Giving Thanks.

The theme this year was burlap and wheat.  Tactile, scratchy.  It irritated the skin, the colors were mute.  The vase full of weeds and blooms were foraged on the morning walk.  There were sprigs of rosemary in jars, next to the salt.  For garnish and for earthiness.  For authenticity, for aromatics.  Rosemary steeped in hot water can speed recovery.  I think we can all use a little of that.  The table was beautiful, simple and connected.  It was crowded.  The windless day would sigh a breeze, and the grapevine would rustle slightly.  It was alive.  Every moment was electric in that brick and mortar kitchen.  We ate outside.

It’s hard to reflect, I get lost in my thoughts.  i’m like Narcissus, lost in that reflection.  Thanksgiving is hard for me, it seems silly sometimes.  I never appreciated my parents; I still don’t, fully.  When I was young, my mother would stay in her bathrobe until three, when the turkey was done, and she’d change into jeans and a black sweater.  Every year.  Every year, it was her formalware.  She cooked for seven hours, we’d be done in twenty minutes.  Never appreciated.  No one ever thanked her for her meal.  No one ever told her she was beautiful.  She told me she wore her pearls this Thanksgiving, the ones I got her last year.  The ones I bought in June, waiting, anticipating, happy to make her feel special.  And she did.  I am thankful she wore them, thankful she smiled as she clasp them around her neck, feeling beautiful and not having to cook for three ungrateful children.

I am thankful for my father, who tells me every day he loves me.  I reflect on the Thanksgiving I called him from Italy and told him he needed to send me more money.  He said the banks were closed and I hung up.  I ignored his emailing until I saw my bank account.  I’m thankful he was patient, patient in a way I know I couldn’t be.  He loves me more than I realize.  It’s jarring when you realize how one-sided that love is.  I’m thankful he’s waiting for me to catch up, to appreciate him.  Appreciate the times he took me to school.  Every morning he’d buy me coffee and ask me about my day.  Most mornings, I was too asleep and too annoyed to answer back much.  Now, I want to go to the Legion and drink a beer with him.  Ask him how his life is.  Tell him I’m growing up and I love him, too.

I’m thankful.  I’m reflecting on this.  I was called ungrateful more than once in my youth, and I don’t want to be that same asshole anymore.  I try to say thank you for everything.  It’s difficult sometimes.  When you feel so deserving of love, and you still have to stop and realize that someone is willingly letting you have it.  Nothing is for free.  I’ve given it my all this year.

There were five of us for Thanksgiving, and I cooked for everyone.  I did it out of love, as a challenge to see if I could.  I wrote it all down on paper and used our neighbor’s oven as a back-up.  I roasted vegetables and thought about terms like umami and emulsify.  I’ve grown a lot as a cook, and today I wrote down all the things I could do with pasta.  I’ve seen a change in me, and I like it.  I’m thankful for that.

And I’m thankful for friends.  I grew up lonely, and it’s a human condition I can’t shake.  I laughed with friends and called more that evening, we made dinner and I wrote little Thank-You cards, totems of gratitude for sticking around.  Sometimes I can be desperate, I’m always playing aloof and then begging for love.  But we ate around candlelight, drank the red when we ran out of white, and created a small family that night, and I’m thankful for that trust.

Thanksgiving is not the hand-traced turkey holiday of my childhood, it’s not that line drawn in the proverbial sand between autumn and “The Holiday Season” where it’s more appropriate to have a Christmas tree up.  It’s is living, breathing, steeping yourself in that gratitude and calling your parents, saying you love them.  Saying you’ll change every year a little bit and love them forever.  Loving everything a little harder next year.  Nothing is for free.  I’ve given it my all this year.

Here are some pictures of the table and our guests…

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