Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Williamsons Gather to Eat.

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Happy Thanksgiving from the Fortress!

I hope all of you enjoy a very carnivorous Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving makes meat eaters like us happy because we hold the place of Supremo Honchorus on Nature's food chain.

A Williamson Thanksgiving Day

All I can say to describe a Williamson Thanksgiving is this. Have any of you seen the cartoon Simpson's eat a meal? They sit around their dining room table entirely focused on the food. Conversation is unnecessary. Manners are time consuming and distracting to the task at hand - which is the consumption of mass quantities as quickly as possible. The Simpsons are totally focused on their food. The only sounds heard at the table are the guttural expressions of chewing, gulping, gnashing of teeth, swallowing, slurping, and the screeching of forks scraping the surfaces of empty plates.

Now, take that mental picture and double it and you have an idea of Thanksgiving with the Williamsons.

Thanksgiving is how Williamson children are initiated into the adult world, our version of a Bar and Bat Mitzvah. The feast is layed out on the adult's table. The children, along with all accompanying animals, are regulated to the newspaper covered floor. Smart Williamson parents bring their children's swimming suits. The children change into them for the mass feeding. After the meal the children can be taken outside, hosed off, dried off and changed back into their clothes.

The feast begins with a blessing on the food pronounced by the oldest male in the room who still has a place at the Adult Table. His eyes are kept partially open, surveying the food as his booming voice gives thanks to the Lord for the bounty before him. As his voice begs God's blessings his mind is preparing the game plan. No football coach is better than a Williamson male at perfecting and executing plays. The football coach's art is on the field and the Williamson's is the dinner table.

The meal spilled into the Kitchen

We all wait for the "Amen" with our tools of the table ready for battle. Once sounded, the battle begins. Elbows come into play along with well placed kicks, stabs, jabs, and an over use of "French" shouted to warn off the young and weak as everyone jostles into position. The family arranges itself from strongest to weakest in the food chain for the turkey and dressing. The strongest get the best slices of meat leaving the grizzle and fat for the youngest at the end. After two minutes a haze of partly chewed food and spittle hangs over the table like a fog.

At three minutes into the meal those new to the Williamson table reach for the first aid kit. Band-Aids are dispensed to stop blood from the nasty fork punctures and cuts caused by the blinding light of swirling utensils from getting into the food.

Children not dressed correctly pay the price

Children earn a place at the table and in the circle of Williamson adulthood by proving they can get enough food from the table, and other's peoples plates, to feed themselves. I remember the day I was graduated from the newspaper covered floor to the table. I was 12 years old. The Thanksgiving meal had just begun. I stood there in my swimsuit with my brothers, sisters, and cousins. They surged forward with shoves and kicks on the "Amen" while I stood firm, reviewing my game plan, forged over years of experience and mistakes. I ducked just in time as my 4 year old sister was head butted across the room by my football playing uncle. I saw my chance at that moment.

Grandma halfway through dinner wearing her gravy nicely

Grandma wasn't well that day. I knew that would throw her off her game. We normally steered clear of Grandma. Everyone knew she was blessed with a defense mechanism far better than horns, muscle, or wits. Grandma had GAS, combined with a digestive system able to produce it at will. During the meal us children would approach her plate to steal mashed potatoes or turkey. Her advanced age made her appear the weakest in the pack. Grandma sensed our proximity and would rock up onto one buttock and release enough natural gas to warm two houses through an Alaskan winter. She was Deadly.

That day I noticed that Grandma's intestines were not up to full production and moved in her direction. Her eyes darted around the table for visible encroachments on her porcelain plate. She used her right hand to shovel food into her mouth and her left, armed with two forks, stabbed out in all directions forcing the foolish into retreat. I moved closer, coming in from the direction of her cataract covered left eye. She saw me out of the corner of her cat eyed glasses with the pearl trim with ruby inserts just as I reached out for a thick juicy slice of white meat. I saw her rock upwards toward the right side of the chair. Her face turned red as she summoned the best her internal pipes could produce. I froze, hoping for the best. Then - a squeak. No, it was more a tiny peep. Nothing. Grandma came to the table unarmed and therefore completely open to attack.

The Geriatric Table.
Bean soup, bread, gravy and tea.

Sixty second later Grandma was left with a clean plate. Applause erupted from the gathering in celebration of another Williamson entering the ranks of adulthood. Grandma surrendered her place at the table and joined the geriatric table in the kitchen for white bread and gravy. I had made it.

Great Grandmother Luella practicing her defensive skills during breakfast this morning. Most of her eggs and bacon ended up on the living room carpet.

Cameron DelGrosso. Great Grandma Luella's Nemesis.

Today's feast will begin shortly. I fear for Luella. She recently had an operation and may not be up to defending her place at the table. I'll do my best to defend her servings but Brandon and Monica's oldest son Cameron is in the sixth grade this year and hungry for a place with the adults. We shall see what happens.

Happy Thanksgiving to All,


The Great Utah Blizzard that Wasn't. An Embarrassment

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove (A snowless Pleasant Grove I might add)

Hello To All!

I did everything I thought I should do. I watched the weather reports on TV. I read the weather forecasts in two different Utah newspapers. The signs were clear. Northern Utah was going to be hit with a major winter storm. They called it a blizzard - a storm of epic proportions with 60 mph winds and snow. I heard some say the highways would be impassible. So, taking all that into account, and thinking of the best interests of our customers, staff and volunteer, I made the decision to close the Space Center for all private missions Tuesday and Wednesday.

I rushed to the Fortress after school Tuesday and jumped in the Battlestar to pick up a few needed supplies from Lindon’s WalMart. What a madhouse! I joined hundreds of other shoppers in a frenzied game of shopping cart bumper cars. Each of us feared we would be caught on the roads if we didn't get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. I had a vision of being trapped near the Purple Turtle, stuck in a mammoth snow drift on State Street away from home and family. In my vision I saw the angel of death's skull face swirling in the avalanche of soon to be coming snow.

I finished my shopping list and rolled my cart toward the front of the store to pay and exit. I rounded a rack of ladies intimate apparel and came into view of the check out stands. I saw long lines of desperate shoppers waiting impatiently, each shifting his weight from foot to foot to keep blood circulating. Their gaunt expressions spread feelings of hopelessness to the new shoppers getting into line. Some looked like trapped wild animals with their heads darting back and forth looking for any queue with a moving line.

There was a high pitched sound that made everyone freeze. I thought it was the sound of the fire house siren warning us that white death was approaching? I realized what it really was a moment later. On Checkout 6 a child was screaming to be released from the wired jaw of the shopping cart's child seat. The mother acted quickly and shoved something sweet into the kid's mouth taken from the candy and gum shelves lining the checkout aisle.

I continued my search for the shortest line.

Two full shopping carts were left abandoned near the jewelry department. I'm assuming their owners had given up on the lines and left the store. I knew why. They feared the blizzard would catch them in a Walmart line, unable to be with their loved ones with it struck. I understood. Don't we all want to end life’s journey with family and friends? Who wouldn’t want to be held tightly in a warm embrace and smothered in kisses as the roof collapses above you, burying you and yours in an avalanche of white, carrying you together into eternity?

I stood confused, not able to process my next move. Then a course of action became clear. There, partially hidden by the long lines and magazine racks, was one check out register marked 20 items or less with only one person in its line. I had more than 20 items, but desperate times called for desperate measures. I made my move and rolled past several others unaware that checkout register was open.

“Suckers,” I thought to myself with a true sense of satisfaction.

I parked my cart behind an older gentleman purchasing a magazine and flashlight. Others saw what I had done and followed. A long line formed quickly behind me. I put my 20+ items on the moving belt knowing I had broken the sacred Shopper's Compact. I heard growling laced with mumbling. My fellow shoppers gave me cold penetrating stares. They knew - that I knew - I had more than 20 items. They knew that I knew I was breaking the Compact. I could read their thoughts.

I’ve always been an honest person. I’ve always followed the Shopper's Compact. But today was different. It was every man for himself with the storm bearing down upon us. The very fabric of society was beginning to dissolve right there in the Lindon WalMart - and I was a part of it. I feared the tension was so ripe it would only take one spark to tear away our last vestige of humanity, sending a shopping center full of people back thousands of years on the evolutionary scale. The vision of all of us scavenging through the SuperCenter in search for a carcase to chew on unnerved me.

The cashier ignored my indiscretion and rang me up. I couldn’t swipe my credit card and sign my name fast enough. I had to get out, away from those people.

I looked up a the sky as I emerged from the store. It was cloudy but still no snow or wind. Cars were coming and going around me. Shopping carts were abandoned everywhere. People were in a hurry. The ship was heading for the iceberg and we knew how this story could end. I put my provisions into the trunk and turned for the car door.

That's when I heard a thump. A woman had just backed into a parked car opposite the sidewalk from where I was parked. She drove forward a few feet, stopped and pulled into another parking place.

“She’s going to do the honorable thing,” I through to myself. She got out of her car and walked over to inspect the damage she’d caused. She stood there for thirty seconds or so then jumped back into her car and sped off.

I thought about following her and getting her licenses plate number, but in the end I didn't. I convinced myself it was none of my business. The Battlestar had rear wheel drive and was worthless in snow. I was in a hurry and didn't do the honorable thing. Am I ashamed of myself now? Yes but ........ there is always a "Yes But". I'll leave it at that.

I got home, put the groceries away and walked out onto the deck overlooking the valley and lake.
“Bring it on,” I said to the sky overhead. “I’m ready for you. I’m from South Dakota and understand you all too well. I know your moods. I know how you work. This is one house prepared for a long siege.”

Blizzards are as common in South Dakota as lime jello at a Utah social. I remember snow so deep we couldn’t open our screen doors to get outside. I remember cold so bitter your words froze, crackled and fell to the ground before the listener could hear them. A Utah blizzard would be laughable to someone with my history - yet, I knew to be cautious. Old man winter had a way of surprising you when you least expect it.


Its Thanksgiving Day. The predicted blizzard bypassed Utah county. We got jack squat. I feel I’ve been played and am not happy. I closed the Center for nothing. I sacrificed my integrity at Walmart for nothing. What's worse, I LEFT WORK EARLY! That's embarrassing and shameful. Leaving work early is disgraceful for a proud workaholic like myself.

And so, I apologize to my family, friends and coworkers for showing human weakness. I vow it won’t happen again. The Space Center will stay open no matter what. Our lights will burn through fire, flood, famine, tornado, earthquake, blizzard, drought, and pestilence.

And in the words of my hero, Winston Churchill

We shall go on to the end.......
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender.

Happy Thanksgiving to All.