Thanksgiving 2016

For the first time since my college days, I will be traveling for Thanksgiving.  I won’t be gone for long and I won’t go far, but far enough.

From the time I was barely able to see over the rim of my grandmother’s kitchen table, Thanksgiving has been mine.  First, mine and my Granny Opal’s, and then, when she left us, mine alone. I spent every Wednesday before the day with her, helping her, spending the night so I could rise early when she put the bird in the oven. 

It is hard to imagine how much help I was at four, five, or six, but my grandmother would sit at her formica table, reviewing pages of notes on her steno pad, and discuss with me the timing of things—when to peel the potatoes, when to wash the cranberries, when to assemble the pies. I had opinions on these matters. We negotiated.

The last thing I asked before sleep was to be awakened to help put the bird in the oven,  always received the promise that she would comply. I awoke to the aroma of roasting turkey, never too disappointed with the turn of events, because there was still plenty to do.  I was convinced at a tender age that I was the linchpin to our successful celebrations, and I still think so, even though our family is diminished and far-flung this year.

Even though I won’t be making the turkey, the cranberry salad, the gravy.

I will, however, be in charge of dressing. I have my shopping list compiled and at the ready, for I have committed to bringing everything we will need for the dish that has graced our family’s table, going back to the last century, and maybe beyond.

It is the one thing my niece, Alex, has asked that I prepare. She will be hosting her family and her fellow’s family in Louisiville this year, a celebration of her new home, her new job, a new life starting out.  I am included, too, and could I help out with the dressing?

My contribution to Thanksgiving has been reduced to this, dressing, and I have attacked it with a battle plan worthy of a White House State dinner.  I assured her I would bring every thing we will need.  The stale bread,  onion and celery, but also butter, chicken stock, and just in case, the eggs.

I do not trust her to have eggs.

It is her first Thanksgiving, after all, and we all know how hard it is to have everything you need on hand.  Or perhaps I am motivated by something else.

Perhaps the dressing must be all mine, my contribution, my small put perfect gift to the Thanksgiving table. 

This new Thanksgiving table, in this new millennium with this new family configured from remnants of several old ones.

Tonight I will sit at an unfamiliar kitchen table, chopping onions with Alex. She has been working on Thanksgiving dinner for days…thinking, planning, shopping, and thinking some more.  I am sure she will have questions.  I hope she will have questions. 

I’m bringing some other things she might need, a meat thermometer, coffee, extra aluminum foil.   I won’t foist these things on her, but will have them waiting, just in case, my version of promising to wake her up for the turkey but letting her sleep a bit more.

I am proud of this young woman, proud to be her aunt.  I can’t wait to see her life unfold, and to be a part of it.  And, if I am honest, I am grateful for the invitation for Thanksgiving, grateful to only have dressing to prepare.  I am thankful for a sense of peace and acceptance as tradition passes from aging hands to new ones.

The Election and Crocus

Good morning and welcome to the day after.  For some of us the long nightmare of this election is over.  For others, the nightmare of the next four years has just begun.

I write this in my pj’s, early in the morning, on the Thursday before the second Tuesday in November of the most contentious election we have seen in years.  So, I have no idea who has won.  I don’t know if there is a result yet, or if we will have a repeat of 2000.   

Regardless, have we ever seen anything like it?

I think not, and we are exhausted by it.

Let me make a suggestion. 

Go rake the leaves.

Take a walk.

Let it go.

Breathe.

Laugh, because keeping a sense of humor saves lives and really, don’t we all just crack ourselves up?   

And you all.  Thanksgiving is coming and there are turkeys to buy, pies to bake and Black Friday strategies to plan and execute.  There are neglected stacks of books to read. Get up and get out there and turn your face to the sun.

I am fortunate to have an office down the hall from some smart people, and historians at that, and they reassure me that our founding fathers knew what they were doing—knew what they were doing in an amazing way, to have set in place a system that is so genius in its complexity that it keeps things running smoothly, albeit slowly, and that, alone can save us from ourselves—and those yahoos we send to Washington on our behalf.

Here are my plans for the rest of the month, now that I have turned off the news. 

I shall sow grass.  Tall fescue to be specific.  I am told I can safely plant it in any month ending in “R.”  So, grass.

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There are two boxes of bulbs sitting right here on my hearth, waiting to be planted. When I traveled in September I finally had a decent layover in Amsterdam and I had time to buy some bulbs.  I am usually running through the airport in a dither, but this time I had the luxury of selecting flowers to enjoy in spring.

I opted for crocus and scilla, because tulips are beautiful  but the first time it rains they break my heart in two. Crocus, peeking up through the snow in February also  break my heart, but in a lovely way.imgres-copy

If and when November weather arrives I will work to expand my chili repertoire. I shall master chicken and dumplings, ditto the meatloaf. 

As a matter of fact, the same colleague who instructs me on lawn care is also my meatloaf mentor, so I am hopeful for good results all the way around.

I expect to have plans for a new garage by the end of the month.  At first I thought I would just replace the one I have, but as I have thought more about it, the design has grown to include a garage, a new patio and backyard fireplace. 

Plans, here, being the operative word.  It is likely I will end up with a parking pad, a car tarp and a hibachi grill balanced on some cinderblocks on a little patch of dirt, but right now, in my head, it’s going to be spectacular.

And we haven’t even talked about December and the holiday festivities.  Of course we will be busy making plans and wrapping gifts and overeating and regretting it in the morning.  In other words, we have lives to live and we should return to them as soon as possible. 

This is not to say that our concerns  are over now that the election is.  Rather, it is a small reminder that we have control over our own lives, every day down here at ground zero.  That, regardless of who has been elected, we still make decisions for ourselves and we have the power to adjust those decisions to accommodate whoever will be in the White House come January 20.  To remind us that, after that cold and blustery morning of the swearing in, it will be okay, because soon February will arrive, and with it, crocus.

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