Harold & Laura came into town to visit their son Michael who is graduating from the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s mechanical engineering program. The three of them took advantage of Doors Open Milwaukee to tour the tallest skyscraper in Milwaukee, then the Groehmann Museum where they met the real, living Mr. Groehmann in his office and then of course they had to see the Pfister Hotel. Concierge Roc had just taken them upstairs to see the grand ballroom when I met them.
Two years ago over in Germany, on a Friday evening after school, Michael made sweet potatoes served with mini marshmallows. That’s sweet potatoes “Wisconsin style” he tells me. There was “three-bean casserole, three turkeys and I’ve never done that…”
“Wait,” I ask him, “THREE TURKEYS?”
“We couldn’t find huge ones, and we had some pretty small ovens in our apartment.
So I had to do one in my place, one in my friend’s place and one at another friend’s place.” Michael’s mother adds to his explanation, “So he traveled around basting turkeys.”
There were about forty people over for this Thanksgiving dinner in Germany, fifteen Americans, two French foreign exchange students and a number of Germans. His mother asks Michael whose idea it was to throw a thanksgiving dinner in a foreign land hoping to get her son to admit that it was his. Michael declines the opportunity to claim it was his own brilliance by explaining that it was a group decision. Laura, determined to make her son shine asks him, “But who made the gravy?”
“Well, I already had the turkeys going, so…” he made the Thanksgiving gravy.
Michael facilitated the whole forty-person Thanksgiving.
Last year, Michael’s Thanksgiving was with his family back home in Gaylord, Minnesota. Three of Michael’s German friends flew in and joined his family over at Laura’s sister’s farm. After dinner they played Michigan rummy (a board game with cards) for hours. “We normally wouldn’t have stayed that late, but you guys were really having a good time, heh, heh, heh,” said Laura. Michael also took his pals to New Ulm, Minnesota, which is a “real traditional German town in Minnesota thirty miles from us.”
Harold, who is a Preacher at a 150 year-old church says, “Thursday morning they had to go down in the morning and listen to me preach for Thanksgiving Day. Probably the first Thanksgiving sermon they ever heard.”
I ask Harold how close Gaylord is to lake Woebegone, “Oh just over the hill. Everything in Minnesota is real close to Lake Woebegone.” His wife is more serious and tells me, “You know actually, maybe an hour and a half to two hours. It’s north of us, but you know it’s mythical.”