Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

The Days of Brine and Roses

We’re in charge of turkeys. There is one in the oven that weighs 25 pounds. Another 13 pounder is in my mother’s Nesco Roaster Oven that I inherited. It hasn’t been used in a while so we looked up the owner’s manual on-line. A rather unhelpful guide, although there is a baked scrambled egg recipe for 50 people if you need it. Both turkeys were brined. A few pounds of innocent citrus fruits were slaughtered and stuffed into the cavities. The brine spilled all over the kitchen and my spouse, soaking her pajamas and flooding a few open drawers. I am Ethel to her Lucy, trying to stay out of it, my arms crossed in front of my chest, rolling my eyes, but willing to lie to Fred and Ricky, willing to cook 38 pounds of turkey for 16 people. Knowing I would never cancel this particular sitcom, because even though it’s not HBO worthy and there are a lot of commercials, it’s still a classic.

7:58 am. The sun is up, the sky a soft blue grey, a few bundled walkers drift by the house on the way to the nearby bike path. I smell like sage and onion and oranges. The kids are still sleeping, the dogs are curled up in delicious dreams and I’m gearing up for coffee, the Macy’s Day Parade and toast with raspberry jam. I am looking more behind than forward. To past years. To fighting with my brothers over the black olives, wearing them on our fingers like Afros. To my mother’s sweet potatoes from a can drowning in syrupy brown sugar and baked until they crack like Spanish roof tiles. To the turkey salt and pepper shakers that stoically appeared for just this day. The ten layer lasagna at the table that I thought was normal Thanksgiving fare until I got to college.

I don’t know what this holiday is really about anymore. One year we wrote things we were thankful for on the back of construction paper leaves and they got read out loud. One year I walked around an empty Boston Common, alone and sad and angry. One year I had an allergic reaction to clementines and my lips swelled to the size of the Macy’s parade turkey.

This year I would like to feel quiet. I would like to see the ocean. I would like to hear my mother’s laugh. I would like to eat olives off my fingers.

I know I won’t get all those things, but we learn to adjust. We move on from Felix the Cat to Spongebob. We have less or more.  We are filled to the brim with all we can stand and then we sleep, we get up, we go forward. Sometimes we are grateful. Sometimes we take a breath and say, yes. This is my life. This is my happiness.

Here’s to the turkey. To the green bean casserole. To the droning of football and the last roses in the garden gasping for breath in the crisp fall air. Here’s to all things pumpkin. Here’s to you and your happiness. To the way you celebrate or hide, cherish or doubt. Happy Thanksgiving. Happy moments of thanks.



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Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Oh yeah. I did it. Up at 7:00 AM baking cookies. Watched those Rockettes kick higher than the Empire State Building. Saw Harry Potter singing in a suit and bow tie with John Larroquette (Didn’t I see that last year too? Wasn’t it just as strange then?). Watched my better half cook enough food for a small army and then wrap it up and wedge it into the back of our dilapidated minivan, steaming up the windows and smelling like an aphrodisiac. One hour later dinner at my sister-in-laws sitting at the kids table eating and eating some more. Walked off two forkfuls of mashed potatoes on the beach with my kids. Then back for dessert. Ended the day with Charlie Brown and Lady GaGa. Finally stumbled into bed with a food hangover, a raging fibromyalgia attack, a profound sadness.

I hear from so many people these days say that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. It feels less stressful, easier, more singular in focus, free of religious overtones and guilt, less expensive. The expectations are lower, the carbohydrate intake is higher. All in all it’s a great day.

And it was. I enjoyed my family, I witnessed only minor dysfunction, I felt full and grateful, the sun shone, the beach was glorious, I didn’t have to cook or clean a lot (thank you TXN), and my sister-in-law lent me 3 new books to read. It really was a day to be thankful for.

Yes, here it comes. The but…

My mother wasn’t here.

Truthfully, it has been a long time since my mother played a significant role in my Thanksgiving. I’ve been out in the world quite a while now. Cooking my own turkeys and pies, buying my own rust colored table linens, getting the lumps out of the gravy or sitting at other dining room tables and oohing/ahing over bowls of white and orange vegetables.

But talking to my father 300 miles away, his voice flat and dull, a pretend voice, empty without her, I am filled with abandonment and loneliness. All day it rattles and wheezes inside of me, like stale air, so that by midnight, stuffed with food and small hapinesses and the confusion of watching Charlie Brown and Lady Gaga in one night, I’m engorged. Like those Macy’s Day Parade balloons, I feel enormous and unwieldy and held to the ground only by a proverbial thread.

This morning I came to slowly, shook off bad dreams and joint pain, made french toast for my kids, started reading A Secret Kept, started thinking about every chapter–how it hooked me in, made me want to keep reading to find out more, how it screwed up point of view and distracted me, how it introduced new characters successfully and not so successfully, and how I loved it. Because I was dissecting it, learning from it and the whole time enjoying the ride.

Books help. They take me away and bring me back and then take me away again. They get me in front of this computer, to this blog, and to my own sense of myself as a writer. They get me through Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Holy Saturday, Fat Tuesday, Christmas Eve, Hanukkah, Ground Hog’s Day, Friday the 13th, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and even my own damn birthday. I love books. Can’t imagine where I’d be without them.

Can you?


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