Good Times on The Year’s Best Holiday

a turkey knows when it's doneBack in the day, we used to get a free local turkey from my husband’s work for Thanksgiving and for some reason the thing was always huge, more like a pterodactyl than a domesticated fowl, so huge that one year we had to tie the oven door shut and brace a chair up against it to hold the beast inside. I remember too the year when, taking some bit of turkey-roasting advice I saw in the paper, I cooked our bird breast side down for the whole time, only to extract, at the end of six hours, a roasting pan containing something that resembled a skeletal sunken ship, a sort of scaffolding of bones perched over a world of turkey fat and what could just barely be described as meat. If memory serves, that was also the year the whole roasting pan shot out of the oven and onto the floor.

Ah, but does memory serve us very well, or are you, dear reader, not yet at the age where you tell a story about something that happened to you only to be wryly advised by a family member that no, actually that whole thing happened to her? Anyway, isn’t it better sometimes if we look ahead rather than looking back?

Who is to say?

I know my sister and I still love looking back at the Thanksgivings of early childhood in our household of five grownups, four of whom were female and all of whom could be seen laboring away in the kitchen for a whole week leading up to the big day. Our grandfather meanwhile, as the sole male among those aunts and great aunties and our mom and our pretty Aunt Grace, sat in his easy chair smoking a cigar and reading biographies of the great men of American history. Though come to think of it I do remember hearing about that one Thanksgiving eve, when he did what he had said he would try to do and actually brought home the turkey  –  still attired in its longjohns as you might put it, in the form of hundreds of soft under-feathers that took forever to pluck out.  “How did you ever manage?” my sister and I squeaked in delighted horror as young adults which we were when we first heard the tale. “Ha!” she replied. “Well, the first thing we did was pour a few stiff drinks!”)

That ease-taking grandfather is gone now, as are the ancient great aunties. Gone too is our merry Aunt Grace, and also our funny and irreverent mom. I have my own children now and they have children themselves and I write this from a house that at 10am bears no scent at all of the cooking of a turkey. We are to eat at the home of one of our daughters, and our duty is light duty: We’re bringing the beer and the wine and I am to make a salad (which is funny all by itself since really who eats salad on Thanksgiving? I mean, besides me and my strikingly slim, pure-foods-only sister-in-law?) Oh but wait I am almost forgetting! I am also to do the gravy because our daughter confesses herself shy about pulling off a good gravy and for sure I feel ready for that task. We’re going over to her house at 1:00 but I have already set out my full-length chef’s apron, as well as the special lump-defying  flour and the steel spatula for prying up the pan drippings. I have a pocketful of chicken bouillon cubes too in case we need to make gallons of the velvety stuff,  so I’m pretty sure I can do the task justice. Really all I need do is close my eyes and I can see – see  as if they were standing before me – the literal gravy-making movements of all those hard-working women in whose kitchen I spent one happy childhood.


A Strange Peace

A strange sense of peace has descended on me over these last few days, following, I should probably say, a strong desire to tear out all my hair. This happened because some robot somewhere hacked into my Gmail account, then showered a million droplets of spam in the direction of every last person in my Contacts. The account was promptly suspended by Google and, I was advised, on the page where one might plead one’s case, that it could easily be three or even four business days before they got around to ‘hearing’ it.

In the meantime how odd it is has been to look down at the phone I practically bring into my morning shower and see nothing waiting for me! There is such quiet all of sudden! And in all this quiet I am noticing things I had previously missed:

I’m noticing how nice it is to wake in the morning and NOT see a lot of urgent headlines  summoning me from the little cigarette-pack that is the iPhone 6.

I’m noticing how nice it was to look out my bedroom window at the dawn sky the other day and see a tiny silver dart of an airplane. It pierced the rosy clouds in its ascent from the oceanside airport next to close-crowded Boston with its jumble of buildings like the tall quilt-looking vanilla cookies you’d get as a kid when some kindly grownup thought to crown your scoop of as ice cream with a few. Why have I not spent ten minutes looking out at this slice of sky every day? I ask myself.

I think too how simultaneously alarming and comforting it was for me that morning to look in the bathroom mirror a little longer than usual and discover my mother’s very face looking back at me, though the lady has been gone these 30 years.

I also had time to notice too a long silky hair I had never seen before, sprouting from a new place on my chin. With my new shorter hair and my now far more meager eyebrows I also had a shock: “Hold on!” I thought. “Am I actually starting to look like a man? Like maybe Paul Giamatti in his role as Sam Adams?”

But no, I told myself at that point. If I am to be without the incessant pinging of  incoming emails for this interlude, then let me harbor thoughts less and silly self-involved.

I walked back to my room then and opened the curtains wide.  My husband had left our bed at 4am to make a 6:30 flight across the country. I crawled back under the covers and looked out at the sky – just in time to see a second silver dart rising from the horizon-hugging clouds. “It’s him! ” I thought. “There he goes!”

And isn’t THAT a much better way to start the day than with that brackish tide of awful news?


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