THANKSGIVING TREASURE HUNT
Back in the late 70’s my parents created our annual Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt. Originally, it was the only way to get everyone out of the house while my mother made her final touches to the Thanksgiving table. Food was prepared days ahead, except of course for the bird. And my mother prided herself on not only the turkey being well-dressed but also the dinner table.
So, the Hunt (as it was forever referred to) began as follows:
Around mid-morning on Thanksgiving day teams were made up of 3, 4 or 5 people depending on the number of attendees that year. Each team was handed a sealed envelope with their respective first riddle enclosed and the number #1 written on the outside of the envelope. We were then given one dime per team (yes, for one phone call) and we were sent on our way in our team car. After the first year, I got smart and parked my team car at the end of the driveway to be the first one out of course.
There were usually 8 to 10 designated places between the three towns of Brewster, Eastham and Orleans. When your team solved “your” first riddle, it led you to a second location where you would find a stake in the ground marked with that oh so familiar bright orange or pink surveying tape and a clear bag full of envelopes all numbered accordingly. If it was your first stop, you took #2 envelope. If it was your second stop you would take #3 envelope and so on.
As the “hunt” advanced throughout the morning we would pass each other in our cars at the lights in the center of Orleans, or on Route 6 between Orleans and Eastham, or pulling out of parking lots in Brewster or even at times running into each other (literally) at a designated area. The riddles were difficult. My mother, a former English teacher, was very witty. The riddles were poetic and full of puns. After the first few years we were able to ascertain certain locations without even reading the riddle. They became more obvious. Sadly, I never kept a copy of the riddles. But they would go something like this:
“Down by the water’s edge we walked when learning was thru. The sun shown on barnacle hulls and the mud was a sliver blue.”
This was a special place down at the Asas Landing where my mother and my niece would walk after school.
The riddles were not always obvious to everyone on the team but usually one family member could recognize the reference made. And there was always a riddle at a former house we lived in or at my father’s office and, of course, to make sure we paid our respects to our deceased grandparents, a riddle could usually be found at one of the cemeteries.
However, there was often a problem with “guessing” based on previously used locations. And often it meant wasting time skipping around. If you got off track because you knew or thought you knew the riddle was based on former location, usually it worked against you. You had to stay in sequence. You had to bring home all your envelopes marked #1 to #10 or you were disqualified.
Timing was always key. So, we raced through the lower Cape, undisturbed by traffic or even the authorities. It was Thanksgiving – everyone else was home feasting. We were the only crazy people cruising around. And with craziness came a few small accidents and some pretty competitive moments, never shared with my parents, of course.
Remember the dime? That was given to us for that one phone call if we were severely stumped and could not solve the riddle. We were allowed only one phone call to ask for “hints”. So, we used it wisely. Later on in the years the dime was banished and replaced with one cell phone call.
Because we were never told how many riddles and/or locations there were, the real thrill came when you received that last envelope, opened it and it read, “GO HOME”. And when you got that last envelope the tension built. You raced home, flew into the driveway, and then and only then discover if your team and only your team was the first to arrive and therefore claim your victory. And of course in later years, certain unnamed persons would hide their cars to make it appear there was no victor, only to jump out of the bushes and claim their victory.
Now the prizes were EVERYTHING. First place always received money. Second place award was usually something useful (ie., flashlight, tool set, etc.) But the third prize was the killer. The last team to arrive home received the dreaded reward. The task of doing the Thanksgiving dishes. HAHA – my mother was indeed very clever.
And as the Treasure Hunt continued throughout the 80’s and into the 90’s new players came and left, strategies to win thrived, riddles became tougher and egos grew. And thru it all we laughed - laughed so hard it hurt. What my parents created for Thanksgiving day was not only memorable but it was that special time of year they were certain we would make it home.
I am forever grateful to have had such amazing, beautiful parents and a day does not go by that I do not try to emulate them.
Love you Mom and Dad. Happy Thanksgiving!