Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

My friend Lisa posted a couple of Thanksgiving memories on Facebook. The first one I thought of from my Thanksgivings past was an image of my daughter Gillian at 23 months old, sitting in her feeding chair and daintily eating cubes of homegrown rutabaga, one at a time, over and over. She grew to become a vegetarian, and rutabagas remained one of her favorite foods.

I also remembered one of the first Thanksgivings Joe and I spent in our first house—a little cottage on two acres of woods that we bought when we lived in Manhattan. That year three feet of snow fell on Thanksgiving, and we were grateful for the gas range and fireplace that allowed us to enjoy a 20-lb. turkey (yes, just for the two of us) and the rest of Thanksgiving dinner even though the storm took down our power line.

We always had turkeys. Big ones. And stuffing made from my dad's recipe. And creamed celery from Joe's family tradition. Plus lots of other vegetables, many of which we grew ourselves. And pies, always homemade. Everything always homemade. The house started smelling good early in the morning, and by noon I was on the phone to Florida, wishing my parents a happy Thanksgiving and comparing turkey stories with my mother. Thanksgiving is one of those things we think will never change.

Change is hard. Even inevitable change—children grow up, we get older, whatever—is difficult to fully anticipate. We know it's going to happen, but we can't exactly go there before the fact. When we bring home a new baby someone is bound to tell us that the first year will fly by. "You should savor this time," they say. And we try to. But no matter how much savoring we do, that first year flies by. The thing they didn't mention is that the first year is only the tip of the iceberg. When our third child entered Kindergarten, I envisioned a long stretch of time during which we would have children in school. In my head (and remember, there's a reason why we have blonde jokes), this period stretched on for what seemed like forever. But then it was over in a blink.

There are, of course, changes we can't plan for even if we tried, because we only know so much. A stack of plastic pails sits outside at a corner of what used to be the vegetable garden. Joe used them to extend the growing season, planting early and covering plants when necessary. He used them for years. When he stacked the pails neatly for the last time, I'm sure he had no idea that the following year they would go untouched, and a few years after that he would not be able to articulate what they were for.

And so it's Thanksgiving, but I'm not cooking a turkey. I'm not cooking anything; the most time I spent in the kitchen today was when I soaked a cat's foot in Epsom salts (four times). Mickey, our 15-year-old barn cat, was badly hurt a couple of weeks ago, and we almost lost him to a massive infection. So I've been Mickey's nurse this week. I moved him into the house, and the vet put us on a schedule of antibiotics and and soaks.

I can think of worse ways to spend Thanksgiving Day. Truly. Because although I probably sound as though I'm feeling sorry for myself, I'm not. I'm grateful that my surviving children live relatively close to me. I grateful that my son worked on the barn today (and even let me play with his nail gun). I'm grateful that we'll gather at Suzanne's house for a Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. (Traditions can be flexible.) I'm grateful that I still live in this house that holds so many wonderful memories. I'm grateful that my granddaughter is recovering nicely from the flu. And I'm grateful that my efforts are paying off, and Mickey is showing signs of improvement.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.