Savoring family life
The last two weeks have been in service of familyfeeding, escorting, enjoying, cleaning up after. The reward is Thanksgiving Day.
Cooking begins at 9:00 a.m., sautéing onions for the dressing, then cleaning the bird and stuffing it. There is a squiggly wire thing with a sharp point that neatly sews the cavity after it is filledno need to thread a needle with white thread. My eyes are not as sharp as that task demands.
Cooking smells drift into the back bedrooms but fail to rouse the teenagers sleeping there. They have been up most of the night with their West Coast cousins, savoring the brief, annual reunion, saying things that need to be said in person rather than on Facebook, and exploring the city together, from Times Square to the East Village.
The day before Thanksgiving, my husband does prep work. In the morning I have containers filled with finely chopped onions, carrots and celery. There are pots of quartered rutabaga and peeled white potatoes sitting in cold water. Later, he will peel and skin pearl onions for my late mothers favorite Thanksgiving dish, creamed onions.
The TV goes on early. I watch the parade as I baste the bird and score Brussels sprouts and trim green beans. My grandfather Collins is credited with the idea of the first Macys Thanksgiving Day parade. He was the head of marketing for the department store at the time. As a child, I remember unfurling the scrolled prototype drawn by the cartoonist famous for The Katzenjammer Kids and matching the original floats to the modern ones. By now, the only recognizable float is Santa Claus bringing up the rear.
The parade was a marketing tool for Macys, a way to insure a black Friday in Depression-era New York. It still serves that purpose, but it also cheers me to see the marching bands freezing in their bare legs and cowboy boots, knowing the folks back home are watching them dance down Broadway on TV.
There are no float disasters this year, only a brief surprise for Matt and Meredith as Clifford the Big Red Dogs head nudges their telecast booth.
As I iron napkins and set the table, the Dog Show comes on. By this time, family members have drifted out of bed and sprawl lazily on couches nearby. The Schnauzers are pre-empted by commercials, alas, destined for the cutting-room, not for greatness. Our Aengus seems to know this as he turns his back on the television, preferring to watch us.
In the city, where our Thanksgivings take place, pies cool on the fire escape, covered securely against urban varmints. Bottles of sparkling cider attend them and are swiftly depleted by thirsty teenstheir champagne.
I do not leave the house all day. Someone else will walk the dog, pick up a missing staple from the deli, collect the Times from the stoop, which is my usual routine. I pad around in wool slippers until the first guests arrive, busy all the time but not fatigued by the busy-ness. I read no email but cannot avoid the news from Mumbaithe note of grief that makes our local peace and pleasure on this day sweeter and more treasured.
The best Thanksgivings include a guest or two who are alone or foreign. They are a spice to family gatherings. This year our family numbers are matched by them. Two women who are separated from their families by miles and two by recent deaths. Their losses become our gain, as conversation spills over the table, between bites of sweet yams and slightly bitter Brussels sprouts. The turkey is moist this yearthanks to faithful basting. Our toast is to our new President, a loud cheer before the feast.
After the meal, we walk down city streets quieted by night and lack of commerce. The Schnauzer has his day, escorted by this amiable crowd.
This is family life at its best, I think, savoring each memory, for a future yet unknown.
- Cass Collins