It all started on an afternoon in early November about six years ago. My son, who was about 16, and I – for whatever reason – found ourselves shopping in a department store. I won’t say the name or location of the store, but it rhymes with Fargit and it’s on this side of the Bay Bridge. We had no idea walking into this store that it would prove to be one of our greatest father-son bonding days ever. We were lazily browsing through the store with no true purpose and about 35 feet separated us in the men’s wear section. I heard my son start laughing hysterically, and my immediate thought was, Oh Lord, what has he done? Knowing this kid his entire life, and being largely responsible for his genetic makeup, I rushed to him because his laughing frightened me more than his crying would have.

As I reached him, he was still giggling and pointing to a clothing rack. I looked at the rack, and much to my perpetually immature delight, it was full of adult male-sized footie pajamas! He looked at me and asked, “you thinking what I’m thinking?”

To which I replied, “oh yeah, Thanksgiving at your Uncle’s house in 2 weeks.” We rifled through the rack looking for the coolest ones, and our respective sizes. There was really quite an assortment, but there was only one pattern that there were two of. Because if we were going to do this, we may as well be matching, otherwise the joke doesn’t live up to its full potential.

It certainly wouldn’t have been our first choice, but later on we would realize that it was the perfect pattern. They were fire engine red, with penguins wearing green scarves and hats surrounded by giant snowflakes. (Don’t doubt me on this cause I’m looking at them right now). We were both doubled over with laughter by this point which concerned a Fargit employee enough to come investigate. She expected to find two mischievous adolescents, which, in many ways, she did. Once she saw us and what our shallow minds found so humorous, she too began laughing uncontrollably. We politely apologized, and moved on with our new found treasures.

The day could have ended there, and been one of the greatest ever, but we continued to shop. Just when I thought it could not be possible to find anything greater than matching footies, we found in a remote corner, the first three seasons of Family Guy in a boxed set for $12. The hits just kept on coming!

I told no one about the pajamas or our silly plan with the exception of my new girlfriend whom I’d been seeing for about four months. We had gotten pretty serious and were very happy together. Thanksgiving Day, she and her daughter who was three at the time would be meeting my family for the very first time. I briefed her as best I could in the weeks leading up to our holiday road trip. I explained that a sense of humor and a thick skin were necessities for this encounter. This beautiful young lady (who is now my wife) was very shy, quiet, and demure. I can only imagine the anxiety she must have had preparing for this adventure. Thankfully, her daughter (who is now MY daughter) was an absolute show stealer and could ease the transition by captivating my entire family and essentially owning them within minutes of our arrival. I’m pretty sure that she and my sister became best friends immediately, and remain so to this day.

We made the introductions, poured some wine, and then I adjourned to the garage to partake in my traditional Thanksgiving ritual of shucking about 200 oysters. I made the mistake of bringing a couple dozen about 20 years ago and now it’s become a tradition to the point that I’m not allowed in the house if I show up without oysters.

The day progressed beautifully. Much as I kid about my family and our collective sense of humor, there’s no warmer, more caring, or more welcoming group anywhere in the world. They embraced these two gorgeous blue-eyed blondes I was traveling with whole-heartedly not even knowing yet that they would both one day share our last name. It was just more fun for me to let my lovely companion think that she was about to dive into the shark tank.

Dinner as always was fantastic and plentiful. If you leave my brother’s house hungry, you have only yourself to blame. He and my sister-in-law put out a spread worthy of a magazine cover. We finished desert, and I gave my son the predetermined signal. We both went downstairs and struggled through childish laughter as we put on our matching footie penguin pajamas. We took a few minutes to compose ourselves then ascended the stairs to return to the table.

Everyone was still seated around the table chatting away when my son and I reached the top of the stairs. Every one of the roughly 15 people there stopped talking and turned their gaze to us. There was a brief pause as if everyone had to fully take in what they were seeing before they could react. Kind of like the first time you saw a unicorn in the wild. Then there was a collective hysterical laughter. Just a few seconds into this, I noticed everyone at the table shift their gaze a few degrees to the left, and slightly up. The laughter became even harder and louder. I didn’t know what was going on until I looked around the corner to find my future wife and daughter descending the stairs in matching fire engine red footie pajamas with penguins wearing green scarves and hats surrounded by giant snowflakes.

I could not have been more blindsided. She could not have done anything more perfect. My family could not have fallen in love with these two characters any deeper or faster. Completely without my knowledge, she had spent the past few weeks combing the mid-Atlantic region, and multiple web sites to find the exact sleepwear in both of their sizes. As silly as it seems, it was one of the greatest moments of my life, and very possibly the moment I decided that these two beauties were going to share my last name.

Once the table calmed their guffaws enough to compose themselves and speak, my brother looked at my future bride and said, “I’ve been sitting here all day trying to figure out what YOU are doing with my little brother. It just now started making sense. Welcome aboard.”

The four of us stayed in our comfy garments for the remainder of the evening subsequently posing for multiple photographs from multiple cameras. I was surrounded by people whom I love deeply and I’m eternally thankful for. It was one of the best days ever.

Keep your perspective, remember what is and is not important, and be thankful for all you have and all that matters. Happy Thanksgiving Friends, and thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols