Friday, November 17, 2006

The Best Day Of The Year

fris‧son  /friˈsõʊ̃; Fr. friˈsɔ̃/ Pronunciation[free-sohn; Fr. free-sawn]
a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill.
[Origin: 1770–80; < F: shiver, shudder, OF friçons (pl.) < LL frictiōnem, acc. of frictiō shiver (taken as deriv. of frīgēre to be cold), L: massage, friction]
(Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2006)

This will be my last entry for a while, so let me tell you about the holiday that I like best of all – Thanksgiving. I like just about any holiday, you understand. Any day you get off from work, or during which people get together to celebrate, or when you get (or give) gifts, well, in my book, that’s a good day. Some days are more special than others, though.

Christmas used to be my favorite. When I was a kid, I went straight from one frisson to another during the week leading up to Christmas. The celebration of Christ’s birth was magical and there was no end to the ways that the world delighted me. As I’ve grown older, however, the magic has slowly ebbed. I haven’t changed, though. It’s the world that has.

When I was a child, nearly every house in the neighborhood sported red, yellow, green, blue and orange pastel lights, either as decoration outside or with a candle or two in the windows. The streets were bathed in an embracing warmth, a welcoming glow. Nowadays, the lights of choice are cold, icicles and clear starbursts. I guess a lot of folks like them – Otherwise, why would they have them? - But all they do for me is make the street too much like daytime. Those bright white lights don’t do anything but remind me of how cold it is in winter. The colorful lights of my childhood made me feel warm, even in the meanest of snowstorms.

The music is omnipresent now. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas music. I always have. I always looked forward to it beginning sporadically sometime after Thanksgiving, building bit by bit until there was an entire glorious day and night of it from Christmas Eve through to Christmas Night. It played on the radio all day, but only all day on Christmas and most of the day before. In the morning, while opening presents with my Mom and Dad, we played the two or three vinyl Christmas records we had at home. It was special.

Now the trouble is in trying to avoid it. Even now, November 17th, there have been radio stations playing Christmas music 24 hours a day for the past week. Seriously, and I mean this, if you like that, God bless you. To me, though, Christmas music is like chocolate. A few pieces, rich and creamy, are delightful. Feed it to me non-stop for fifty days? All that is, is a sick stomach.

(My job, as good as it is, doesn’t help matters. I’m a voice-over guy and I do production work, too, but my actual job title is “Music Director”. Therefore, in the course of my duties, I sometimes have to use holiday music for background in pieces I complete for clients during September and October.)

The final nail in my Christmas coffin is driven in by the greedy merchants who just can’t have the common decency to wait for Thanksgiving to be over before they start spewing forth their hideous advertisements. Every year, they start earlier and earlier. I rail against it every year, too, and MY WIFE tells me to relax, that I can’t change it, that there really isn’t anything all that bad about it. I love MY WIFE, dearly, but on this she’s dead wrong. I’ll go to my grave cursing those bastards for draining the innocent joy out of a lovely day. I try to ignore it and I try to keep the spirit I believe in, but they just beat me down and beat me down and one of these days I won’t be able to get back up.

(I can’t even begin to imagine how hideous a time it must be for those who don’t share my faith. No wonder the atheists keep trying run it out of town. The real atheists – the money-grubbing who see it only as a time to reel in a profit – have turned it into something even I want to partially get rid of.)


Ah, I suppose that’s a bit over the top. The day still has charm. The real importance of the day, for someone like me, is spiritual, and the sons of bitches can’t rip that out of me unless I let them. The people I share the day with, and with whom I eat good food and exchange lovely and loving gifts, are dear to me. They still make it a wonderful day, but that frisson I spoke of earlier, that I used to have in multiples during the season, hasn’t been felt in quite a while.


The only holiday that still delivers that frisson is Thanksgiving.

(I’m trying to set the world record for frisson mentions in one blog. Am I there yet?)

I have never had a bad Thanksgiving. Not one. As a matter of fact, not only have I not had a bad one; I’ve had nothing but good ones for as long as I can remember.

For every other holiday, I can dredge up at least one bummer. There have been New Years Eves with toothaches and New Years Days with hangovers, Washington’s Birthdays with flu, Memorial Days with sunburns, July Fourths with car accidents, Labor Days with the dread of returning to school, Halloweens with stolen candy, and even Christmases with “Dear John” letters thrown into the mix, but never a bad Thanksgiving.

(I’m hoping I’m not the victim of selective memory. Somewhere in the past there may have been one horrible incident I’ve tucked into a corner of my mind under lock and key. If so, and you know about it, don’t tell me. I’d rather be ignorant and happy.)

You know one of the reasons why it’s so easy to have a good Thanksgiving? Nobody’s trying to sell you anything. It’s just good company, some football, great food and maybe a nap with your belt loosened. The biggest thing anyone can put up for sale is a bird. There are no bogus guilt trips laid on you by manufacturers trying to make you feel as though you haven’t done right by your loved ones. All you have to do, to do right by your loved ones on Thanksgiving, is show up.

Oh, the smells of Thanksgiving dinner cooking! There is no perfume in existence that matches the fragrance of turkey, stuffing, gravy, squash, turnip, sweet potatoes, hot rolls, pumpkin pie, and all of the other mouth-watering aromas that emanate from the kitchen on that day. It is the smell of pure love. The one doing the cooking isn’t doing it because he or she is guilt-ridden. It’s being done because the people who will eat the feast are near and dear; as simple and lovely as that.

MY WIFE and I have hosted Thanksgiving at our place for the past ten years or so. It is the most sublime pleasure of my year to plan that meal and then prepare it. I’m the luckiest man in my family. I get to enjoy those smells longer than anyone else. And I get the lion’s share of the leftovers, too.

I remember lovely, huge tables full of food at my grandparent’s apartment in Roslindale, the vegetables served in great green ceramic bowls and topped with pats of yummy, unhealthy real butter. I remember waking in my upstairs bedroom to the smell of a turkey roasting in my childhood home in Dorchester. After my parent’s divorce, I ate TWO huge dinners every Thanksgiving – the first cooked by my father and the second served at my Grandma’s in Weymouth, where I would eat with my mother. It wasn’t easy, but I loved them both too much to let them down, so I did my duty. I even ate a couple of pieces of pie both times, just so they’d have no doubt about how much I cared.

I try to remember what the name of the holiday calls for – the giving of thanks. I look upon my preparation and sharing of food as a sacred rite of sorts. There’s no skimping on this meal. If money’s tight, it’s a way of showing my faith in the idea that God will bring better times. Always, it’s a time to be thankful for the good people who are sharing the table with me.

There are lovely constants at Thanksgiving. For instance, every year the Detroit Lions play football. Well, at least they try to and they should get credit for that. One of these years they may get it right. And the same stories get told at the table. There is a particular one concerning turnip and a Danish friend of the family that never fails to get mentioned.

Seems that one year, when this Dane was a guest of my grandmother’s for the holiday, she started putting out the food and one of the vegetables was turnip. The fellow laughed and said, in his Danish accent, “Turnip! Ha-ha! Very funny!” and when he was asked why he was laughing, he said, “Ho-ho! Yes, the joke’s on me! That’s a very funny joke. OK, you can take it away, now.” Seems that they only serve turnip to pigs in Denmark. He thought it was a joke. When he found out that it was something we actually ate, and enjoyed, he became somewhat indignant, if not sick to his stomach. Every year, when I bring out the turnip, that story returns for it’s annual telling. And I love it. There is also usually a mention of Terducken as though it were just invented the previous week.

When the meal is over – well, at least the part of the meal that doesn’t involve pie – my stepfather and I turn our attention to the end of the Lion’s game. Meanwhile, the other folks have good conversation, coffee, tea, and, yes, pie. If the Lions win, Bill and I have a piece of pie to celebrate their good fortune. Since this rarely happens, we console ourselves with a piece of pie if they lose. It’s all good.

Soon, it gets to be late afternoon and folks start leaving. First, my Cousin Scott and his wife, Andrea, because they go visit some other relatives. Then my Uncle Rick and Grandma. Finally, Bill and my Mom hit the road, and then it’s just me and MY WIFE, all alone in the house. At that point, I do what any red-blooded American man would do. I take a couple of the leftover rolls, slice ‘em open, stuff them with turkey and dressing and a spoon or two of gravy, and eat them. And then watch the end of the Dallas game.

(This year, I get a special bonus. Boston College is playing Miami in the college game that night. I’m usually in such a tryptophan haze by the time the college game gets to halftime that I snooze off on the couch, but I’ll have a couple of extra cups of coffee this year and see if I can make it all the way through.)

Anyway, I love this holiday so much, I take the entire week off each year. That way, I can very leisurely clean the house and buy the food and decorate and do prep work for the feast, taking those chores completely off of the hands of MY WIFE, who deserves at least as much of a restful, enjoyable feast as I’m giving everyone else. I love every moment of that busy, yet still somehow slothful, week. And, since I only post from work, that’s why this is the last post until the following Monday.

I wish you a tremendously happy Thanksgiving. Eat much, show love. See you in nine or ten days, with more better stuff.


Anonymous said...

Rock on and eat some pie for me.

Have a great week!

Anonymous said...

OK - you got me - what's terducken?

Anonymous said...

Here's hoping with my whole heart that this Thanksgiving is yet again a good, and happy, and fulfilling one.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your lovely Wife, and all who gather under your roof!

T. :)

Unknown said...

I'm sure hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Suldog. You enjoy it more than anyone I know.

Melinda said...

did anybody else get a frisson while reading that?

What a great post - I was completed transported back to all of the happy holiday get-togethers with my own family and friends. Thanks for that...

I hope you have a fantastic holiday with your loved ones.

Peter N said...

Listen you! I just had breakfast on this Saturday morning about an hour ago, and those pics made me hungry again. CUT IT OUT!
But seriously, with all my heart, the happiest and healthiest of holidays to you and yours. Take care.

Ericka said...

awesome post, i hope most sincerely that this year is as wonderful as all the others.

but... you eat turnips? *shudder* what is wrong with you??

Anonymous said...

Okay Suldog, I know you were the last person on the planet to continue paying for an AOL e-mail address, but you're supposed to send an old friend the courtesy of a "here's my new address" rather than have him read through pages upon pages of your obvious blather (which, by the way, has kept me up well past my bedtime, because I obviously miss your obvious blather).

Why can't you post about your favorite 1970's TV blondes (a blog about Loni Anderson would be absolutely retro-chic). I mean - who WOULDN'T have thought Thanksgiving wasn't your favorite holiday?!?!?

-robchat "King of the Firm Grasp of the Obvious"

Anonymous said...

I have a bunch of pictures of us having Thanksgiving dinner probably circa 1968 with the Sullivan's over on Hyde Park Ave. Enjoy the day and go B.C. !!
Cousin Sully

KAYLEE said...

I had a great thanksgiving!except my mom cant cook.

Suldog said...

To All: Thank you, sincerely.

Rob - I tried to e-mail you, but I got it back as undeliverable. Here's what I sent. Send me your address!

"I appreciate you commenting on my blog, but what's this bit about my e-mail addy? It's the same as it ever was, good buddy. Perhaps your server or servant or whatever is getting kickbacks or boubcebacks or whatever because of the incompatibility (sp?) of AOL-Lycos? Or something.

Anyway, how's the clan? Happy Thanksgiving, I hope!

Jim a.k.a. 'dog (NOT the bounty hunter)"

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