Wednesday, November 21, 2007

thanksgiving, part two – remembrances

I have a hard distinguishing my earliest Thanksgiving meals from Christmas-Day meals. The menus were always the same – turkey, stuffing (in and out of the bird), mashed potatoes, jellied cranberries with the indent of the can molded into them, canned corn or peas, applesauce, and gravy. There may have things like sweet potatoes, but I don’t remember because I didn’t eat them.

From my earliest days, I always sat at my father’s left hand. Not sure why that started, but it never deviated up to our last meal together about five years.

I remember enjoying dark meat more than light, probably because kids like juicier hunks of flesh that was subjected to high temperatures to interrupt the decaying process. My last course at every meal was an island of mashed potatoes into which I would create a huge hole. The hole would be filled with corn or peas, then applesauce, and finally gravy.

My father shared a secret with me one time when I came home from college. It was the first time that I cut the turkey (which I did every year thereafter until he died). On the underside of the turkey (and all fowl) is two pockets of meat, set in as if they are tiny breasts. It is the moistest, sweetest meat on the entire bird. I stopped eating meat about 20 years ago, and have cheated only twice – both times to take a nibble of this underside meat.

I don’t remember the last meal with my father’s family. I haven’t seen any of them for five years, and all forty-some years of it, from holidays to social time, is reduced to two or three still photographs that lack affect, depth, or voice.

I view holiday meals with just my family differently than I viewed just meals as a child. They are more functional following a full day of cooking alone, and a moment of respite from the pressures of daily life – as if a several-hour ceasefire has been declared. I think it was probably very similar for my father.

This year marks the first time that the kids that live here – biological and in loco parentis – will have Others with them. My daughter is the exception. She’s a mountain range of individuality, and is probably clueless of the depth of personality and strength she possesses. So there will be seven here at some time or another. Meatless turkey, apple and cranberry stuffing, and the rest of the usual suspects. My boy is with his Other now making pies. He has found his first real second family. It’s the start of the period when he’ll compare me to other fathers and find me lacking. At the other end of this period, be it five or twenty years, he’ll see me as person for the first time. Should be interesting.

No more.

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