Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Bird Is the Word

I’m usually ambivalent about official or socially mandated holidays. “You shall celebrate XYZ on such-and-such date” prompts the response, "I'll celebrate what or whom I please in my own time for my own reasons, thank you." As a practical matter, though, there is an advantage to observing the conventional days: other people are more likely to be off from work, and so are much more likely to show up to your party. Besides, in the case of Thanksgiving, I actually like turkey.

For the past decade, I’ve had Thanksgiving at my house. It is the one major meal that I personally cook – the turkey, one other critter (lamb or ham usually), and a couple of sides anyway: I buy some additional items pre-prepared. Obviously I’m not vegetarian, though invariably one or two guests turn out to be, so I make accommodations for them, too. I thereby maintain a reputation as chef when in fact my oven gets little use the rest of the year. The stealthy way to be cheap is to be lavish on rare occasion. It is really vastly harder and more admirable to cook on a small scale daily than to go large scale once per year; I appreciate those who do, but I just don’t want to work that hard.

Conventional families are less common than they once were. I don’t have one (anymore), and neither do most of my friends, so an eclectic bunch of a dozen or so always shows up at the table. This year the guests ranged from ages 20 to 80 and hailed from five countries (US, Canada, Lithuania, Morocco, and the UK). Two I met for the first time on Thursday (great to meet you, Amanda and Michelle, and I expect both of you back again), and two (hi, Aunt Diane and Tim) actually are extended family. Oddly enough, the mix worked socially, and a post-meal game of Scruples revealed our various ways of looking at things. This is the new normal. It’s rather nice, too, even if Norman Rockwell never painted it.


  1. Enjoyed this story very much. And, to the contrary, I think Norman Rockwell would approve.

  2. Thanks Patti. I've enjoyed your blogs too btw.

  3. Like you, my genetic family has passed on. Considering that, holidays are spent with those friends(their house or mine) who've joined our "Coca Cola/I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony" family. It's a come one, come all kinda thing. Out of the norm families can be made up of anyone appreciated, loved or enjoyed.

    There are noticable differences between the genetic family gatherings from days of yore and the current "Coca Cola family" gatherings enjoyed today. I enjoyed my genetic family, but without fail at every reunion or holiday gathering someone always ended up boozed to hilt which resulted in loosening their lips & blabbing all the secrets they should've zipped, someone got their feelings hurt and went to the bedroom to cry, someone thought they were Joe Frazier and wanted to fight another relative, and someone, for reasons still unknown, stole all the bath soap and various pieces of silverware. Since the worst behaviors were exhibited by adults, the children thought it hilarious and wondered where the culprit hid the bath soap bars and silverware in order to remove them without being noticed.

    Quiet, shy, bookworm that I was, I sat in the corner easy chair with my nose hidden deep within the pages of a book repeating this simple, silent child's prayer, "God, I don't mind inheriting the tinge of red in my hair nor the spray of freckles across my face, but please don't let me inherit their tendency for bad behavior!" Occasionally, I'd look up just in time to take in the most recent gasping aunt as her secrets were blurted out to a room of thirty adults or as my Mom's favorite vase exploded on contact from punches thrown by an inebriated, shadow boxing uncle. He'd shadow box only if he couldn't find a willing male participant to "whup the tar outta."

    Tick tock, time passes, I miss each of those passed on even their terrible behavior. My simple child's prayer was answered. I didn't inherit their tendencies. During our gatherings of "Coca Cola/I want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony" friends, the rooms overflow with warmth & caring, we eat heartily, fall asleep in food coma's leaning on each other as we're crowded on the sofa and chairs, laugh loudly & often, and frequently tell each other we love one another because one never knows who will or won't be present at the next gathering. Lucky me, even though I never check, I'm sure my stash of Dial bath soap bars and stainless flatware are perfectly in tact! :-)

  4. In Neverland there is a crocodile (Tick Tock) and inside him is a ticking clock. The metaphor is probably lost on kids, but not on the rest of us.