For much of the nation the term “Black Friday” brings up visions of waiting in long lines at ungodly hours of the morning to take advantage of super savings on whatever the must-have gift is for this Christmas. Well, I’ve actually never done Black Friday shopping personally. And the term Black Friday has developed a completely different meaning for our family in recent years – usually involving a trip to the farm, a calamity, blood, x-rays, stitches and often a trip to the hospital emergency room. Let me explain.
In late 2009, Michael and I bought the farm. Literally. A beautiful stretch of 250 acres near McComb, MS. And with that purchase we began taking a trip up there every year on the day after Thanksgiving.
In 2010, the girls wanted to go horse-back riding. So Michael arranged for one of the local men to bring three horses for Christy, Emily and I to ride. Now these turned out to be not your average trail horses, but specially trained cut-horses (which we soon discovered react to very small movements of your body or their reigns). It didn’t take long for Christy’s horse to take off running. When she pulled the slightest bit on his reigns, he made a quick left turn that sent her sailing like a Frisbee off into the back pasture. While Emily and I are trying to control our horses and gather her runaway horse, I am also calling Michael on my cell phone to get help, as Christy is still laying on the ground and unable to get up. This is when I discover that Michael has taken my parents on a ride in his Hummer through the woods and the Hummer will now only go in reverse. So he is having to drive backwards out of the woods to try to find us. To make a long story short, my brother and I had to transport Christy back to NOLA in his truck for ER and x-rays while Michael waited on a tow truck to find his Hummer in the woods and tow it back to NOLA.
In 2011, the kids decided they wanted to go fishing in the ponds on the property. By now we had a tiny cottage with the minimum needed to survive. Naturally we went up to the farm that day only to discover it was 30 degrees with a stiff wind. But the kids braved it and actually caught a few, though we were frozen to the bones.
In 2012, we began building our farmhouse. So once again on the day after Thanksgiving we rode up to the farm. This year was for some shooting and riding the Kubota four-wheelers. Things were going well, until Michael fell near the home site and his knee hit the concrete brick ledge. By the time I got to him there was blood everywhere! One of the workers took his shirt off and made a tourniquet around his leg to try to stop the blood flow. Andrew raced us over to the local hospital ER while I held Michael’s leg up and tried to keep pressure on it. He left a trail of blood from the entrance all through the waiting room. Eventually they got the bleeding stopped but didn’t know how to deal with such a large wound. So we loaded Michael up on pain killers, packed him in the car and drove back to NOLA where they were at least able to close a portion of it with 24 stitches. It took 2 full months to heal.
Last year, we decided we would celebrate Thanksgiving at the farm. It was a wonderful day. All the family was willing to come from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. We figured at the time that it would be my dad’s last Thanksgiving, but we didn’t know it would be mom’s last Thanksgiving too. And no one would have guessed it was Michael’s last Thanksgiving. It was a sweet time together. Only to be followed a week later by diagnoses of cancer for both mom and Michael on the same December day.
This year the kids wanted to go back to the farm on Black Friday again. We drove up the night before and the day was beautiful – brisk and clear. We built a fire in the fireplace and in the fire pit outside too. We grilled burgers and steaks. And the kids had a great time skeet shooting. No blood this year. No stitches or trips to the ER. We nearly escaped calamity entirely except when Emily decided that one of the Kubota’s should double as a swamp buggy and got it stuck in the mud. And she did a real good job too because she had to call for help which I know she hated. I’m fortunate to have one son-in-law who is an Eagle Scout and one son-in-law who is in the Coast Guard. But she managed to do such a good job that she had to call on her SuperHero Keith to pull her out! Well at least there were no lasting scars. And by now everybody’s arrived back home safe and sound.
This has been our first “big” holiday without Michael. We’ve tried our best to maintain the family traditions. But everywhere we look there’s an emptiness. I am thankful. I am nostalgic. And I miss Michael.