Thursday, November 25, 2010

thanksgiving eve (m)

Wednesday.  The day before Thanksgiving.  Harrison leaves the house at 7 a.m. all suited up for the big Thanksgiving assembly at school.   I have the whole day ahead of me....or so I think.

My aunts call.  Aunt Y is not doing well.  I think she's depressed because she gets weepy all the time.  I offer to come visit and bring lunch.  They love how I make tuna fish.

My mother finds out about the visit and wants in on the action.  "Pick me up first.  Then I'll go back to your house with you to do Sam's laundry."  It's a fair trade as Sam doesn't do any laundry on his own and usually fills the back of the Yukon with his clothes.

I go back to bed and sleep until 9:30 to help fight off this nasty cold/sinus infection that I've had all week.  I can't really talk as my voice is so hoarse.  I get up, take a steam shower and feel a little better.  Without my glasses on, I take my meds...two Sudafed and two Mucinex D (12-hour formula).  An hour later, my heart is racing.  I put on my glasses and re-read the labels. Oops, I've overdosed.  Only one Mucinex D and not with Sudafed.  I call my husband and tell him I think I may be having a heart attack.  He replies, "You're fine," and says he has to go to a meeting and will call to check on me later.  I contemplate getting Lifeline for me.

The tuna fish comes out well (3 cans of Bumblebee GOLD label--prime fillet.  $3.00 per can unless you buy it at BJ's for $2 per can but you have to buy a 6-pack; Hellman's mayo, minced celery and red onion; coarsely ground pepper).  I serve it with Pepperidge Farm double fiber multigrain bread and brought reduced fat Cape Cod potato chips and Vlasic dill pickles.

The aunts are in heaven.  Even my mother says, "She really can't cook but she makes a great tuna fish sandwich."  I just have tea. The visit did the job as Aunt Y is all smiles by the end.  They are concerned, however,  about the double fiber bread and cancel their afternoon plans to go out.

We pick up a pizza at a pub for Sam.  We arrive home just before he does.  He's starved.  I have a slice of pizza.  2 p.m and I'm at 10 points (had Greek yogurt for breakfast--3 points, 7 for the pizza).  On plan.

I leave to do errands in the next town.  Buy my brother, J, his birthday gift (wine coasters and wine stoppers).  Call Harrison--he has "plans" he tells me.  School, rink, and now, the movies with his buddies Andrew and Payne.  I remind him that Thanksgiving traffic is brutal and to leave plenty of time to get from the rink to the movies.  "It's under control," he replies.  He's grown up even more since he got this license. 

By 6 p.m.we leave my house to go look for wreaths for the cemetery.  We head to this wholesale produce market.  A woman announces that the pies are marked down 50%.  My mother, who has trouble hearing, somehow has no trouble hearing this from across the aisle.  My mother, who has trouble walking, somehow has no problem racing over to the bakery aisle.  She has a sweet tooth and I recall all the desserts she made when we were kids and how she rushed us through dinner to get to the desserts. 

We stop at Panera Bread for a light dinner.  I have a cup of low-fat vegetarian soup and a small salad (they list their calories and fat content).  So far, I'm just below my point limit and it's 8:15 p.m.

I take my mother home and set her hair and blow dry the rollers, one by one.  It's 9:30 p.m.  I have to pick Sam up in Boston at midnight. 

How should I spend the time in between?

I have to pass by my cousin Patty's house on my way home.  Her lights are on.  I can see the light flashing from the television.  I pull into the driveway and beep slightly.  That's her cue to come to what we call the "drive through window."  Patty is delighted to see me.  That's what I love about her.  She's so welcoming.  "Come in! Come in!"  I tell her I can't because I'm sick.  "We're all sick here!  Come in!  It'll be fun!"

Fun?  Like one of those measles parties the mothers used to throw in the 60's so all the kids could get infected at the same time.

I walk in.  There is food everywhere.  Pots of sauce with meatballs and sausages cooking on the stove.  A 25-pound turkey seasoned and sitting in a large pan waiting to go into the oven (she puts it in at 1 a.m at 250 degrees and lets it cook all night so the house smells of turkey in the morning).  The bar is stocked with wines, liquors, soft drinks.  The trays of eggplant parm and lasagna are covered in tin foil and set on the porch to stay cold overnight. The breads are in their bags, next to the bread baskets.  A large bowl of fresh fruit.  A bowl of nuts of several varieties.  A huge pot of potatoes sitting in water rests on the stove. The table is set for twelve (she sets it days in advance, turning the glasses upside down and then covers the whole thing with a Vanity Fair paper tablecloth).  There are boxes of exotic candies waiting to be devoured.  Bags of chips to go with homemade dips.

Patty offers me tins of cookies (the Danish butter collection which you get at Costco, BJ's etc.  I could eat the whole box).  There's a French brand of chocolate covered cookies.  Are they good?  I ask.  "They must be!  They've been in business since 1849!  Says so right on the box!" she says.

I feel like a reformed heroin addict who just stumbled upon a crack house.  

I settle on a large glass of water.  Patty pulls out a mug from her freezer and gets me bottled water to pour into it.  It's the best water I've ever had.  I also eat a cherry pepper stuffed with proscuitto and parmesan cheese. 

We reminisce about our childhood holidays spent at the Aunts' home.  They had no children and their home is where we had every holiday as they also lived with our grandparents.  40-60 people for every holiday.  It was incredible.  It took days to prepare this production.  My mother was on baked goods (naturally).  Patty's mother, my aunt V,  did the raviolis with our grandmother (they used a glass upside down to cut the dough and Patty forked the edges).  Uncle H did the turkey.  His Armenian mother brought an enormous pan of exotic rice (turns out it was rice pilaf, made the authentic way).  Our Irish aunt Shirley brought a ham.  The other aunts made side dishes of vegetables.  It was a feast.  Patty's father and my father--brothers and best friends--transformed the enormous living room into a dining room, setting up the long tables and chairs for everyone. The other aunts and uncles set the tables.  China.  No paper goods.

After dinner, the room resembled a casino as the adults smoked and played cards.  We kids dispersed, with the girls headed to Aunt Y's bedroom to try on perfume and make up.  The boys went into the den to play games.

Patty looks at me and gets quiet: "You know, what we had was really special."

It was.  No wonder Aunt Y is a little depressed these days.  It's all gone now for her.  Her parents, 7 of her 8 siblings, her husband and in-laws.  Her house is no longer the party house. 

I leave Patty's at 11:45 p.m to pick up Sam at midnight in Boston.  I think about my kids and hope they get to experience the joys of being part of a big family someday.

Meanwhile, I'm thankful for the years I was part of this big, crazy family.

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