Tuesday, November 20, 2012

T(hanksgiving) Minus 2, 2012

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving dawns cloudy and dim. The leaves take forever to drift from the top of the trees, landing with a ridiculously soft thud on the leaf-brother covered ground. Sometimes they don't even make it, being caught half ways down by a log jam on a forked branch and making drifts of fall colors form a canopy lower than the natural arc of limb against sky. The birds are somnolent, no rustling, no joyous song of rebirth on this new day, just an occasional muted peep from some low slung russet and golden leaf shrouded bush.

My house is quiet as a tomb and almost as dark. Broad porches block the first and last sun of the day, which is fine when it is so bright ones eyes pour water like Niagara Falls, not so good on a dark and somber November morn when one is trying to track down their motivation.

Where the hell did I leave it? It took me so long to develop it in the first place. Having grown up in a family of tradition I was happy to just ride along and eat my mom's turkey and cornbread stuffing. We would arrive 'en masse' around noon or one, Pyrex casserole dishes in hand, dressed nicely though not formally. The cousins would collide and explode out of the house into the yard with footballs and pets and bicycles. Their meeting, their seeing each other was like a nuclear reaction, 4 kids sounding like 8 and moving about so that they seemed to be number much higher. Parents sighed in relief, watched them run for a minute and then nestled into the kitchen or living room, drink in hand and relaxed for the first time probably in weeks. For the next few hours the kids were entertained, we were surrounded by people we didn't have to prove a damn thing to and life was good and as it should be.

Conversation went from the kids to work, from funny books and movies to politics (people weren't so rabid then and rational discussions were still possible). From gossip (bless his/ her heart), to the food and back to the kids again.

Being a Holiday we often had brothers and sisters from out of state with their wives and husbands and children in tow. Random cousins of my parents and once or twice semi-strangers that had no place to go for the day. Everyone seemed to be welcome and sometimes the characters were a great source of entertainment, not just the year they were there but for years after. 'Remember when' was the favorite way to start conversation once we moved to the table and more than once we all fell out into laughter so deep our ribs hurt after.

My dad took it on it on himself that day to clear the table and do the dishes. He is a depression era baby and cannot leave anything on his plate or anyone else's for that matter. We would hoot and holler and tease him about being the human garbage disposal while he scowled and said it was just to be nice, to help my mother, which, regardless of the reasoning behind it, it did.

Swollen with food and warmed by wine or whiskey we would retire to the living room to watch a new movie with the kids or to play games, Trivial Pursuit being a favorite. The laughter continued, the love flowed and the night wore on into its deepest hour.

We would straggle out, kids filthy and exhausted, parents sated and sleepy and wend our way home, another year in the books. They were all perfect Thanksgivings.

My mother passed in 2004 and with her went those magical Holidays, the love and warmth and bonhomie we all cherished. I have tried and tried to re-create it but it is impossible. I don't know what magic she wielded that allowed us all to forget feuds and heartache and poverty and loneliness and envy and greed and fear and sadness that day.  I know I for one felt safe with her, always, she was the one that took care of business, took care of me and slayed my bogey-men, at least in my mind, but what was she to the others? Why can't we retrieve that special feeling she seemed to endow without meaning too. without any effort apparently at all?

I love my family to death, all of them even when I want to slap the bejeezes out of them. That may not be a politically correct expression of love but it is a true one. I want them to surround me, to let go and relax and forget all of the petty things that haunt us everyday. To let me help them carry the burdens of love and hate and fear and sadness at least for that short while so they can know again the feeling that comes only from family loving family, together.

Just thinking about those days restores me, sitting at the right hand of my mother on that day for years and years and years while she smiled and laughed and blushed and basked in the lives she had created and maintained and nurtured to adulthood out of sheer force of will. I am ready to roll up my sleeves, to bake, to roast and broil and boil and frost. I am ready to wipe down walls and sweep walkways and get out the kids movies and games for the adults, to uncork a bottle and toast the good Lord for all the bounty in my life. I will do so for myself, for my children and for anyone else that wants to grace my table.