that's me, clinking my glass.

The benefit of not having written a blog here in more than a year is that I didn't write my traditional Thanksgiving post in which, instead of enumerating my gratitudes like people do, I complain about how very much I miss the United States on the last Thursday in November. I am bored of enumerated gratitudes and do not believe there is anything wrong with a holiday that has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with gathering, food, and people you love, like, tolerate, or loathe-but-must-suffer, and their plus ones. I wish it happened quarterly instead of annually, and I wish it did not come with the shadow of imperialism and genocide, but no one has asked me yet to create my own holiday, though you are all free to celebrate my birthday next year if you want. I will tell you the story of how my grandmother burst through the hospital door marked No Admittance while my mother was in labor with me. We can make a rite out of that, can't we?
Instead, on this non-holiday, I stained wood and made black beans with tomatillo salsa for Myron and a dish of chipotle tuna salad for me. I stayed away from Instagram and the stream of a thousand turkeys with trimmings. I put the last of my December obligations into my planner, and I felt the illusion of control. That's an addictive drug, right there.
I hope if you Thanksgivinged, it was a good one. And I hope if it was just another Thursday, that it was a good one of those, too.

dinner by fingers

The Sun And The Moon by Wynton Marsalis on Grooveshark

I wish I were in your shoes today, with a feast coming up in four days. Three and counting. Around a hundred hours. This is the time of year when I am most nostalgic and most homesick, when all of Canada has washed its hands of Thanksgiving weeks ago and is busily arranging inflatable JesusMaryJosephs in their front yards and working on Thursday and Friday. And oh, I married a man who doesn’t like turkey, dears. It’s all no good at all.

If I were in your shoes, I would sing la la la and make a small turkey anyway, and sides upon sides. I would make my grandmother’s satiny gravy and her stuffing and my own garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli salad and Parker House rolls. And at least once before the big day—okay, maybe twice—or more—dinner would mean small salads and small entrées and then cheese and crackers and apples. Or pears. And ooh, grapes.

You can go all out for cheese arrangements if you’re having company, ensuring that a variety of regions and milks and firmnesses are available. But for just you and yours at home? It doesn’t take much. You take out the cheeses when you start thinking about what might potentially be your main course, and an hour later, you slice up an apple and break out the crackers or slice a little bread. This time, there’s a little bit of homemade salted caramel in the white ramekin, for apple-dipping. A little jam is nice, too, or some olives. If you want to plan ahead, you can make some bruschetta. Throw it all on a plate or leave it on a cutting board and go. 

Something wonderful happens when people eat with their hands instead of silverware. The talk feels more animated; gestures become more broad. (Not too broad, or that chunk of Blue Haze will go flying right off your cracker.) We linger at the table and it feels like a party in the best way, like at any moment one of us will say we don’t do this often enough. No invites, no RSVPs, and the perfect guest list.

recycled writing: my own Thanksgivings

If it matters to you, it’s a Litebook, but they haven’t sold this model for years.These days I sit in front of a light box in the mornings. It helps enough that I keep doing it. Angled just the right way and at just the right distance from my eyes, it starts out annoying and ends up almost pleasant. When I stop noticing it, that’s usually a sign that it’s time to turn it off. This will last until the days start noticeably lengthening and the thaw begins in earnest. You’d think the reflected brightness of all that snow would help a little more than it does.

 I went spelunking in an old diary looking for a piece I once wrote on Thanksgivings, which are of course very different since I came to Canada. There is a Thanksgiving holiday here, but it’s anticlimactic—just another Monday off for most people, not that we don’t enjoy those in this house. For anyone who worked retail all through college, Thanksgiving is the last day of normal life (and normal shift-lengths) until after the gift-return rush in January.

We started when I lived in State College. Mimosas in the morning, Thanksgiving parade tinny and loud, the thumping of a flour-sack towel against a turkey breast, careful salting, calls home to my grandmother, the cozy warmth of an ugly rental kitchen that had always hosted reheatings, not holidays. It was an excuse for me to cook for someone else, and an excuse not to make trans-state drives on treacherous November roads. We would have to work early the next day; if the mall opens at seven, you’re there at six-thirty, straightening shoes on lucite pedestals and making sure the shelves are packed with merchandise. Driving three hours for dinner and three hours back the same day just wasn’t worth it.

Mel wouldn’t touch my stuffing, but she loved my turkey, filling up on it and salting it heavily. (She salted everything heavily, that girl; she did everything with abandon. Any day could have been her last and she’d not regret a thing.) Afterward, we went downtown and caught a movie, covering our ears with out hands, stopping the cold not at all and freezing our fingers. We went to bars where we could skip the cover, dance to Abba, drink experimental cocktails, and pretend the next day wasn’t only hours away.

We kept the tradition for years, even after we left retail. Other people joined us, too, savoring my stuffing and pumpkin pies. In Lock Haven, in another tiny apartment with another terrible kitchen, with Christian helping me peel potatoes and calling me Kimberly. In Athens, in my bright and sunny kitchen, hardly a cloud in the sky. Phil came from Pennsylvania and Dan from New Hampshire, and by that time Mel was already in Georgia, too, all of us hundreds of miles from home and family. And then one more Thanksgiving; in Gainesville, just before I had my last two wisdom teeth removed, I cooked for the gang one more time in her tiny kitchen. Afterward I slept, full of painkillers, in her loft bedroom while they went to the Mall of Georgia to be consumers themselves instead of retail slaves. 

After that year, I went to the reservation, where it’s hard to get excited about Thanksgiving. And after the southwest, I came here. I haven’t had a Thanksgiving that made me feel that good this century, dears. And that’s okay, it really is. Everyone loves their childhood Thanksgivings—over the river and through the woods, and all that—and nothing replaces my grandmother’s turkey, gravy, and stuffing. These on-my-own holidays were different. The food was great, but it wasn’t the point of the day. It was one time of the year we said overtly what we lived the rest of our lives, which was that we were a family by choice, braided together just with love instead of DNA.