It is 1986, and my parents have decided we are going to spend Thanksgiving and my sister Jessica's third birthday "Up the Mountains..." - family-speak for visiting a tiny house near Dushore, Pennsylvania, that my grandfather's father built at some point "back in the day." The house has a gas stove, water from a well and an old fashioned wood-burning stove in the living room heats its four rooms.
We came to this house often when I was a child. I remember it's wood-paneled walls, it's room full of beds (with one set of bunk beds) and then the "master bedroom" where my grandparents would sleep. I remember sitting on the ice-cold toilet seat when first arriving late at night after a long drive from South Jersey, trying to ignore the copious piles of mouse poo. The first thing we always had to do was clean up a bit.
That year my family had gone up on its own. No grandparents. No cousins. Just the six of us. With our costumes.
That year, my mother decided she was going to dress us up as Pilgrims and Indians. Two Pilgrims. Two Indians. Jessica, whose third birthday was that week, and I were dressed in folksy regular clothes on Team Pilgrim. Julie and Jackie, however, won out in the costume contest that year. My mom took faux-fur and made them little tunics, put bands of ribbon around their heads, hair in braids, and stuck a feather in each. Oh god damn. There is a photograph of this, but I'm not sure I can bring myself to post it without the express written permission of certain members of the clan.
One of the (many) problems with this house in the mountains was its distance from civilization. Excellent when you were looking for solitude and a break from busy work schedules, but not so awesome when a winter storm knocks out the power and you're stuck going down to the creek with pails, breaking through the ice and bringing back 33 degree water.
I'm pretty sure we had power on Thanksgiving Day, but I do recall climbing into the family van and schlepping to the metropolis of Tonowanda or Tamaqua - I'm pretty sure they're mostly the same - and having Jessica's 3rd birthday party at Burger King. There were paper crowns involved. We saw a Star Trek movie. Star Trek IV, the one with the whales.
Yet, in spite of a lack of electricity and fetching water from the creek, that Thanksgiving stands out as one of the most fun we ever had, even though I think I was pretty pissed at the time about having to dress up like a freakish Pilgrim and pose for photos. Maybe I was just jealous of the furry Indian costumes.