “up the hill, about a mile, on the right” from my sister’s house. The views were lovely on the way up the mountain, and everything was fine until I arrived at the house. When houses are built on hills, the driveways can be a bit, um challenging.

This house was on a hill, yet down a hill, and it was not a  leisurely turn into a relatively level driveway. Oh, hell no. It looked like the ideal location for a cog railway to be  installed. I have skied flatter trails than this driveway. Did I mention the six inches of heavy, wet, snow the night before?

It occurred to me to keep driving and head back home. But I didn’t.

My sister’s van was parked in front of the house, facing up the driveway, nose toward the road. There was a clearing at the bottom of the most terrifying driveway in the world, which was more like a cliff cleverly disguised as a driveway. If I focused, I could turn around between the trucks, wood pile, sheds, and sloping terrain, and park behind my sister. Maybe.

I inched down the steep, plowed driveway. At the clearing, I got my CRV mostly turned around, and suddenly it wouldn’t budge. Not forward. Not backward. I couldn’t go very far forward anyway, as the woodpile was in front of me. 

Meanwhile, my sister was standing at the doorway to the house, up the driveway, flagging me to the right and forward. I yelled out the window that I couldn’t move forward or backward. I tried to back up again and slid sideways. Yes, sideways, down a slope in this hellhole of a yard.

I put the car in park, turned it off, got out, hiked the mountainside to the house, and asked for the valet parking. As I handed my keys to my brother-in-law, my sister (a brilliant woman) handed me a glass of limoncello.  My brother-in-law, his brother, and the brother's teenaged son headed down the driveway to fix my mess. It was kind of comical. I guess. I’m pretty sure if this had happened to anyone else, I’d have been laughing until I puked. Instead, I hugged my sister and nieces hello and sipped my limoncello, which is a lovely liqueur I look forward to enjoying again.

The guys got my car situated -- back onto the most terrifying driveway in town, and parked behind my sister’s van. When they came back into the house, they mentioned that my progress had been impeded by a stray piece of wood from the woodpile that wedged under my bumper. Oh, and that my tires are practically bald.

Looks like new tires are in my immediate future. Thank goodness for credit cards. And for family members who are great at hugging, cooking things, fixing things, and pouring a lovely liqueur.

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