A few weeks ago the movie “Hot Tub Time Machine” came in the mail from Netflix. Although we never finished watching it, I do remember specifically an important (to the movie, not life) scene where they are all sitting around drinking in a hot tub and it suddenly goes flying down a hill and into the past. (I think they ended up sometime in the 1980s).
That’s the scene we all recalled Thanksgiving night as we sat crammed into a hot tub on the edge of the woods in Beaver, West Virginia. My brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, John, and I would not have been surprised if the 6 person hot tub the 9 of us sat in had taken off down a hill and transported us to another time. At the very least we wished it would take us out of Beaver.
The hot tub was our way of relaxing after the long days of wondering. Wondering if our kids would survive the landscape or each other; wondering if any of us would end up in a hole for the next 15 years as the pet of some back-woods banjo playing maniac (thanks to John for putting that image in my mind); and wondering at what given moment we would collapse from lack of sleep after playing musical beds with our kids all night.
Believe me, there was stress to be relieved! You might imagine that we were all lying around drinking one of the 25 bottles of wine available, eating turkey and stuffing and (in my case) several apple pies, but that was only part of it. After the possible bed bug siting on Wednesday night (no worries–it was a false alarm), I woke up bright and early Thursday morning to discover that Henry had taken a 1/4 mile hike down the road in search of his Opa’s traditional Thanksgiving Day campfire. He did it alone.
Later that same afternoon, during our visit to a scenic overlook, a few of the kids decided to venture ahead on a hike that took them away from adult supervision and into my nightmares of small children leaping off rocks to their death. Another memorable moment was seeing my children emerge from a hole in the ground (no, not the one guarded by the banjo man, another hole), fully clothed in their brand new shoes and winter coats, and covered in a layer of mud.
A few anxiety attacks later and you can understand why the hot tub time machine was so enticing. We spent our days as if on a church retreat–there were crafts, memorable speeches, frisbee golf, campfires and even a dance. But we spent our evenings like one long fraternity party. I won’t re-tell all the jokes, or the stories we shared, because then they would all kill me. But I will say it was a good time and I’m glad to call John’s siblings relatives, and also friends.
Despite the seeming strangeness of being in the middle of nowhere West Virginia to celebrate Thanksgiving and the Noll family reunion, we had a wonderful time hanging out together. And that is why, of all the fabulous beaver jokes concocted in the hot tub time machine, the biggest joke is on us. Because in the end, I think we’re all thankful we celebrated our Thanksgiving in Beaver.