Dogs. They’ll be showing up in the next few weeks, purpose-driven creatures checking out their surroundings and perhaps sniffing about for signs of that friend they met last year. They are also willing to put up with their temporary change in scenery and routine … but just barely. “Let’s take care of business and get back inside where it’s warm,” they seem to be thinking.
Following behind at a brisk pace on a long (or short) leash are their human companions who look somewhat familiar. Usually, in their 30s or 40s, they are more interested in their texting and earbuds than what’s going on in their old neighborhood.
Yes, the holiday dogs will soon be back along with their owners … the successful offspring of Sylvania returning home for a brief visit with their parents on Thanksgiving.
I’ve become more aware of this late November migration since retirement has provided more time to stare out the front window and notice the foot traffic. Last year one walker might have been the kids’ first babysitter. Another may have taken our oldest to a homecoming dance. Not positive, but they seem vaguely familiar.
The return of the holiday dogs allows me to see Beau again, a rescued German Shepard who will be back across the street visiting Lincoln Woods neighbors Bill and Brenda. Joining them are daughters Kristie and husband Dan from Chicago and local daughter Angie and husband Dave and son David and wife Liz from Myrtle Beach. Plus, of course, seven grandkids: Will, Finn, Macey, Kinsey, Libbey, Tatum and Trey. Dogs Zoey (in South Carolina) and Ginger (in Sylvania) are staying home this year.
“Thanksgiving is the only time all year that the whole family will be here for sure,” said Bill. “It’s hard when your kids live all over in different places, so everyone looks forward to coming home,” added Brenda.
“These visits are super important … especially for the boys,” added Kristie. “It helps them connect to their extended family. And for us, coming to Sylvania lets them experience a different feel than Chicago, which is much bigger.”
Across town, Dan and Kathy Singler in Country Club Estates have a Sylvania rivalry dynamic at their annual homecoming: daughter Julia is a Northview graduate and husband Adam Hartman went to Southview. They drive with their two kids, Keegan and Colette, from upstate New York every year. Also joining in are local sister Danielle and brother Michael, who flies in from Seattle.
“Right after we get off the exit at Monroe Street the memories come back: seeing the decorations downtown on Main Street, lunch at J&G, the shops,” Julia said. “The kids are 9 and 7, and they love coming there. We visit both Adam’s parents and mine and make a point never to miss it. Thanksgiving just wouldn’t feel the same if we weren’t back in Sylvania.”
And the NV-SV rivalry? “It doesn’t come up very often at home. After high school, Adam went to Purdue and I attended Ohio State, so we have some distance from those days. Sometimes when we visit, he does try some smack talk with my parents … but doesn’t get very far.”
Another aspect of this holiday’s homecoming is not as warm and charming as a family dinner, but as much of an event: the unofficial “reunion” status of Thanksgiving eve for Sylvania high school graduates who have gone away to college. The night is often their first time back home since heading off to the fall semester, according to several reliable Southview alums now in their 30s and 40s. The tradition goes back decades.
“The location varies based on what establishment is hot at the time, but it always draws a big group of people who were in school around the same few years,” explained a 1997 Southview grad who withheld his name to preserve his business reputation. “You always run into people around the same age as you … some old friends and others you just see once a year at Thanksgiving. It is always good to catch up, but the establishments are always packed and you do have to keep track of how much you’re drinking.”
Maybe not coincidentally, then, Thanksgiving eve is the biggest bar night of the year nationwide—beating out even New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day. Experts say that Thanksgiving dinner (with plenty of starches and fatty foods) is the perfect hangover cure.
Unfortunately, not every family can pull off holiday magic all the time. For the first time in more than 30 years, there will be no one at the Corey Woods home of Mike Jones and Dr. Monica Young on Thanksgiving. Last year they hosted all four kids plus spouses and grandkids; this year they fly with one son to Denver for a quick visit with a daughter.
Yet, Mike is philosophical, “We will miss all the family coming home. Still, the best thing about Thanksgiving is that there will always be another one next year. And … at least this year we won’t have to clean the house.”