Sunday, November 4, 2007

Thanksgiving Fireworks

Friday night we went out to dinner with Keith and Sherry. It was an evening of good food and even better conversation. Toward the end of dinner, Sherry and I started putting our heads together about Thanksgiving dinner. It's been our custom, in recent years, to have Thanksgiving here at our house, with Keith, Sherry and their son, Reed; Tim; my mother, when she doesn't have other plans, in Carlsbad; and, depending on the year, a variety of others. It's a time I look forward to all year, although, at our table Friday evening we all agreed that we might try something different this year. Not that we know what that "something" would be, but we're all in the mood to shake things up a bit.

As we were talking, I recalled a Thanksgiving 15-or-so years ago. We were living in Newberg, and Mom and Dad, Dan and I and the boys all decided to have Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant instead of at home. On SW Terwilliger Avenue, in Portland, high on the hill overlooking the Willamette River, sits the Chart House. The entire front of the building is glass, and the view is a panorama of the city. We'd heard that their Thanksgiving dinner, served family style, was "as good as a home-cooked meal," so we decided to give them a try.

When we arrived, we were seated at our table, which was draped in linen, lit by candles, and next to the windows. Everyone in the restaurant was there for the same reason - to celebrate Thanksgiving with their loved ones. I remember seeing heads bowed, at a number of tables, as the families offered thanks to God for their blessings. There seemed to be, both, an atmosphere of festivity and of reverence in the room.

We hadn't been there long before platters and bowls filled with delectable turkey and all its trimmings were brought to our table. We were about to pass the dishes around the table and fill our plates when we saw a series of spectacular, explosive flashes of light near the waterfront, on the other side of the river. Then we saw, from our hilltop vantage, the lights of emergency vehicles coming from different directions, but all heading toward the continuing explosions.

People from all of the tables got to their feet and came to peer out the windows. As we continued watching, we saw flames and smoke rising from the same vicinity. Some who were familiar with that part of town said that the building was an electrical substation, and that the flashes of lights must be exploding transformers. We watched whole sections of Portland go dark as electrical power went down. And then . . . our lights, in the Chart House, also went out.

What impressed me about that evening was how the fire, the explosions, and the resulting loss of power drew that room full of people together. Before the spectacular fireworks each party had been in a world of its own. But now we were talking with people who had been complete strangers only minutes before. There was a feeling of camaraderie as we stood there, in the candle-lit room, sharing stories and information and, in some cases, exchanging names.

We all eventually drifted back to our own tables and enjoyed our Thanksgiving meals, as individual families, by candle-light. But there was a new awareness of those around us and a feeling that we were all connected, somehow, by the events we had shared.

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