In Nashville, Tennessee.
When we heard our family would all be meeting up for Thanksgiving in Nashville (our oldest granddaughter and her fiancé work and live there) we wondered. We’d never been there, and we wondered …
Would there be lots and lots of music? Drinking? Tons of college kids? Was it really the “go to” place for bridesmaids parties? Was it a destination food city?
Once we met up, coming from California, New York and Georgia, we turned the key to our Airbnb and entered an open modern house with room for all of us: a family of 10. We roamed around — decisions being made about who was to sleep where. There were three bedrooms with queen beds, but there were eight adults, as well as our single and younger granddaughter, the finance’s mother and her dog. While it initially looked like a standard rental with enough room for overflow, it wasn’t.
In the basement, we found the additional bedrooms: 16 bunk beds! The kitchen cabinets were filled with 20 coffee cups, 30 wine glasses. There were no pots or pans, no plates, no dishwasher, no cooking utensils, no broom, no dustpan. It was an “aha” moment. This was a quintessential party house. Meant for college kids to sleep, wake up, have coffee, cocktail hour later, dinner out, go to parties, come back and collapse onto their bunk beds, get up the next day and start all over again.
Our average age was 60. We were too old for this house. We had planned on cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal, so we had to run out to buy pots and pans, a roasting pan, utensils, plates, a dustpan and a broom.
After that we went to a famous barbecue place for lunch. For dinner we went to a very up-scale place where the food looked like art, but the bill was entirely recognizable.
The next day we roamed around Nashville. We appreciated that the city was considerably easier to get around in than Los Angeles and Manhattan. Nothing was further away from the main part of town than 15 minutes. There were areas, like Belle Meade, that outdid Lily Pond Lane. There was a two-mile strip of bars, music coming from open windows, people hanging out of open windows, drinks in hand. There were tourists walking up and down the street, going in, coming out of the hundreds of bars, drinks in hand. A lot like New Orleans combined with Austin. But it’s not just country music in Nashville anymore — there is all kinds of music, everywhere.
The weather was grey and slightly dismal; the landscape was mostly the same as it is here. We drove all around the town and stopped to go into The Marathon Factory (now a museum and indoor mall) built in 1889 for the manufacture of cars. It had a wide walkway as its center “street,” and a bar at the end of the street where I had a shot of “moonshine” (my first ever, tasting a lot like grappa). Then we passed the old Union Station, a gorgeous old building which had been turned into a luxurious hotel and restaurant overlooking the tracks and within sight of the Cumberland River running through the town.
We had it right: it was a tourist town. It seemed a perfect town for people between the ages of 20 and 30. It was a small enough town where businesses could grow (turns out that may be a bad omen: Amazon is going to be there within two years so housing prices will go through the ceiling and there will be even more new trendy restaurants with unrecognizable food). It was and is a college town, cobbled together, as it grew, for all the kids attending some six different colleges; for the young graduates to stay and start-up businesses and buy a first home.
We managed on Thanksgiving Day to cook and put together a really perfect and delicious Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings. We had a wonderful day and night together. Several days and nights. We managed, before going back home, to have one more barbecue meal with grits and cornbread, banana custard, black eyed peas, wine out of a mason jar. But best of all (and it wouldn’t have really mattered where it had taken place, where we’d met) we had the most fun ever, together.
So, thank you Nashville. You may be too young for us, but because we were with our family and we all laughed and everyone pitched in to make the meal, we were happy. It was a great time together. Nashville will become, therefore, another wonderful memory. We may even go back before we’re too old to get there again.
There is a there, there .
And it turns out it’s family.
Hope Harris is a writer, editor and watercolorist. She lives in East Hampton.