Wishing You the Happiest Possible Thanksgiving


Well, it won’t be our usual Thanksgiving this year, that’s for damn sure. We won’t gather in our house, surrounded by 30 or 35 of our favorite relatives and friends. There won’t be a 25 pound turkey with ten different side dishes. I am not anticipating 7 pies and a cake, plus boxes of chocolates, two delicious vegan appetizers and three kinds of bread.

It won’t be a full day of beloved faces moving in and out of our kitchen. We won’t be celebrating for two full days.

But.

Here we are.

It’s Thanksgiving 2020.

The election is (sort of) over. The weather is turning (sort of) colder. And the damned Coronavirus is raging across the globe.

We are all tired. We are sick to death of “social distancing”. We are angry. We are sad. We are lonely.

We want to gather our children, our siblings and parents and friends and uncles and aunts and cousins and everyone. We want to hold them all against our hearts and tell them that we are so very grateful to have them in our lives. We want to feed them. We want to argue over football and politics and favorite pies. We want to laugh at the whipped cream on our nephew’s nose.

But this is 2020.

Instead of cooking for 35 this year, I’ll be celebrating the holiday with my Mom, my younger sister and my mother’s home health aide.

My Mom is 90. She is physically more frail than I ever thought I’d see. She has dementia, and is hanging on desperately to her most beloved memories. Time with her is a sorrow and a joy all rolled into one. Her children feel every moment ticking away. And we feel the pull of her happy past, tugging at our hearts as we think of all of the holidays past.

My sister is my closest woman friend. She is my anchor. My rudder. She keeps me balanced and whole. She makes me laugh out loud. She takes me on vacation, shares her memories with me, pushes me to look outside of my own preconceptions.

And Mom’s health aide, Lynn, is a woman I am so blessed to have met. She is intelligent, kind, thoughtful, confident, fun. My Mother loves and respects her in a way that is a gift to me. This new friend brings a unique perspective to our family. She has only known Mom as the elderly, fragile, but still feisty woman that she is now. She is able to embrace and accept Mom for all of her strengths.

So.

This Thanksgiving will, for me, be more about gratitude than any that has come before it.

I will miss my children this holiday. I will miss my grandchildren. I will miss the crazy cooking frenzy that usually precedes the day and I will surely miss the crowd of well-loved faces around my table.

But I will be so grateful this year. I will be so grateful that my sons will share a meal with each other. That my daughter and her family will celebrate together and will all be healthy. I will be so happy that my husband will be at their table for the holiday.

Mostly, I will be grateful that my family is still safe and healthy. I will be eternally grateful to still have my Mom in my life, and to be able to make her famous stuffing in her kitchen. I’ll be grateful to have my sister at the table, and to be able to put on party hats and sing her “Happy Birthday”.

I’ll be so very grateful to know Lynn, to have her on our team, to know that Mom trusts her and loves her.

So.

Happy, sad, gentle and lonely Thanksgiving to everyone. This is one year in a century. It is one for the history books.

It can be our saddest.

Or it can be out most grateful.

I’m working hard to embrace the latter.

Feeling Thankful. And Full.


This was just our appetizer table. What can I say? We’re Italian.

This could be the usual gratitude post, about how incredibly lucky I feel to have such a loving family and friends. As I’ve done every year since I started this blog, I could be waxing poetic about the wonderful abundance of food, how much I love having people to feed, how lucky we are to be able to afford so much deliciousness.

Obligatory Turkey pic.

But the truth is, I’m getting older, crankier and more tired.

So yesterday was glorious. It was. My Mom is still here eat turkey with us, and that is a blessing for sure. We celebrated the birthdays of my little sister sister and my nephew, complete with an amazing chocolate cake. We drank a lot (as in a LOT) of prosecco. My youngest son was here over night with his fiancee and we had one of those funny-in-retrospect conversations about political philosophy while soaking in the hot tub.

Politics never came up once.

Good times!

But by nine o’clock this morning, I was home alone with my dogs, a boatload of leftovers, and a vat of simmering turkey carcass. I put on some Netflix documentaries, downloaded a few podcasts (shoutout to Stand Up with Pete) and settled in to relax.

And now, NOW I am truly grateful.

I’m grateful that my daughter and her family spent the holiday with her husband’s family. I mean, sure, I missed the kids….but I don’t mind sharing them with another set of grandparents who love them to pieces and whom they adore. I missed my middle child, who spent the holiday with his future in-laws. But again, I’m so happy that he has another family who loves him and his fiancee.

I’m grateful that my dogs didn’t get away with stealing too many bites of food (OK, Bentley licked a pumpkin pie, but we sliced that part off.) I’m grateful that the turkey was wicked juicy even though I was just too tired to brine it. I’m grateful that nobody said “quid pro quo” at any point and that we all agree that Gentleman Jack is a gorgeous bourbon. (Thanks, Uncle Joe!!)

Mostly, though, I’m grateful today that I can still put on a big meal. I’m grateful that my son shared some nice smooth weed with me (my vape has been banned in Massachusetts), so I got some good sleep. I’m grateful, god help me, that my dear husband had to work today and I got to stay home.

I’m grateful for no humans around.

I’m bad, I know it.

But I sent everyone off with leftovers! I got the laundry done (I’m an idiot. Used cloth napkins.) I did a good job!

So today, after making then big mason jars of turkey stock, I’m thankful to have a few hours to sit here like a big lump of lard with a piece of pie on my knee, whipped cream floating on my coffee and the promise of a huge turkey salad sandwich in my immediate future.

Life is good.

I hope you all had more than enough of food, family and fun. I wish you all a lovely nap!

Magic Words


Magic book with magic lights

Oh, don’t you wish that there were magic words?

Wouldn’t it be just wonderful to have magic phrases that could bring peace, healing, love, rest?

I wish that our world contained real wizards.  Men and women of such wisdom that they could simply say those magic words and hearts would be made whole again.

In a world that seems to have gone so wrong, I wish that there were special words to make things right.  I wish that I could open an old and dusty book, placed high on a wooden shelf in a long forgotten shop.  I wish that I could turn those ancient pages, slowly, and so carefully.

I wish that I would catch my breath in wonder, and run my finger slowly and carefully under those magic words.

Don’t you wish that with me?

Don’t you wish that somehow we could turn to those around us who are in pain, and that we could whisper those special words that would mend the terrible wounds in their hearts?

I do.

I wish that there were magic words.

I wish that I knew them.

Wishing all of you peace and safety and laughter and love. Wishing you a home without strife, a country without war, a kitchen without hunger, a group of loving friends and family to embrace you.

Wishing you magic words to heal you.

 

A Soft Morning


IMG_1270

This post will be brief, but I need to share it.

I woke up this morning, this day-after-Thanksgiving morning, and looked out into the snowy woods.  The sun is rising and there are puffy, gentle clouds floating out beyond the tips of the branches. The sky is the lightest, palest blue, with a touch of gold where the rising sun is painting the bellies of the little clouds.

It is a soft morning. I slept long and deeply, and dreamed of the ocean.

Yesterday I saw all three of my children, and two who are loved by those children, making them also mine. My daughter handled the hosting, making a flawless feast in her cozy old house. My kids were together, and we were there with them. They love each other, a lot. They love us. The torch was passed happily and easily.

It is a soft, soft morning.

I watched some news this morning.  Two little boys, about the ages of my students, were buried in five feet of snow in New York State.  Police and family worked frantically for hours to find them, not knowing that the plow had come and covered them as they played.

At 2am they were located, pulled out, rescued. Alive, and well, and with a story to tell for the rest of their lives. What a soft morning.

In Ferguson, Missouri a community group got together to cook and serve a huge Thanksgiving dinner for those affected by the protests and riots and angry violence.  The TV news showed a black woman about my age serving up big piles of squash and mashed potatoes to young white people who were smiling and thanking her. A stout white woman with puffy blond hair was serving fresh rolls and slices of turkey to a handsome black teenaged boy with dark framed glasses and a blue hoodie.  He was smiling and pointing to the part of the turkey that he liked the best.

They called it a “family dinner”.  They were supporting each other, taking care of each other, sharing good things with each other.

Never doubt that “food is love”.

What a soft morning!

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Now its off to complete the last 9,000 words for my NaNoWriMo effort!

Fennel and Figs


I love Thanksgiving for all that it represents. I love the idea of being grateful; most of us have so many blessings in our lives. How lovely to have a holiday that helps us to recognize them all!

I love the history behind the holiday.  It makes me feel grateful to think about the Puritans celebrating that first harvest.  And whether or not their Wompanoag neighbors were invited or simply showed up makes little difference to me. I love the idea that on that first harvest celebration, all of the people in the area were happy to have had a successful growing season.  I love the fact that this small celebration happened before the outbreak of war between the two groups. Whatever else it was, the first Thanksgiving was a peaceful celebration.

Thanksgiving means a celebration of bounty, of luck, of health, of our ability to survive in harsh conditions.  I love it for all of that symbolism. Even though I am able to feed my family just by going to the farmer’s market or the store, I still feel as if I am one with the rugged settlers of the past who carved out a new life for their families in a dangerous wilderness.

And I love Thanksgiving because Abe Lincoln was the one who made it a real holiday. I love that it gained its status as a national day of celebration out of the President’s desire to recreate a sense of forgiveness and gratitude among us. After our four years of war with each other, after all of those thousands of deaths, I love the idea that this holiday was created to help us to celebrate our continued unity.

Mostly, though, I love Thanksgiving because it is so uniquely made of a mix of so-called “American tradition” and all of the multi-national traditions we’ve brought to the day since 1863.

For me, Thanksgiving will always make me think of figs and dates; those beautiful Mediterranean sweets were always a part of our after dinner ritual on Thanksgiving.  Before the pie, before the sour cream coffee cake made my Nana, we would sit with a big bowl of perfectly ripe fruit, a bowl of nuts and smaller dishes of those luscious dates and figs.

Thanksgiving is full of memories of special family foods, family rituals, family traditions. In my family, the meal used to start with turkey soup, and then moved on to big platters of ravioli.  My Sicilian Grandfather wouldn’t eat turkey, so we had ravioli and meatballs.  Then the traditional meal of turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, squash.  But there was always a dish of fennel on the table, too.  Lovely, crisp fennel that we would dip into a little bowl of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Just thinking of those meals makes me miss my grandparents so much.  Grampa, my Sicilian Grampa, could crack two walnuts in one hand, with no nutcracker. I thought that was the greatest feat ever.  And he would eat roasted chestnuts with us, letting us sip his red wine as we did.  He would eat those plump sweet figs, and talk to me about the fig tree in his yard in Augusta, Sicily, when he was a boy.

And I remember Nana, all 84 pounds of her, eating her Thanksgiving dinner at the big table at my Mom’s house.  She would take dainty bites of everything, from the turkey soup to the pumpkin pie, commenting on all of it as she did.

I will never, ever forget the holiday of 2001, not long after the terrible attack of 9/11.  At that point, Nana was losing her hearing and often simply faded out during large group conversation.  On that day, as about 30 of us sat around Mom’s long table eating, drinking wine and talking, Nana suddenly looked up from her plate and said, “This is so delicious!  I bet that Osama wouldn’t have been so mean if he could have had food like this!”

It was hilarious. We all imagined the US Army ordering up an airdrop of eggplant parmigiana.  What a simplistic idea!  And yet…..there was something so poignant about it for me; Nana realizing and expressing that “food is love” and that if only we could all be nurtured well, maybe we would be more peaceful. Maybe the world would be kinder, if only we all had enough to eat, enough to feel nurtured.

Thanksgiving in our house also meant Liz’s birthday.  My sweet baby sister Liz, my funny, smart, loving, amazing sister Lizzie; her birthday was always on Thanksgiving, or a day or to to either side.  We always stuck a candle in a pumpkin pie, and she was always so good natured about it.  Thanksgiving meant giving Liz her presents, singing to her, hugging her and telling her that we loved her.

I love this holiday because it is about repeating old themes.  Repeating recipes and birthdays and jokes and traditions.  The same foods on the same serving platters, with the same faces gathered around the table, sometimes telling the same stories.  I picture my Dad, seated at the head of the table.  Jovial, warm, funny, pouring the wine and telling stories.  Complimenting Mom on another job well done. My Dad.

But then enough time has gone by, and the faces around the table have changed.  Babies have grown up, grandparents and parents are gone.  The table is different, the platters are new, the wine glasses are from a different set.

This year we will be celebrating Thanksgiving at the new home of our daughter and son-in-law. It feels so very different from all of those celebrations of the past.

But you know what?

There will be fennel, and there will be figs.   And we will remember.

Both sides now


I don’t know.  It could just be the post holiday fatigue, or the emotional let down of having the whole big feast behind me, but I seem to have lost my usual opinionated rage.

This has almost never happened to me before.

For some strange, inexplicable reason, I kind of feel like I can see both sides of most things today.

H’mmm.

You guys are on-line reading these words, so I know that you know how easy it is to find stuff out here to get all worked up about.  War in Gaza, Black Friday store hours, the appropriateness of celebrating the genocide that came with that “First Thanksgiving”, the election, the outrage that is turducken….I could go on for hours……..

I’m usually happy to jump into the fray, and to argue with one side or the other.  I love the fact that the internet has allowed me to always feel surrounded by those of like mind.  I mean, I must be right if all those cool people on Facebook and WordPress and Pinterest agree with me!  Very comforting, and very validating, you know?

But today I just can’t muster up the outrage.  Sigh.

Today I can understand, to some degree, how scary it must be to live in Israel, to know that Iran is sending weapons to your enemies, to realize that they want to blow you up for various reasons.  BUT, I can also understand, at least a bit, how powerless those Palestinians in Gaza must feel every day!  Unable to get basic supplies, unable to build or rebuild because of the blockade, knowing that one of the worlds’ strongest armies is poised and ready to unleash its anger on you and yours.  I can’t side with either armed and dangerous group today; mostly I am just sad for both populations of children.

And I have been reading a lot out here on WordPress and on Facebook about the outrage that so many people feel about celebrating Thanksgiving. I love US history, I really do!  And I know that the Puritans were a bunch of narrow minded, stiff necked, intolerant religious zealots.  I get that.   I understand that from the vantage point of 21st century global enlightenment they were morally wrong to come to the shores of North America to set up European style settlements to the great detriment of native populations.  I get it, OK?  I get it!  Europeans arrived in North America, the natives were decimated, it was shameful in so many ways!

But the point of our modern feast is not to celebrate the harvest; its not to mark the first year of survival in a harsh world, to let the natives know that we are here to stay or to show them how well we can fire our muskets (yep; all of that was part of Plimoth’s first harvest celebration in 1621).  The purpose of the feast now is to get together with people we love, to share food with them, to tell them that we love them, and to take some time to be grateful for all of the beautiful parts of life.  I’m not gonna apologize for that.

As for “Black Friday”, I will take no part in that madness.  It makes me feel sick to think of pushing through the crowds in the big box stores, fighting for my “share” of the junk on sale. I don’t want to give my hard earned money to those big corporate giants. Yuck.  So I’ll stay home with my leftover pie and my cup of good coffee.

But I don’t have it in me to get all huffy and outraged at my friends and family who think its fun and who want to get out there and get started. I don’t have little ones to shop for, so I don’t have to find a way to buy tons of toys.  I don’t need any electronics, so I don’t need to save money on trinkets.  I plan to buy little goodies from local stores, and I plan to cook for a lot of people in my life.  Well, goodie for me.  It doesn’t mean that I have to feel superior to the people who are shopping today, does it?

No doubt I’ll have a good night’s sleep tonight, and will wake up rested and refreshed. No doubt I will once again feel myself empowered by the energy of my outrage.  I’ll be mouthing off again in no time, I’m sure.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the opportunity to see life from both sides for a change!

Thankful


It’s late on Sunday afternoon.  The sky is the darkest blue, almost navy.  No stars have yet come out.  The air outside is cold and sweet.

Inside the house, the woodstove has been burning all day, and even the floor is warm.  The smoky heat makes me feel safe.  I draw the curtains.

Today I am so thankful.

My family will be here on Thursday, to celebrate and to eat.  I am thankful that I will have a whole big crowd to cook for! Sisters, nieces and nephews, loved ones and friends, a brother, an Aunt and Uncle, my Mother, all of us eating, laughing, squeezed together in this too-small house.

I have made my lists, and will spend the next few days baking, brining, roasting. I know how lucky I am to be able to buy all this food, to have a nearly endless supply of good things right here, and the means to have everything that we could want to make our feast.

Of course, I’m most thankful that I will have all three of my children here for the afternoon! For the first time in months, we’ll all be together, at least for a while. I know too well how lucky we are to still have each other. I know how fragile families can be, how quickly everything can change.  So I’m thankful.

And I am truly thankful that I am lucky enough to live in a place where the threat of bombs and tanks and guns does not exist.  Today I read the news, and thought of families on both sides of the Gaza/Israel border.  I thought of mothers there trying to protect their children from forces beyond their control.  How do they do it? How do they get up in the morning, and make breakfast for their kids, and put them to bed at night knowing that weapons of all kinds are aimed at them even as they sleep?  How do they go through life feeling that every minute there are people “not like” them who are planning new ways to kill them?  I grieve for all of them.  I am thankful for the peace that I have always known.

And because I am grateful, I have to promise myself that I will always do what I can to bring these gifts to others. To people who are no worse, no less kind, no less intelligent, no less deserving than we are, but who have not had the overwhelming luck that we have somehow stumbled into.

Happy Thanksgiving, to everyone, everywhere.

Is it all worth it?


I have been watching it all unfold.  The little tents, cramped together in a small space. The people huddled in folding chairs, wrapped in coats and scarves against the frigid night air, or standing in small groups talking.

I have seen the surging crowds, pushing forward, breaking down barriers in frustration and anger.  My heart starts to pound as I watch video of people shouting, pushing, shoving to get through.  And I wonder: is it worth the risk?

The scenes become scarier as people begin to turn against each other, trying to shout each other down, trying to drown each other out.  And then, of course, the police and security people appear on the scene, determined to keep order.

I have seen photos and videos of people screaming from the effects of pepper spray, weeping at the pain and fear.  Videos and photos of a man lying in a pool of blood after being pushed to the ground by police, who surround him and try to keep the crowd at bay.  With all of the passion and frustrated emotion, there have even been shootings and at least one stabbing.

And I have to ask myself: is it worth all this?   Is it worth putting your life and safety on the line?

My answer?

No.

Everything that I have described here came from media coverage of Black Friday Shopping.  So, NO!  Absolutely, positively NO. It is not worth fighting, scratching, screaming, bleeding and hurting other people just to save fifty bucks on the latest electronic gizmo, or the current chintzy toy.

I stayed home yesterday (other than a visit to the vet!) and I will shop locally today.  I plan to make as many Christmas gifts as possible this year.  After watching yesterday’s national horror show, I will never enter a Wallmart store again.  Mass hysteria, mass consumption in an age of want, mass chaos in the aisles of retail stores.  Is this what we have become?

There may be times when it is right to gather under tents, to march together and demand to be heard. There may be times when it is worth the risk to face the police, to refuse to disperse, to stand shoulder to shoulder with others in order to make a statement.

Getting a deal on an X Box surely isn’t one of those times.

 

 

Just normal


Happy Thanksgiving!

It was a great holiday yesterday. The turkey was delicious, cooked right on time, crisp and juicy. Our family is blessed with fabulous cooks, so we had three kinds of stuffing, fresh beans, squash, fantastic potatoes and more desserts that you could ever imagine in one place.  Everyone had a good time, conversations were interesting and funny, and we managed to avoid talking politics for a whole afternoon.

The best part of the day, though, came in the mid morning, a couple of hours before company arrived. Everything was pretty much ready, and we were all just sitting around the living room.  We had opened some champagne, and everyone had a mimosa in hand. And nothing special happened.  Paul read the sports page, the kids played music on computers and iPods, sharing new discoveries with each other. We talked about school, music, food, Christmas, the weather.  It was a couple of hours of nothing much. No stress, no worry, no big emotion.

Last night, just before I went to bed, I was talking the day over with Paul, comparing notes on little moments.  And we talked about how much we enjoyed that little chunk of time together in the morning.  I struggled to put words to what had made it seem so……good.  It left me feeling content.

“It was great,” I tried to explain, “Because it wasn’t anything big.  It was just normal.”

Its a normal that used to be regular, everyday and overlooked.  Its a normal that we now see as unexpected, rare, and all the sweeter for its unremarkable pleasure.

Happy Thanksgiving!