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Home and Away for the Holidays

By Robert M. Sarwark

Last year was technically the first holiday season living in Grant Park for my fiancée Catherine and me. However, as we were still very much moving into our house at that point, this year feels different. More settled. And more like home.

After we both saw it in person, Catherine and I immediately knew that we had to put in a bid for the beautiful, cozy, and undeniably unique house on Woodson Street. As a result of Catherine’s intense market research, the dogged persistence of our realtor, Lisa Marie Smith, and more than a bit of luck, we officially became first-time homeowners in October 2017.

We threw our first-ever Thanksgiving as bona fide grown-up hosts (“real people,” as I used to say in college) that November. My mom and sister flew in from Chicago and Catherine’s parents drove in from across the Savannah River in South Carolina, near Augusta. It was a nice little gathering and we even pulled off a delectable turkey – hats off again to Catherine, this time for being a stupendous chef de cuisine. Later, we spent the end of December in Chicago, where Catherine, South Carolina-born and raised, had her first white Christmas. Since the plan this year was to go to Chicago for Thanksgiving and South Carolina for Christmas, we wouldn’t be in Atlanta for either holiday. But an invitation from our neighbor Trenton to feast on Turkey Day fare the Thursday beforehand was a delightful surprise. Trenton is the kind of neighbor I’ve always loved having and also hoped I’d have more of: fun, interesting, wise, full of character, and unflinchingly dedicated to his neighborhood and broader community. What I didn’t fully grasp, however, was that in addition to all those great traits, Trenton is also a gobsmackingly good chef. I showed up a little early and watched Trenton put the finishing touches on his masterfully brined and basted bird. “I used to cook like this when I was in the Army,” he told me. “Me and the other soldiers from the South would get together and make a Thanksgiving meal. We were all far from home so we’d invite anybody else that couldn’t go home for the holiday.” Soon, my next-door neighbors arrived, and we dug in, buffet-style, to the tune of holiday hits by the Queen of Drag herself, RuPaul.

I don’t want to fill you with envy by describing exactly how delicious Trenton’s turkey and trimmings were at this exclusive feast — and my mouth is watering just thinking about it all. But my point is this: having neighbors who become friends is a wonderful thing; a blessing, a mitzvah. Having ones who feed you a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving? Well, that’s paradise.

Here’s hoping that you had a wonderful holiday season and that your 2019 is looking just as merry and bright.

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