Thursday, November 25, 2010

Praise the Lord and pass the potatoes.

To my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving! (To the rest of you, I beg your indulgence and wish you a spectacular Thursday, or Friday as the case may be.) This is one of those holidays that's more or less saturated with nostalgia, in many forms, so I thought that today's post should reflect this.

One of the constants of life in this small town is our annual Thanksgiving day rivalry with the not-quite-as-small town to the immediate north. For more than a century, our high schools' football teams have duked it out on the gridiron before going home to eat turkey. For many years, our school district didn't actually have a homecoming -- to this day I'm still not entirely sure what homecoming is -- so instead of a homecoming queen, we had a football queen elected on the day before Thanksgiving. This is the game for which alumni come back home. This game, especially when it's on the home field, doubles as one gigantic class reunion. If you knew someone in high school, there's an excellent chance that you could run into them at this game. (For some, that's reason enough to stay home.)

How did this tradition get started? Not a clue, actually; I've never found the answer to that question. But being a former member of the football team myself, I naturally care slightly more about this game than I do about any other, which is to say, I care about it at all. Because of the interesting layout and acoustics of my town, I can actually hear this year's game if I go upstairs to the bathroom. It's not the same as being there, of course, mostly because it's warmer in my house than it is outside in the snow.

It's not entirely unusual in Pennsylvania, but it's just unusual enough to be noteworthy that we're having snow for Thanksgiving. This is nice in its way, because I happen to have company for this year's holiday; my friend Naomi is here. Naomi is from Australia, but is attending school here in the States for a semester, and she's come to our house to experience an authentic American Thanksgiving. Given that her country is upside down, Naomi has never seen snow in November before, so her attention is divided; she alternates between being glued to the television for the Macy's parade and rushing outside to get pictures of the snow for her mother. I haven't been getting very excited about the snow just yet, but it's starting to come down more heavily and actually stick to the ground, so I'm becoming a bit more interested. (I try not to get emotionally invested in a snowfall unless it looks like it might stay for a couple of hours.)

More parade. Naomi just explained that Australian schools don't have marching bands the way American schools do. She then remarked that it would be kind of awful if you were marching along in a parade like this one and you tripped. Now she's back to gazing lovingly at the snow, which is spreading a surprisingly thick white carpet across the lawn.

Of course, the thing everyone thinks of when they think of today is the food, and frankly, I'm no different. I'm sitting here listening to my stomach complain because I'm not giving it any breakfast. That's because I want to be able to indulge in my favorite meal in a few hours, and when I say indulge, I mean it. My two most beloved foodstuffs occupy places of honor in our family banquet. One is the turkey, which I am smelling with alternate feelings of longing and annoyance (at the fact that it's not ready). My husband is our turkey maker-in-chief; he marinates the bird for a precise number of hours in a special brine of stock and spices and I don't know what. I can't begin to explain what goes into this; all I know is that it's the best turkey I've ever eaten. The other is mashed potato filling, which my mother makes according to her father's recipe. I'm not completely sure what this involves either, except that there are 20 pounds of potatoes sacrificed to its annual preparation. My grandfather has been gone for the past four Thanksgivings, and we don't go a day without thinking of him, but eating his recipe makes it a little more bearable.

Already this Thanksgiving has been an adventure. Maddy, whose favorite perch is atop the bookcase right inside the front door, managed to fall down behind it, prompting some minor panic until she was released. There's a space behind the shelf about as wide as my fist; it can't sit flush against the wall because of the decorative baseboard. How she fit into that space, I can't begin to fathom. Yes, she's very small, but I didn't think she was as small as that. So between the cat, the Australian houseguest, the snowfall, and the fact that we're going to be transporting the turkey to my parents' house (over the river and through the woods, indeed)...this is shaping up to be quite the interesting holiday.

But I'm thankful for it.

Time to grab a shower and snitch a piece of cornbread to tide me over until the feast. Whatever you're doing and wherever you are, I hope it's awesome. Thank you for reading my twice-weekly babblings.

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