Once Upon a Thanksgiving

Our day began early. Evan turned off his alarm at 5:00 am. Actually, as is his nature, he turned his alarm off at 4:57 am because he (*almost*) always wakes up before it goes off. He went straight to the cafe to begin his baking for the morning. I roused out of bed at 5:30 am, fed the dogs, and was in the car by 6:15 am to go pick Mom up at her house in SW Portland. After dropping her off at the cafe to help Evan and Dekin with opening duties, I headed back to the house and turned to our trusty printer to help print off the day's special menus.

And what a day it was. We were warmly greeted from the moment we opened our doors. Many of you were not only delighted to find us open, but upon also encountering not one, but two new gas patio heaters outside. To make matters even cheerier was the unavoidable mass accumulating in front of the door of the cafe. We felt our hearts melt witnessing the donation bin outside fill with bags upon piles of warm clothing. By the end of the day it was clear: WE MADE A KILLING! What sat as an empty bin the day before quickly became overwhelmed by all of your generous offerings.

We knew it was only fair to share with all of you what happened to all of these precious gifts. Well, I'll get to that in a moment. First I'd like to finish telling you how our first Thanksgiving of the day ended up. We spent the majority of the day (non-stop) feeding friends and neighbors, Lombard stragglers, and first-time visitors. Quite the eclectic group, really. We were busier than we expected and really enjoyed seeing all the faces, familiar and new, and having the opportunity to chat up so many people on a holiday. It really made for a special day, and gave me the kind of giggles a snow day away from school would often induce. We loved it. Every single moment of it and in that pure state of bliss, it's easy to forget about all of the personal hiccups we've experienced at the cafe over the past three weeks.

After we closed up shop we headed home to collect ourselves before stumbling back outside for the night. While I baked our dishes for an upcoming dinner party potluck, Evan piled all of the clothing donations into the back of our car. We made a quick pit-stop at our dinner location in order to drop off the dishes while they were hot, and then headed east towards the Burnside bridge. We waited a few minutes for Venus and her entourage of volunteers to arrive, which gave us just enough time to sit in the car and become aware of our surroundings, conceptualizing what we were about to do. The sounds around us began to heighten our sense of anticipation; the traffic from the bridge overhead, the bells from the light-rail cars beneath the bridge whizzing by, the deafening sound the rain made hitting the windshield. We both wanted to jump out of the car and start passing out jackets to anyone and everyone who passed.

Ms. Venus, herself

When she did arrive, Venus' set-up was, well, to put it lightly, Venus' set-up was impressive. It became clear very early on that this woman meant business, and yes, she is an experienced, admirable 10-year veteran of this trade. No sooner had she arrived and car doors began flying open, Johnny Cash's soulful tunes were belting from rattling speakers, and tables were being unfolded and regulated into their designated areas: we had separate stations for clothing, food, coffee and dessert. Evan and I both began volunteering at the clothing table. We'd call out sizes, pulling clothes out of bags as fast as we could, folding and categorizing the items as best possible. As soon as we got something down on the table, eager and grateful hands came flying in to grab it. We couldn't stock the table fast enough.

The ear-to-ear smiles were noticeable...and contagious. There was definitely a lot of love passing through these exchanges and at that moment, we knew there wasn't another place in the entire world we would rather be.

And that was just the clothing station. Wait till I get to the spread!!! After two days of non-stop cooking (no really, she didn't sleep) and soliciting some friends in the industry for donations, Venus and River held nothing back when it came to feeding their guests. Everything you could possibly dream up and more was provided: ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, (2-day!) squash soup, noodle casserole, pastries, bagels, fresh fruit and veggies, pie, coffee, donuts, and candy.

If it didn't feel oddly intrusive, I would have taken pictures of the people waiting in line. Not only was the line long, but the joy and light sparked in these people's eyes was abundant. We couldn't turn around without having a "thank you" or "God bless" thrown our way. We simultaneously felt unworthy of the praise and filled with pride that we have the honor of calling the organizer of this event our friend and neighbor. With the music blasting and the chitter-chatter of happily-fed bellies echoing throughout the lot, we realized we were in the middle of one-happening party, one that did not feel too different than other holidays we've attended in the past.

River, Venus, and all their hard work

Once the troops were fed and all the clothing had been picked though, we gathered ourselves back in the car and continued sitting in the parking lot for a few minutes trying to take it all in. As we seemingly glided away from the bridge, still drunk with the emotions from the event, we both agreed that this was certainly our most memorable Thanksgiving to date. We're still having difficulty digesting all of the emotions, and cannot help but be overwhelmingly humbled by Venus' invitation to do our very small part in it.

And that my friends, was our Thanksgiving #2. Not.Too.Shabby.

We left the bridge and headed west back up towards our friends' potluck dinner. By the time we returned the party was in full-swing and the bird, which had aptly been kept warm by the crew's espresso machine (how genius is that?!?), had been all but desecrated. But fortunately there were still some leftovers floating around, including some bread Evan hasn't stopped talking about, as well as the lavish spread on the dessert table. A few chocolate-chip fleur de sel cookies (thanks, Elizabeth!) and one champagne toast later (Thanks, Adam!), and we were busy buzzing around the room, rocking out to tunes amongst some of our nearest and dearest.

We had an absolute blast hanging out in C-Ho after hours. The place looked slightly different given the holiday, but the cast and characters in the joint were all the same. Still dressing dapper, still busting out the best espresso in town (Evan even drank a caramel cappuccino- must be a holiday!), and still making us laugh hysterically. At this point I think we were a little delusional given the fact we were celebrating our 3rd Thanksgiving of the day.

We wrapped up the night pretty early, making it home before 10:00pm; we were both pretty exhausted from the day's festivities. We were greeted warmly by the dogs, who seemed pleased to have us home given their own state of vegetative bliss (they got xtra helpings of food, too), and as we both curled up on our couch, a dog tucked each tucked into our sides, I confessed this blissful observation: "There's no place like home."

Grateful indeed.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Much obliged to those of you who made ours so special. XO


Dove Vivi said...

Just so ya know: best part of my thanksgiving was sharing a hug with you guys and taking in your delicious soup! Giving thanks for the many mornings that are the best part of our days.

kati said...

what a wonderful day!! so glad the coat drive was so successful. don and lola enjoyed their lrbc visit, you guys are the best :)

Anonymous said...

I can see my handmade hat and scarf in the picture! It makes me happy that they will keep someone warm:-)
Thank you for opening the cafe and doing this donation thing. You made a difference.