Only three people were there, and I was not one of them.

This will be a third-party re-counting, subject to the time lapse of five years from the event, and the accuracy of my “approximate” memory. (A first-person account on a private cousins’ blog may have more intense details, and more colorful reporting.) Although I missed the actual holiday date, I write now, still in the season of Thanksgiving, lest memory recedes even further as tempus fugits.

Two of the three players in this scenario are my daughters, and the third was then an unknown quantity and is now a son-in-law. I’ll use Volunteer to identify my youngest daughter, Wyoming to identify my middle child, and Trooper to identify the recent addition to the family.

Backgrounds:

Volunteer graduated from Boston College, and spent two years volunteering with Jesuit Volunteer Corps: one year (with three other women) in a trailer on the Colville Indian Reservation in middle Washington State, teaching Native American elementary school children; and one year in Anchorage, Alaska, with Covenant House.

Wyoming, a Providence College graduate, lived in Jackson Hole, working in social service positions: Victims’ Advocate in the Police Department, Resident Counselor in a facility for handicapped adults, and Administrator in the drug court. She was the only family member to visit Volunteer during her reservation days, either for Thanksgiving or for the reservation festival, I’m not sure which.

Trooper grew up in or around Anchorage, degreed at Gonzaga University in Washington State, and spent two years with JVC on the east coast, NYC and DC, preceding Volunteer into the Corps by one year. Familiar with the JVC house in Anchorage, where seven volunteers lived, he attended dinners there, where he encountered Volunteer and changed many life trajectories.

The Plan: Wyoming was visiting remote Volunteer again, and they planned an exotic Thanksgiving celebration: cross country ski several miles up to a remote cabin, bringing all the supplies, and firewood, for an overnight wilderness holiday. With plenty of Alaska sunlight, they could leave comfortably at 3 p.m., ETA 5 p.m. if conditions are favorable.

The Revision: Trooper knows this territory, and suggests some creatures may be hungry and grizzly, and, as he is licensed to carry, he should accompany the party. Suggestion is accepted.

Supply Side: Each trekker hauls a toboggan, one loaded with all feast essentials, two loaded with firewood.

The Journey: Conditions are not favorable. Wet snow begins to fall at commencement. The pace bogs down. The carry-behinds become heavier, the slush deeper. The elements begin to overcome the outerwear. The trekkers and baggage become waterlogged. Realizing adaptation is required, desperate measures are required. The three toboggans are consolidated into one, mostly the feast essentials. Now transport can be shifted between the trekkers. Ever the giver, Wyoming contributes her rain gear to protect the abandoned firewood, hoping it will remain partly dry for the trip back to reclaim warmth for the evening. Tempus fugits even more, daylight dims, headlamps are positioned.

The Arrival: Trekkers reach cabin at – 11 p.m.! Open door and find – cabin is stocked with seasoned firewood!

The Feast: First course is warmth of the fire, drying of clothing and bodies. Second feast is rest, and breathing normalized. Main course – I never heard how the meal was – turkey, or soup, or whatever. Probably one of the best meals ever, anticipating one of the deepest, most reviving sleep ever. However…

The Return: Trooper reports that he is scheduled for his regular day shift and, given conditions, must begin his return at 3 a.m. Volunteer immediately responds he should not go alone out into the dark, she will accompany her fiancée. Wyoming declares it is not her intention to spend Thanksgiving alone in a remote cabin in an unfamiliar wilderness, and the trio reunions. I’m sure Wyoming re-claimed her rain gear, but don’t know if the firewood was dumped from toboggans or brought down to grade, but I assume all three toboggans arrived safely.

The Landing: Whatever now has been brought back is loaded into Trooper’s vehicle. The engine turns over, all systems go. The vehicle veers into a snow covered ditch.

The Rescue: Trooper also packs emergency outback communications capability, and calls for support. Rescue vehicle and driver arrive and right the dilemma. Trooper is advised that a colleague had volunteered to take his shift, and he was not expected back that morning. Don’t we all love happy endings?

I await corrections, and probable chastisement, for telling someone else’s story, but I have trouble passing up such an opportunity. Mea culpa! I am very thankful, and, when I reflect on this adventure, my hair curls in retro fear, I admire the strength and perseverance of my daughters and son-in-law, and I am even more thankful. Dominus vobiscum! Et cum spiritu tuo!

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