Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Getting Good and Old

Serenity might be too strong a word, but forgive me. My mind is foggy from heavy injections of sugar, butter, and tryptophan. Just two helpings of potatoes short of Thanksgiving nirvana, I count my blessings and reflect.
As a kid growing up in Rhode Island, Thanksgiving was somewhat ambiguous. My nick-name was "Chub" which might explain why endless food as a holiday theme struck a cord. 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 on top? Are you kidding me? 

There was a lot of love in the air in those days, with a touch of family tension. Leading up to sitting down for dinner, the momentum in the kitchen was palpable and intense. Humming of mixers, the buzzing of an electric carving knife and endless whisking was accompanied by the oven door opening and closing, again and again, in crescendo. Foil-covered bowls and pots outnumbered guests. "Stir the gravy!" 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 herbs we grew in pots on our deck were not quite the hit I anticipated. 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 in order to look good on the table were even more overwhelming, and not dishwasher safe. 

With a headache from our too-expensive wine, everything was more challenging. The icing on the homemade carrot cake was that my kids didn't eat much at Thanksgiving dinner and were hungry for macaroni and cheese shortly afterwards. 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. That's why we have older sisters. All I want is for family, friends and my dog to be around and relatively happy. A "natural" Butterball Turkey seems quite content in my refrigerator. The 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 and thoroughly enjoy the unique energy and momentum of us.  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. I'm deeply grateful to have, at last, the good sense to seize it.

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