Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Getting Good and Old, Again

Serenity might be too strong a word, but forgive yourself. My mind is foggy from heavy injections of sugar, butter, and tryptophan -- two slices of pies short of Thanksgiving nirvana.
As a kid Thanksgiving was ambiguous. No mandatory church service was a plus. Food as a holiday theme certainly was welcome, but some of it was really gross. Stuffing, for example. Soggy chunks of onions and celery? No thanks. Canned green bean casserole with chow mein noodles? Really? 

There was love in the air, with a touch of family tension. Leading up to sitting down for dinner, the momentum in the kitchen was palpable and intense. Humming sounds of mixers, the buzzing of an electric carving knife and whisking accompanied by the oven door opening and closing, again and again, in crescendo. Foil-covered bowls and pots outnumbered guests. "Stir the gravy!" Mom barked to Grandma. It was hot. The dishes and pans to wash were overwhelming.
Then I got married and marched to the beat of Martha Stewart. I toiled over an artichoke stuffing with free-range walnuts that nobody liked. The turkey was blessed and fed a last supper of organic grain before it was killed, wrapped and priced accordingly. Roasted root vegetables with sprigs of herb we grew in pots on our deck were not quite the hit I hoped for. That fourth trip downtown in heavy traffic for the Gewurtztraminer we absolutely needed for dinner made me cranky. The dishes that I transferred the food to from the pots to look good on the table were even more overwhelming, and not dishwasher safe. With a headache from our unique and expensive wine, everything was more challenging. My kids didn't eat Thanksgiving dinner and were hungry for macaroni and cheese. And I made it for them.
Thank God middle age has set in.  I look in the mirror and the blurry, older version of myself accepts that I was never much of a fancy cook and I no longer care. That's what older sisters are for, right? All I want is family, friends and my dog to be around and relatively happy. Flowers and candles beats fussing with complicated decorations. A "natural" Butterball Turkey is very content in my refrigerator. A pretty box of Bell Stuffing is sleek enough in its simplicity, and the ingredients thankfully too small to read. Pie-making is happily surrendered to my cheerful and enthusiastic daughter. I am able to turn a blind eye to my son drinking soda, eating cookies and playing video games minutes before dinner. It's their smiles and laughter I crave.

I drink the wine that is closest to me, and open. 

Even dog hair blowing around in tumbleweeds in the right light can be artistic. With this age comes freedom to give in to the unique energy and momentum of our family.  The recipe for fond memories, it turns out, is pretty simple.
Presented on Thanksgiving is an opportunity to live in the moment of the incredible abundance that surrounds me, and I'm deeply grateful to have the good sense to seize it.

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