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|-- RYAN --|
Ryan Erik Chamberlain! By swapping the first two names, Dad didn't load me with an `IV' on the end. OK, an age-old question. When do you figure out you're straight, gay or somewhere in between? Hell, how do you figure out whether you're straight, gay or somewhere in between? I guess the dawning of sexual impulses comes differently in each individual and at a variety of times. For me, I guess things started not long after my fifteenth birthday. Some buddies of mine and I were at a convenience store that sold dirty magazines. The clerk wasn't really paying any attention so we were able to look at the current Playboy, Hustler and a few others. My buddies were all commenting about the boobs and the pussy. Me, I was looking at the guys in the Hustler pictures. The guys' bodies made me tingle. That's the best way to describe it, a tingle. Of course with that tingle came lots of confusion, denial, and other emotions associated with a teenager growing up. Teenagers don't figure things out overnight. I'd ponder on this for quite a while I'm sure.
My Dad recently met a boyfriend, brought him to meet me, and then invited him to live with us. Don't get me wrong, Tracer is a great guy -- sort of the brother I'd never had. It just meant a major adjustment at a time when life seemed to be already pretty confusing. I guess it is all a part of growing up.
With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, I cornered Dad one evening to ask a few questions.
"Dad, are we doing the usual traditions for Thanksgiving this year?" I asked.
"Of course, Ryan, why do you ask?" Dad sounded puzzled.
"Well, I didn't know if you wanted to start anything new this year."
"I think we'll stick to the traditions. Things will continue to evolve as they always have and change with life. You'll be off to college in a couple years; then you'll go out on your own, starting your own family and your own traditions."
"That seems a long way off, not just two years away."
"I know for you it seems a long way off; for me it was just yesterday I was changing your diapers."
I laughed. "I'm going to ask Tracer to help me with all the work for the big dinner."
"That sounds like a great idea," Dad responded.
"I'll talk to him tomorrow then. Night, Dad." I pecked him on the cheek and headed to my room.
The next morning was cold and clear. Tracer and I were out working in the stables when I broached my idea for Thanksgiving. "Hey, we do a big Thanksgiving dinner for all the staff and their families. Dad started it the first year we moved to the farm. He wanted to thank everyone for all the effort in making the farm a success after Uncle Phil died and Dad took over. Since then we have done it every year to say thanks to everyone for all their hard work."
"That sounds like a great tradition," Tracer responded. "And it also sounds like a lot of work. How can I help out?"
"I was going to ask you to help me with the shopping and the cooking this year. Dad usually helps out, but you've seen how good he is in the kitchen."
Tracer burst into laughter, "Yeah he can cook a basic meal, no real flair though. So everyone comes here on Thanksgiving?"
"No, we have the dinner the Sunday before Thanksgiving."
"Dinner for..." Tracer paused a moment. "Let's see, dinner for eleven?"
"No, you left out a lot of folks." My mind started counting. "OK, the guys and their families -- that's fourteen; Mrs. Hansen and her family; the summer staff and their families if they can make it. We'll invite about forty; about twenty five will probably make it. You might want to make it an estimate of thirty when you add us in."
"Where the hell do you seat thirty people?" Tracer was puzzled.
"We hold the dinner in the barn. We'll spend a couple days cleaning things up. Dad rents a few huge heaters and we run them constantly the day before, and the day of, to warm it up. We set up serving tables across the back and a set of tables up front for seating."
"So when do we start with all this?"
"Dad sent out the official invitations in last Monday's mail. Everyone knows they'll get one already so we should have numbers quickly. Wednesday after school, you and I can go do the grocery shopping. Then each evening, Saturday and Sunday we will cook more food than you can imagine."
"Sounds like a fun time."
The week went by quickly. School was boring as usual and work was quiet. Friday afternoon, Tracer and I took one of the trucks into town to shop. I had called the store earlier in the week to place an order for turkeys and hams. Dad had learned years before that orders like ours were hard on the stores around the holiday. One year we had to go to three different stores to get all the food.
"Let's grab two carts to start; we'll probably need more as we go," I told Tracer as we entered the store.
"More? You're kidding aren't you?"
"No. I ordered four twelve-pound turkeys and three hams. Then we need potatoes, carrots, green beans, yams, flour, sugar, pumpkin, lard and the list goes on and on."
"I never thought about cooking for thirty before. This is going to be a lot of work isn't it!"
"Yup, in the past Mrs. Hansen and Randy's wife have come over and helped. Mrs. Hansen feels a bit guilty getting to be part of the festivities."
"Why? She works very hard on all the books and office management."
"I know, but she feels different as a part-time person - not really at the farm that much."
"Is she coming to help this year?" Tracer asked.
"I'll call and confirm. I figured you and I would take the lead this year. My cooking skills are improving and you seem to be a wizard in the kitchen. Mrs. Hansen can help on Saturday and Sunday."
"Thanks for the compliment."
I was right; we quickly filled the first two carts and parked them near the front of the store. When we finished -- four carts were filled to overflowing. As the cashier rang everything up, Tracer stared at the ever growing total.
"I don't think I have ever seen a grocery bill that large before," Tracer exclaimed.
"Prices just keep going up," I replied.
"That's not quite what I meant. I don't think my Mom ever spent more than $100 on groceries in a week."
"This is a special occasion. Dad considers this a business expense. Like the bonus the crew gets each year at the end of the summer season."
"Not a Christmas bonus?"
"No, Dad decided on the end-of-summer season bonus so the part-timers get something. Plus most people really need the money when school starts more than at Christmas time."
Tracer looked surprised as the cashier told me the total and I started writing a check. "You have a checking account?" He seemed a bit puzzled.
"I'm on Dad's account as an authorized signature. I have been since I turned fourteen. That way Dad can send me into town with some of the summer crew for purchases."
"I do have my own account as well. I just don't have enough money in it to pay for something like this. Dad requires me to put a part of my paycheck into savings for future school expenses."
We loaded up the truck and headed home. As we pulled up to the back door Tracer looked puzzled once again.
"Where are you going to put all this food?" he asked.
"I'm going to use coolers for the turkeys so that they can finish thawing. They're supposed to be thawed birds, but they flash-freeze them for shipping so they still need some defrosting. I don't know if you've noticed, but the fridge is pretty bare at this point so that we have as much space as possible. We'll see. If not, maybe I can convince Dad to get another fridge and put it in the barn or in the basement."
Thursday night, Tracer showed that he really was a wizard in the kitchen. He made pie crust after pie crust while I worked on the fillings. We made pumpkin, sweet potato and lemon custard pies. Friday night we baked rolls and sweet potato biscuits.
Mrs. Hansen came over on Saturday as promised and we got the turkeys cooked and the hams prepped for cooking. We also had most of the side dishes ready for cooking the next morning. Our cooktop and double ovens would be busy from six a.m. until the guests arrived at two for the dinner.
After we'd cleaned up that evening, I turned to Dad. "Well, I'm beat. Time for bed." I leaned to Tracer. "See you early tomorrow morning." I hugged them both and headed upstairs.
Sunday morning dawned clear and cold. When I walked into the kitchen, Dad and Tracer were standing looking out the back windows. Dad was behind Tracer with his arms around Tracer's stomach.
"Morning!" I wasn't as awake as it came out.
"Morning, coffee's freshly brewed," Tracer answered while pointing at the pot.
"So what's on the agenda this morning?" Dad asked.
"Well, you should probably go check on the barn. Make sure everything is ready out there. As we finish things in here, we can use the ATV and trailer to move the food out to the barn. I figure anything that can sit out can start going out at noon; the rest we'll start moving out as the guests arrive."
As always, the dinner was a success. Mrs. Hansen kept going on about how good Tracer and I were in the kitchen. She came up to the two of us near the end of the afternoon and chatted.
"Where did you learn to cook so well, Trace?" she asked. I smiled as she was one of the few people at the farm that used the shortened Trace instead of Tracer.
"I started learning from my Mom. She is a great, natural cook. She never uses recipes unless she's baking. Then after I moved out, I did most of the cooking at the apartment so I added polish there."
It was obvious to me that Mrs. Hansen wanted to ask about the move out comment, but she let it drop.