November 2001

Kristi at tennis lessons
November in San Diego.  The beginning of that other season, non-summer.  Rain comes for the first time in months. The mercury plunges below 60 degrees inside the house, and children mistake film-covered bubbles in the fish bowls as chunks of ice.  Consternation is on Kristi’s brow because she’s wants to fire up the furnace, but Keith hasn’t performed the ritual checking of the furnace and blessing of its use.  It is discovered the children have no long pants that fit them any more.The top of the convertible is asked to perform its semi-annual movement, this time in the close direction. 
Doug at the boy's 'new' desk
For several years now we have hosted the extended San Diego family at our house for Thanksgiving.  The gathering includes the Sherwoods, the Raffertys (Kristi’s brother’s family), and the Lowes (Kristi’s brother’s wife’s extended family).  Christmas Eve is at Kristi’s brother’s wife’s sister’s house, Christmas dinner is at the Rafferty’s, and Easter dinner is at some neutral restaurant.This year we totaled 12 adults and 4 children.  In a tradition dating to before our hosting the event, a tournament of some sort is held to award the annual TurkeyBall Trophy.  The winner gets to keep and treasure the trophy for the following year, and then return it to be awarded again next Thanksgiving.  While we’ve hosted Thanksgiving, the tournament has been a ping pong competition in the garage.  Last year the weather was clear and it was a ping pong-croquet biathlon. 
Keith on new computer; old technology behind him
Did I mention that the trophy is homemade?  To the winner goes the privilege of adding some new element or five to the trophy, so the trophy is growing year over year.  The less kind (the jealous ones who haven’t earned it yet) would say it grows more hideous year over year.  Great amounts of hot air are expended every year about how “I couldn’t possibly take that hideous thing home and display it and explain it to all who see it and ask about it.”  And invariably some male will let his competitive side overwhelm his common sense, and feel compelled to win the tournament, even if it means sacrificing domestic tranquility for a year with a wife who just doesn’t understand that sometimes a guy’s got to do what a guy’s got to do, even if it means taking the trophy home and displaying it prominently so all visitors will inquire as to its origin, and he will be forced again (however reluctantly) to tell the story of how he dominated the tournament last Thanksgiving. 
Kristi surrounded by her pies
If that sounds like the voice of experience…  The Sherwood household has housed the trophy for the last two years.  In 1999, Bradley won the tournament and the trophy.  To this day, I don’t know that he knows that the guests threw the games to him, partly to foist the trophy on the parents, but mostly because he was so genuinely into winning it.  He had no qualms about the quality of the trophy, and it was displayed proudly in his room.  More than once he was heard making the point to visitors that, “This isn’t a participation trophy, I won it.”  Bradley added a square of carpet from his room to the trophy, since we had the house re-carpeted that year. In 2000, Keith proved no better than his offspring in resisting the siren song of his competitive nature: he won the croquet game and did well enough in ping pong that he was annointed as the year’s winner, much to Kristi’s chagrin.  The trophy moved from Bradley’s room to the workbench in the garage.
Keith and Brad present the trophy to Russ Bird
But if Keith and Bradley are forces to be reckoned with when a homemade trophy is on the line, never under estimate the guile of Kristi.  Amid rumors sweeping the extended family that “the fix was in” for Douglas this year, Kristi went on the offensive to save the house from a third year with the horrific honorific.  Not only did she forbid all Sherwood males from participating in the competition, she further covered her bets by inviting the Birds over for coffee and dessert after our mid-afternoon feast.  (The tournament, you see, is always played on an overly-full stomach.)  Thus she cleverly introduced Russ Bird (he of the Weekend Warriors competition fame) to the tournament.  Russ, who attended college on a volleyball scholarship, has never met an athletic challenge, quasi or real, he didn’t answer. When the testosterone settled, Russ had come out on top, just as Kristi had planned, and it was Kim, Russ’ wife, who was left muttering under her breath when she went out to their car to leave, and found the trophy placed thoughtfully in the driver’s seat.
Brad as the tournament director/score keeper
Bradley had no trouble defining a new role for himself.  Excluded from participating in the tournament by maternal fiat, he anointed himself tournament director.  Russ unwittingly created a monster when he explained a double elimination bracket to Bradley.  Brad marched around the house, bracket in hand, interrupting conversations to tell people that it was their turn to play ping pong. Eventually, I had to call him aside.  “Brad, this disorganized event has gone on for years without a director.  People will play who and when they want.  You’ve got to go with the flow.”  “But Dad, I’m making the flow!”

 

Brad’s other great innovation this year was to create the position of scorekeeper, which he also felt compelled to fill himself.He wrote out digits on pieces of paper, and put tape on each one. Then he tried to display each player’s score on the side of the table.He discovered two problems, however: 1) he didn’t know the rules about scoring, and 2) scoring happens much too fast in ping pong for tape and paper technology.

YMCA Camp Fox on Catalina
The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally a family day in our household.A vacation day to get out of the house and in particular to get Kristi out of the kitchen, where she has spent the previous 24 hours.Last year we hiked up nearby BlackMountain.This year we decided to go higher and farther and drive up to Julian, a San Diego county’s mountain (5000 feet) touristy town.Turns out that in San Diego, if you don’t go to the malls on the day after Thanksgiving, you go to Julian.Wow, it was crowded.The only saving grace is that the longest lines were for buying Julian Apple Pies (a San Diego delicacy), and after Kristi had made 6 pies for Thanksgiving, for once we didn’t feel compelled to buy one!

 

The big November adventure actually occurred before Thanksgiving. Doug and Keith went to Catalina Island for a weekend with Indian Guides.

Brad at the piano practicing Christmas music
Overhead Lately:
Brad, on phone trying to track down a missing jacket: “I was wondering if my jacket got mixed up with your coats, and you took it home with you.”Adult on other end of phone: “I don’t know.We’ve got a lot of jackets.Can you describe it?”Brad: “It’s the one that isn’t yours.” 

Doug, upon removing every last bit of meat from a drumstick, the way his father has always urged him to eat his ribs: “I ate this like a man!”

Brad, on passing the city limits sign of Julian, population 500, and noting the lack of buildings: “This isn’t really Julian yet, this is the suburbs.” 

Keith, trying to put the best face on attempting a new route up to the mountain town of Julian, but instead finding an alternate route down into the desert: “I really love the desert dressed up in its fall finery.”

Kristi: “There ought to be a support group for wives whose husbands win the tournament. A support group for the wives who have to put up with that ugly thing in our houses for a year.We could call it the trophy wives club.”