Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Best Day Of The Year

fris‧son / Pronunciation [free-sohn; Fr. free-sawn]
a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill.

(Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2006)

Let me tell you about the holiday that I like best of all – Thanksgiving.

I like all holidays. Any day you get off from work, or during which people get together to celebrate, or when you get (or give) gifts? 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, the magic has ebbed. I haven’t changed, however; 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 via a candle or two in the windows. The streets were bathed in an embracing warmth, a welcoming glow. Nowadays, the lights of choice are mostly 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 night streets 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 during the meanest of snowstorms.

(Photo courtesy Photos From My Life. Isn't it a lovely tree?)

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, after Thanksgiving, and then 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 as of today, November 19th, there have been radio stations playing Christmas music 24 hours a day for the past three weeks. Seriously - and I mean this - if you like that sort of thing, 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 sixty 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 also do production work, 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. I try to remain detached while doing so, but...)

The final nail in my Christmas coffin is driven in by the greedy merchants who just plain don'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. 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 some of the atheists keep trying to run it out of town. The money-grubbing parasites, 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 it, 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 I can always count upon to deliver a 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 twelve years. 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 both of them too much to disappoint either one of them, so I did my duty. I even ate a couple of pieces of pie at both places, 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 (even if some of them don't like their picture taken.)

There are lovely constants at Thanksgiving. For instance, every year the Detroit Lions play football. Well, at least they try, and they ought to get credit for that. And the same stories get told at the table. There's one that never fails to get mentioned, concerning turnip and a Danish friend of the family .

Seems that one year, when this Dane was a holiday guest, my grandmother was preparing 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 served turnip to pigs in his region of 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 turducken 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.

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, December 1st (at which time you'll get some re-runs, because I take the week off from writing, too, but they'll be really good ones, so please come back!)

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


Angie Ledbetter said...

"I can’t even begin to imagine how hideous a time it must be for those who don’t share my faith. No wonder some of the atheists keep trying to run it out of town."

Write ON, Suldog! Hope your Thanksgiving reminds you of all the things mentioned in this post. I feel full already just reading and looking at these pics, so thanks for that.

Unknown said...

I love that you do the cooking.

Lovely post, as usual. Makes me look forward to the holiday all the more. And not just for the three-day workweek.

lime said...

i love thanksgiving for all the reasons you mention...well, except for football. i really dislike football and having to attend a high school game in the morning on thanksgiving....but the food, family, friends, and time to reflect on our many blessings. it's wonderful.

wishing you and your wife and family the very best for thanksgiving.

Cath said...

Hope you have a great thanksgiving and enjoy your holiday season.

13 days? See us in 13 days? Where are you off to then?

Saz said...

Happy Thanksgiving....I do so wish it were her too...thats my appears from your post you have much to be thankful for....

GreenJello said...

Somehow, I've managed to raise kids who don't like Thanksgiving. They don't like stuffing themselves full of food-- they'd rather eat smaller portions, and be done with the eating part. And for some reason, they think Thanksgiving is all about eating.

Go figure. My favorite holiday is my kids' least favorite holiday. Maybe that will change as they get older.

Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of Thanksgiving, too. It's the most pleasant of holidays. A day off, maybe too, good food and no pressure to do anything except eat and talk.

tshsmom said...

We prefer the multi-colored Christmas lights too. White is just so stark.

I feel the same way about the preparation of our Thanksgiving feast. It's all about LOVE! We have a ball preparing dinner as a family. You wouldn't believe the number of people who ask if I'm cooking on Thanksgiving and then acting all sympathetic. They always look dubious when I tell them that we ENJOY it.

Our family wishes your family a love-filled holiday!!

Karen said...

This is my first Thanksgiving away from "home" and family. It'll be a quiet dinner with four of us.... a couch for everyone! LOL Have a good one.

Unknown said...

I can not believe that you are posting this almost two weeks before the holiday and that we all have to wait for the food, fun, good times and football you so joyfully are anticipating. I want my turkey sandwich now damn it! But alas waiting I will do...

Rolls never last at our table so two pieces of bread, turkey, potato, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy make the best late night sandwich ever.

This year we begin a new tradition having Thanksgiving at my sister in law's house with nephews and extended family all around and it will be so nice. I just hope they're all up for the post meal, pre pie walk my Grandmother started as tradition over 10 years ago.

Enjoy your very special day and extended time off :)

Rooster said...

You are right on about X-Mas. It is the best, most magical holiday of them all. Between the true meaning of Christmas, and the food, and family, and decorations, and Santa and music and presents - what holiday could be better. BUT... Capitalist America came to realize that Christmas made them most of their retail sales in the fiscal year, and now they have sucked the life out of it.

Thanksgiving is still reasonably pure, which is wonderful. I have a tremendous memories of Thanksgiving. One of my favorite memories is when we were sitting at the table, and the phone rang, and we found out my cousin had just been born, right on Thanksgiving Day.

Buck said...

Have a Happy Thanks giving, Jim. There's absolutely NO doubt in my mind that you will.

Thanks for this post... and ALL you do here.

Janet said...

I love the word frisson. Mystery writers use it a lot, but usually it means something bad is about to happen. And yes, I expect you set a usage record.

Has to be colored lights on the tree and on the house. White lights are boring.

I was very diverted upon learning that your job title is "Music Director." Did you ever use some of World's End music?

I had to have jaw surgery one year about 2 days before Thanksgiving. As you can imagine, I was limited to mashed potatoes. We were hoping to stay home this year, but we'll have to go visit some in-laws due to the schedule of other family members. I'm already tired. Traveling on a holiday isn't as much fun. But in keeping with your observation, I will be thankful that we have lots of family to visit.

The turnip story is a riot. At my grandmother's house he would have been confronted with turnip GREENS (which I can't stomach myself), so it's better he was at your house.

A friend has been threatening to do turducken this year. But tofurkey must be avoided at all costs.

I love the teddy bears on the food table.

Enjoy your two weeks. We'll miss you. And HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!! said...

Nothing better than Thanksgiving really...can't wait to have it at mom's this coming Sunday...early due to my brother's schedule.

I'm smelling it now from just reading your post.

Jeni said...

Back in the fall (October, to be exact) of 1979, my Mom died. My Dad's baby sister called me early that November and asked if my kids and I would like to celebrate Thanksgiving at her house -she'd cook, my other aunt, a cousin, his wife and three children would be there. I accepted and thus began a tradition that ended 2 years ago this fall when that aunt and her daughter had to go into a nursing home. She passed away this past April so, although 2005 was the last year we celebrated the holiday at my aunt's home, this is the first year she's actually been gone. But what wonderful times we had in those 26 years between 1979 and 2005! Like you, I can't remember a bad Thanksgiving and the one year it could have been really rough for my kids and me, my aunt rescued us and put us on track for a quarter of a century of family reuniting, great food, and lots and lots of love -and memories. Thanks for a post that made me darned hungry even though I'd just finished a good sized supper!
Enjoy your week of preparations and really, really enjoy your day of great Thanksgiving!

Melissa said...

I agree with you about Thanksgiving. They have been playing Christmas music 24 hours a day, seven days a week on one of the local radio stations. Thanksgiving has many good memories for me, like waking up on that morning as a kid smelling the turkey and pies baking. I loved that smell.

kuanyin333 said...

Wow! It's hard for me to imagine someone who has never experienced a bummer Thanksgiving day or one that didn't turn out quite as planned--you're one very lucky guy! Obviously, you put a lot of heart and soul into your day, and it's worked!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Fingers crossed that mine will be fine. :-)

SandraRee said...

Thanksgiving and Christmas...good memories and not so good memories.

Missed reading you...

Bear Naked said...

I'm on my way to your house to celebrate a REAL American Thanksgiving.
This post has my mouth watering and ALSO a big smile on my face for the last photo of the bears enjoying the feast.
Relax and enjoy and I will *see* you in 13 days.
Bear((( )))

Anonymous said...

Sneaky boy! Making us wait to hear about how your Thanksgiving went!!!

Like everyone else, I'm a fan of the big, fat colored light bulbs. I still have our original string (from 1965!) that my Daddy used to decorate our family's tree for years. We don't put it on the tree, but we do plug it in every year to "test" it. And for just a moment, in the glow of those old lights, I am once again 5 years old, and standing on my tippytoes, trying to help Daddy put the tinsel on the tree.

I hope this year you can find one little thing about Christmas that will send that shiver up your spine again. Just one little shiver - maybe it is the way the snow will fall through the streetlight, quiet and soft on Christmas Eve. Maybe it will be the look on a child's face as they sit on Santa's lap. Or maybe, just maybe, someone will turn on a string of those big old fat colored light bulbs, and for just a moment, it will feel like Christmas again.

That is my Christmas wish for you, Sully dearest.

(((hugs))) Old Thim :)

Chuck said...

Wow, sounds like you are a SERIOUS turkey aficionado. I've had mostly good Thanksgivings, but being in the airline industry, I have to work on them most of the time it seems. I did have last year off, and while I have to go into work this year Thanksgiving night, I'll be able to enjoy dinner at my sister's house that afternoon, and my Mom will be in town also.

David Sullivan said...

Its funny to think that we spent a Thanksgiving together 41 years ago. Pound for pound (pun intended)it is the best holiday. I just got a new High Def TV, so it'll be gorge, watch sleep, gorge, watch, sleep, Thurs, Fri, Sat and if the leftovers hold out, Sunday...whooo hoooo!!

Hilary said...

Have an absolutely wonderful week. I can smell your turkey dinner north of the border. Happy Thanksgiving to you and YOUR FAMILY. :)

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for sharing your Thanksgiving with us all, even your many fans over here. Turnips are wonderful sliced and boiled till fork tender, drained and covered with cream salt and pepper, umm my mouth is watering. I'm such a cheap date.

Melinda said...

Your Thanksgiving posts made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside :)

It's too bad our Thanksgiving is almost a full year away now - you've made me crave those wonderful tastes and smells all over again!;

Hope you have a fantastic holiday!!

Shammickite said...

Thanksgiving in Canada happened back in October, and it isn't quite such a big deal north of the border as it is further south, but it's still a time when families get together and cook a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings, including pumpkin pie. My OlderSon is the Pumpkin Pie King, making one for me and one for his MIL. This year I was invited to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with YoungerSon's MIL and family, there are lots of aunties in attendance and they are all fabulous cooks, so needless to say it was a very good day!
Have a good Thankgiving Mr Sully!

Michelle H. said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you, my light gray friend!

The holidays have never been a big thing in my family, not even birthdays (my dad always thought it was a big waste of money and hid the Xmas tree every year.) So I can't really build up any excitement for any of them. But this doesn't mean that I can't wish everyone to have the best holidays they can possibly have.

Pam said...

don't hurt me, but i don't celebrate thanksgiving. sure i'll get together w in laws for dinner, but i'd rather not. i like getting w my family, but they're in vegas. i don't need thanksgiving for that though. if not for my kids, i wouldn't celebrate christmas or easter either.

anyways, that being said, my kids like the idea of thanksgiving day dinner. since my girls are heading out on sunday for a wk w their dad in vegas, i cooked a turkey breast (basically the turkey w no wings or legs)last night with other fattening and sleep-inducing foods lol also had a confetti cake. mini-me wanted to go around the table for what they're thankful for so my husband and i let the kids do that. too bad it was only the 5 of us cos there's still more food to be had! turkey for days lol

Crazed Nitwit said...

Awesome memories/stories! Now I'm hungry. This was a great post. :) said...

Jim...this was delightful! I love Thanksgiving the best...along with Christmas and Easter!! I love it all!

And that tree: glorious!

Saz said...

13 days?! bloody hell come on !!! are such a tease!!

Daisy said...

Hello, and thank you so much for your comment on my post that David from authorblog flagged up. Wow, this was a great Thanksgiving post. I don't know about it really, and have never celebrated it over here, obviously, but it seems like a really happy time and everything that a holiday day really should be. Happy Thanksgiving!

Chris Stone said...

Nice post! Thanksgiving is a great holiday! I'd love some apple and cranberry pie....

SoSock said...

Cool post.
Thanksgiving is pretty much the bomb. Some of my best memories are from the various incarnations we've had through the years.
Starting with all those years at Mom and Dad's, then we started going to my sister's as Mom got older and they moved to a smaller place. Then we started having our own celebratory feast as our kids started having kids. For a number of years it seemed to vary almost every year, then my side of the family decided to start a new tradition.
For the last 5 years everyone has met at K & W cafeteria, a local legend. It's enough of a legend that the trip through the line is usually over an hour.
It's OK, but has none of the warmth and memories associated with a day spent around the house, whichever house it may be, smelling the smells, telling the tales, and laughing about the inevitable flops or mishaps.
So this year MY wife and I are starting a newer tradition. It may a one-year tradition, but somehow I bet not.
My closest friend lost both of his parents in this past year, so we invited them over to our place. Then we got a call from another couple we are close to who have no family anywhere near here, inviting us to their dinner. She is an amazing cook and we love them both dearly and felt honored to be invited. We asked about our friends, they said yes, so we are going to be with a family of friends this year.
I hope all of us here and elsewhere have a wonderful day, whoever we spend it with, and that we remember to be thankful if we do.
And 'dog, I hope the feast preparations go smoothly, though it sounds like you really have it down pat. Congrats on that!

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

Oh sweetie, such a wonderful post.

I'll raise a glass to you come Christmas (it's my birthday), I know and dread the commercial build up to the day - but somehow, after all my "Bah, humbug" is spent, I always seem to have an even better time than even my ids on the day.

I have always hosted Christmas for my family, even before I married, my parents, sisters and their families gave me the honour of feasting over at my place. The faces have changed some down the years, some are gone forever, but always in our hearts.

ps. I don't think I could even begin to cope with having a Thanksgiving too!! Grin.

Peter N said...

Have a great week off...your family Thanksgiving dinners looked great. I hope they ALWAYS will be. Be well, Sul. I wish you and your family the best of everything. Pete

Catmoves said...

Am excellent post. Thanks for sharing frisson with us. I was amazed.
One question, though: Are you using some strange setting for Blogger? Or are you even using Blogger? The reason I ask is that I am forced to scroll left to right on your pages.

Ericka said...

hmm. can you count it in the word count if it's in the comments? fisson, fisson, fisson! just doing my part...

great post! now, i'm counting down the days. hope your holiday is all that you are looking forward to!

(btw - it only took me two tries, but i *finally* got a 'thanksgiving first' post up.)

Anonymous said...

IT's good to be out here reading again. Missed everyone. Great post and have a great holiday!