In 1982 a tradition was born. Pat and Dennis Dougherty invited the Mooney Family to their cabin in Arnold, CA for the first of what would be many Thanksgiving weekends to come. Pat is a first cousin to Suzanne’s Grandpa Mooney, but because the Irish tend to have large families and the generations don’t always match up, Pat is younger than Suzanne’s dad even though she is Suzanne’s dad’s dad’s first cousin. It seems like every time we get together we try to figure out how Pat being Grandpa Mooney’s first cousin makes her related to the rest of us (Second cousins? Third cousins? First cousins twice removed?). It really doesn’t matter. Pat and Dennis are family.
This year’s celebration was the 30th anniversary of that family tradition. It hasn’t always been Thanksgiving but it has always been something. If Thanksgiving didn’t work out one year we’d do Christmas. And then for a couple of years we got together on St. Patrick’s Day weekend and called it the Gathering of the Clans. Regardless, we always got together for something. Pat and Dennis sold their cabin several years ago and moved to El Dorado Hills, CA, but the tradition has lived on. It’s really not about where you are, it’s about who you’re with, and Pat and Dennis have been opening up their home to us for thirty years now.
This year was extra special because Kevin was there. It was Kevin’s first Thanksgiving or first Gathering or first any big annual event with the family. He’s been to plenty of family events and he’s been to Pat and Dennis’ house several times, but this was his first time being at one of THE family events at Pat and Dennis’ house. It was also extra special because it was the first Thanksgiving for Zelida, our new sister-in-law. Suzanne’s older brother Sean married Zelida earlier this year and we are so happy to have her as part of our family. And, in fact, it was not only Zelida’s first Thanksgiving with our family, but it was her first Thanksgiving ever. Zelida moved here from Bolivia earlier this year and is adapting quite well to her new country.
One of the best things about Pat and Dennis moving to El Dorado Hills was that they ended up with some really great neighbors. Really great neighbors. Two of those neighbors actually let us park the RV in their driveway over Thanksgiving because the driveway at Pat and Dennis’ house was too steep. Can you imagine your neighbor coming to you and saying, “Hi, my second cousin or third cousin or first cousin thrice removed is coming to town with their 36-foot RV. Can they park in your driveway for a few days?” Those are some great neighbors.
We’ve known Bobbi and Bill Tugaw for a few years now, but parking our RV in their driveway really took our friendship to the next level. (And for the record, we didn’t take this picture of them and their driveway isn’t in Greece. We stole this picture from their Facebook page because we think it’s a really great picture.) But parking in their driveway meant that they couldn’t access their garage and it also meant that any time they walked out their front door they were staring at the back of our RV. And – they may win an award for the biggest sacrifice of this trip – they had to unplug their wine cellar so that we could plug our RV into their electrical system without blowing our circuits or theirs (although – Tom and Deb – us putting a hole in your driveway with our jacks may vie for the title of biggest sacrifice. You can arm wrestle for that title with Bobbi and Bill.)
We like Bobbi and Bill because they are really nice people (and because they let us park our RV in their driveway). But we also like them because they are dog lovers. When they had us all over for dinner one night they made sure we knew that Molly and Wylie were welcome to come. Bobbi sat on the floor with the dogs, Bill gave them lots of affection, the only member of the family who wasn’t quite sure about Molly and Wylie was their dog Sammie. She’s used to having big dogs around, as she dog sits for other dogs in the neighborhood, but maybe she’s just not used to having big, deaf, blind, old awkward dogs around. She let Molly and Wylie hang out, but she kept her distance. At one point when Bobbi was sitting on the floor with Wylie, Sammie jumped up into Scott’s lap where he was sitting in a nearby chair so that she could keep an eye on the old dogs from above while getting some love and affection.
While we were in El Dorado Hills Pat organized a great little day trip for us (as Pat always does because she’s a great hostess!) We caravanned over to Napa Valley where her friends Leslie and David and their son Ryan were waiting for us. You may remember Leslie and David from earlier in our trip when we visited them in Towner, North Dakota. They’re the people with the bees and they showed us around town during 4th of July weekend. We mentioned during that blog post that their son Ryan is a winemaker. This time we were able to meet Ryan at their house in Napa and participate in a private tasting of his wines.
Ryan makes a Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Syrah and sells them under the name Corvalle, which is derived from Latin and means “the soul of the valley.” All three wines are delicious (and award-winning) but our favorite was the Chardonnay. It was such a unique experience to sit around the large oak table in Ryan’s parents’ backyard on a beautiful fall afternoon with people we know and people we didn’t know and to share the experience of his wines while looking out across his family’s vineyard. It was inspiring to see someone so young who has found what he is passionate about and is pursuing it so earnestly. We see good things in the future for Ryan and Corvalle.
In addition to the wine tasting, Pat also organized a champagne celebration for the Tahoe Rim Trail hikers at our RV. Those of you who have known us for awhile know that we hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail last summer just days before our wedding (hello emergency pedicure!). We hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) only because we had heard about it from Dennis, who had hiked it two summers before. It seems that we’re not the only ones Dennis has recruited for the TRT thru-hike. Bobbi and her friend Patti hiked it this summer as well. In honor of those of us who have hiked the 165-mile loop and in honor of those members of our family who supported us during our hike (Pat and Dennis were our trail angels) we had a little get together one night at the RV, in Bobbi and Bill’s driveway of course.
Thanksgiving is about family and friends and good food and traditions. More importantly, it’s about being grateful for the wonderful people we have in our lives. It seems that there’s never a shortage of reminders that life is too short. So take a moment to hug the ones you love and make sure they know that you’re thankful for them. We’re definitely thankful for our family and we look forward to many more wonderful Thanksgiving celebrations. See you on down the road.