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Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Thanksgiving

I'm ready to do my shopping, which is going to be rather a quiet business, almost all of it online, with a minimum of wrapping and fuss. I said the tree should be at the kids' house this year, but Beloved is one of those major traditionalists, carols, cards all over, Advent candles, Advent calendars, tree, trimmings, fir and holly branches along the mantel, glittering packages, cranberry sauce. On our schedule, we'll see how much of it really happens this year.

Neighbors have lights up all over their yards and houses already, including the icicle lights along the eaves, which really brings out the bah humbug in me, underscored by the self-righteousness of my trying not to use power needlessly. Humph, I say to myself, rumbling past in my hydrocarbons-emitting Saturn wagon. It has 179,000 miles on it and can no longer boast 43 miles/gallon highway. Needs clutch, brakes, and an engine seal, too. But at least it's paid for.

Because the Portland tribe could not be here today (Thanksgiving), we had ours last weekend. They placed their order in advance (Ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, pickles, olives, bubbly cider, three kinds of pie) and drove down, about 130 miles. Middle Brother and Daughter also came over. They're both vegetarians, so the gravy Beloved made used no drippings. I fixed a salad with walnuts and tangerines in it, and fed the bread machine a recipe of walnut-apple juice-three-grain bread.

I don't bake in the machine; I pretty much use it as a mixer only, then turn out the dough and finish kneading and shaping it by hand. My trademark loaf is round, about ten inches in diameter and five inches high in the middle, with three slices across the top. The dough was apt to rise slowly in such a chilly house early in the day, so it occurred to me to leave it in the squarish bread-machine mixer and hang the mixer from a hook in the ceiling above the wood stove. This did the trick, and there was a finished loaf in time to send the young people home with it.

We gathered around the dining room table, which is known as the High Table because Beloved is rather tall and I built it to her specifications, and sang grace and dug in. We placed Oldest Local Boy, who is twenty-six, at the head of the table because he was the oldest guy present, I told him that if his Atlanta brother had come, who's thirty-six, that would be who would be sitting there. "Yep," he said, nodding. He's active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, which is socially very feudal, and traditions of rank and precedence mean a lot to him. I could feel it in his reply, and could sense the rightness of this for him as he took his place at the head of the table.

Presently, I rose from my seat and held aloft my glass of apple juice, and the others raised their glasses as well, nine at table, including my oldest granddaughter, now six. By way of a toast, I sang them a toned-down version of the drinking song from Die Fledermaus. Only Beloved had ever heard this before.

Happy days,
Here's to all the happy days.
No more sorrows, no more care,
For the ones you love are there.

Happy days,
Here's to all the happy days.
No more sorrows, no more care,
For the ones you love are there.

It's actually a kind of a round, but as no one knew that (they all love rounds), it was a solo. We clinked glasses.

I spent a lot of time playing with Granddaughter on the floor, using toy dishes and plastic food to create a Thanksgiving feast for the dolls.

Daughter and a daughter-in-law drifted into my room and pawed through my jewelry box. They found some old-fashioned enameled dogwood blossom earrings, of the snap-on kind, and put it on Daughter's ear at the top, like a Tahitian bloom tucked behind the ear. She came running out. "Mommies! Check this out!"

Outside, a glister of grey rain and fog. The geese had gone south, the birds that remained to check out our bird feeder looked like wet dishrags; the clouds scudded low along the narrow valley, cutting off the mountaintops on either hand, and cars trundled desultorily along our country lane, wipers stuttering on their slowest settings.

Granddaughter insisted on a tour of the soggy garden. I re-dressed and, taking a small basket, swished with her through the wet and tangled grass past the grape arbor to the circle defined by new spears of elephant garlic, within which stood random stalks of derelict summer vegetables. The mulch squished and squeaked under our boots.

We found that one variety of tomatoes, akin to roma, were actually in good shape, and collected a few of them from the frost-blackened branches. The cabbages were all in good form, but we didn't need them. Beloved and I had been derelict in getting in the winter squash, all of which, acorn squashes and spaghettis, had come through the one freeze unburnt, so, after greeting the bedraggled sunflowers that she herself had planted, Granddaughter set about gathering the squashes and carrying them up to the house. I showed her how to snap them off a couple of inches from the end, to make them last longer. While she marched back and forth with her treasures, I snapped off some celery to bring in. The rain increased.

Hand in hand we headed for house and woodstove.

It was a very successful day.

Making sure the young people got most of the leftovers, Beloved and I sent them all home and cleaned house, which took relatively little time. We sat by the last of the fire as the darkness looked in at the windows.

As we were going to bed, the phone rang. Oldest Local had left his cell phone and would like to pick it up. "Tonight?" "Yes, there's someone I have to come back to Eugene to take to Portland, so I could come by, about midnight?" "Uh, Ok. Be careful."

We left the phone and a few more things, including an acorn squash for Granddaughter, on the freezer in the mudroom, turned on the porch light, dove into the quilts, and snoozed, legs and arms tangled.

Sometime in the night, footsteps went into the bathroom, checked the refrigerator one more time, gathered the oddments from the top of the freezer, and turned off the porch light on the way out.

He knows his way around the house in the dark, having grown up in it.

-- risa b


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