I won’t be posting again until after Thanksgiving. Observance of the holiday will take me offline until the end of the week.
My blog adventure has just begun, leading only God knows where. But for those of you who have read, commented, liked or subscribed, I thank you for being here.
Thanksgiving brings back memories of childhood. The early years, when we still lived in Queens, brought to life the lyrics “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go.” The river was the Hudson, the bridge was the Tappan Zee and the west side of the Hudson had far more woods than today, although the Thruway through Harriman State Park is still a woodland expanse that is home to a section of the Appalachian Trail.
The pies were what I remember most of those early Thanksgivings outside of Walden (the village in New York, not the pond made famous by Thoreau). I never tried the mincemeat pie, however. It sounded weird to me at that age. Still does to some extent. Of course, there were also the old people smells: liniment, moth balls and a smell that I can only describe as “old lady scent” from the 1950’s.
When my grandmother got older and was no longer able to manage a big dinner (or perhaps my mom was angry with her father-in-law, a fairly common occurrence), we were on the other side of that river and we ate Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant that dated back to the Revolutionary War. As a family on a budget, we didn’t eat at a restaurant very often. So Thanksgiving provided some childhood lessons in table manners and how one behaves properly in a restaurant. It may not be politically correct now, but mom had a way of making sure my brother and I behaved, and she didn’t need to use it too often. And my brother, five years older and having been through this before, gave me a good lead to follow.
I managed to follow that lead, most of the time. But in the early 1960’s restaurants did not provide kid-friendly options the way they do now. I think the biggest disagreement was over the vegetables. I happen to love onions, but why put the pearl onions in cream sauce and ruin them?
Perhaps coinciding with the onset of college expenses for my brother and my private school tuition (the balance after a partial scholarship – my mom was stay at home and my dad’s wages put is somewhere in lower middle class), we started having Thanksgiving at home. That brought a revelation about turkeys.
Previously, the meat was already sliced and on my plate by the time I received it. At my grandparents’ house, I was too young to be given a choice, and that is the way it was served at the restaurant. But now, I had a whole, delicious looking turkey in front of me. What part did I want?
I was familiar with chicken. Mom often made a whole roast chicken for her family of four. My parents had staked out their claims years ago. When it came to meat, they were the Sprats. My dad, who disliked fat, wanted the breast meat. Mom preferred the wings. My brother found the thighs to his liking (now my favorite part also). That left me with the drumsticks, similar to the thigh but more in line with a smaller child’s appetite.
So a turkey drumstick is what I asked for. It was huge compared to its chicken counterpart. I forget whether I picked it up or cut into it, but … where the heck did these quills come from???!!!
Don’t get me wrong. I eat a lot of turkey during the year in the form of sandwich meat. But as far as I am concerned, a turkey is merely a delivery device for stuffing. At a church I used to attend, we would have a Thanksgiving dinner a few Sundays before the actual event. They had a choice of ham or turkey. I generally took the ham, and then added stuffing and the gravy for the turkey over the stuffing.
When I got older still, I began to be my mom’s assistant in the kitchen for Thanksgiving. My dad and my brother were useless in the kitchen. When I lived with my brother for a few months shortly after my college days, I did all the cooking so I didn’t starve or have to live on food from a can or frozen dinners. Earlier, when I was a freshman in college, my mom had to be hospitalized. I came home on break in the middle of autumn and saw her: frail and huddled over the stove. She told me that she wished I had been home. The food might not have been fancy but it would have been edible.
They tried to make pot roast one evening before I came home from college. Her assessment was that it was only good to be used for wallpaper paste. Making the pan gravy was one of my jobs for Thanksgiving. I pretty much figured out how to save gravy if it starts to become lumpy: turn down the heat, add enough cold water and let it cook down again.
I have a college degree and a few honors over the years, but one of my proudest accolades was when my mom told me she would rather work with me in the kitchen than anyone else. I could look at my mom and know what she was thinking even if she wasn’t saying a word. (With my dad, I never had a clue.) And I quickly learned her moves: when she needed to be handed a utensil, when she was headed to the table or refrigerator or stove. When she was on the move, I was rarely in her path. And I picked up on the way she liked things done when it came to stirring, slicing, grating, etc. We made a great team for many a holiday dinner, group picnics that we hosted or those wonderful Christmas cookies that filled the dining room table.
Oh, to have those chocolate chips, oatmeal raisin cookies, spritz cookies, Rice Krispy treats and rum balls again! Of course, that makes me think of having mom back again, younger and in good health. But that also makes me wonder how she would have reacted to the news of my transition. Would she have accepted or even embraced that she had a son and daughter, not two sons? That, however, is a topic for a different time, if ever. I will never know.
Back to the present. I will be spending Thanksgiving with a dear friend who I have known since sixth grade. Of all the people I came out to, she was the only who told me that she had always suspected something. It makes sense. When we became friends, the walls I was building around me were still a work in progress.
Last year when I gave her the news, she told me that my hands were a big clue. She added that I didn’t act feminine, but that the way I moved my hands was very delicate. She also told me that she always sensed a conflict in me. (Others did, too, but didn’t know what to relate it to.)
I am waiting to find out if she has purchased a duck, goose or capon for Thanksgiving dinner. She knows that turkey is at the bottom of the list.
As usual, I have gone on longer than I expected. But it kept me busy while printing out information for my tax clients.
Here’s my Thanksgiving gift to those of you who stopped by and read all the way to the end. It is a link to a wonderful song by Josh Groban (be still my heart – if only I was thirty years younger!), very appropriate for this time of year.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. – Philippians 4:6