The car speeds through Pennsylvania. Voices incant from the back of the car:
“Are we going to sleep?
“Yes.” we respond in emphatic unison.
“Why are we going to sleep?”
We ignore that one and have just succeeded in passing/overtaking an exceptional load of yellow diggers born by a truck with resplendent chrome piping, when Alexander quips:
“I waked up” and so he does for the rest of the six hour journey.
We are headed for Thanksgiving, that massive seasonal holiday that strikes on the last Thursday of every November in an apotheosis of turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie. Now my dear Euros, you may not feel you are missing out when it comes to our Winter Social Deluxe – with its offering of M&Ms (we may now be serving the latest coconut filled variety) and sticky beer underfoot but when it comes to Thanksgiving you certainly are.
This is big stuff. The other holidays that scatter themselves about the year, such as Columbus Day, Martin Luther King, Presidents’ Day are really not holidays at all – the shops are still going full tilt and you wouldn’t have a clue it was a public holiday. According to our very reliable neighbour, Chip, these holidays are actually specifically designated days for going out and buying a mattress. They are days when, with patriotic spirit, you boost the country’s bottom line by buying more stuff than you will ever need and then return to work and make a call to arrange for remote storage.
However, Thanksgiving is different, the supermarkets are abandoned, the refrigerators gape emptily, their cargo of turkey gone. Having been deceived by all earlier public holidays of the year I did not know what had hit me on our first Thanksgiving. We ended up eating a miniscule rack of lamb as that was all that was left and Rosalind’s teacher got wind of this and actually pulled me aside to verify our abnormality. As for our second thanksgiving, I have no recollection of it at all.
Fortunately the days of Hit and Misgivings are over. We have been scooped up and adopted by the more than wonderful duo, Richard and Mary and their two cats Max and Duncan. It has been agreed that the relationship between the cats is very much don’t ask don’t tell which is easy as they typically disappear the moment we arrive and only resurface as we head out of the drive. I look forward to the annual trip to Ohio for more of the year than it would be seemly to admit but just to give a sense: we are greeted with martini glasses, shown to rooms with bathrooms replete with full length baths, enormous old fashioned radiators and decked with scented essences (plus not one, but two hair dryers). The full sum of our travail is to go out to the “farm’ and scythe down brussels sprouts. The farm is a piece of land graciously loaned to our hosts by an affluent figure of Cleveland. Last year in a fit of further bounty he installed an irrigation system to make Mr del Monte’s eyes water. To one side sits a house designed by a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright where we sat eating shortbread and staring out at the crisp cold and surrounding parkland through immense glass windows.
All I can say is that I have truly caught the Thanksgiving bug although I suspect I am not really doing Thanksgiving at all. A member of the Winter Social committee took to her bed to garner sufficient strength for an onslaught of 23 visitors.
At my Pilates class we have been kicking off the last two sessions with dynamic breathing exercises, deep inhalations designed to alleviate the stress of family, kitchen and grocery store traffic. Based on the hilarity about me I am certainly missing something.
I am just an uninitiated observer and so it is that I have watched the Halloween cobweb come down and enjoyed the build up of seasonal trappings that serve as hand maidens to this great family feast. Thanksgiving serves as the opening letter of the festive season. The T at the beginning of a well worn and familiar nursery sentence: “The cat sat on the mat.” A sentence that will come to a close with a full stop/period on New Year Eve’s and everything else will have fallen in between in one way or another.
Children start to sing a very deceptive song encouraging a turkey to come out and play with the promise not to eat it on Thanksgiving Day. The twinkling lights appear and my offspring ask me whether it is okay so early? The Salvation Army sets up camp outside the local grocery store and tinkles away feverishly. Trader Joes staff start wearing ridiculous turkey hats, the pendulous fowl legs getting in the way of their transactions. A woman is jokingly asked for ID when she buys 8 bags of pumpkin seeds. The aisles throng and the car parks/parking lots seethe with drivers attempting to manoeuvre their cars into non-existent spaces. The Chevrolet Suburban gives up and drives off and hopefully will give thanks that not everyone else drives a Suburban.
Everyone is on the band wagon, 39c per pound turkeys abound. My dermatologist (in the US dermatologists thinly disguise themselves as areas of retreat for more aesthetic makeovers) has pinned a poster to the wall of the post-waiting, waiting room. “Gobble, gobble! Not just for turkeys – Save $750 on a mini neck lift for the holidays!”
I receive invitations to Gobble Gobble up the merchandise of somebody called Julia Farr who is offering 12 fashionable women an evening of consultation and cocktails at the blessed auction. The blessed auction will actually fall just outside the “Cat sat on the mat…” it will be the third dot along for those who have a propensity for dots. I like dots, my husband doesn’t. We will be truly exhausted by that point but there is something innocent in us that makes us look forward to this season each and every year.