Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Best Day Of The Year

This is one of those re-posts I told you about the other day. I told you I'd be posting this one on Friday, but I lied. Oh, well. The tiny blotch on my soul may be your gain, depending upon whether you enjoy this or not.

I always publish this one during my last days at work before taking Thanksgiving week completely off. If you've seen it before, feel free to skip to the end and leave a generic polite comment. If you do that, though, you'll miss the extremely slight re-writing I've done noting the fact that the Patriots are playing the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving this year.

OK, that's enough new material. On with the turkey rehash!


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 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 18th, there have been radio stations playing Christmas music 24 hours a day for the past two or 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 fifteen 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 for his benefit. 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.

(This year, we will have to tear our allegiance away from the Lions. The New England Patriots are playing the Lions. We are Patriots fans, first and foremost. But, we'll still have pie whether the Lions win or lose. As a matter of fact, I think this year we'll have to have TWO pieces of pie if they lose. Yeah, that sounds about right.)

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 December 1st (at which time you'll get another re-run, since I take the week off from writing, too, but it'll be a really good one, I promise, so please come back!)

I wish you a Tremendously Happy Thanksgiving. Eat much, show love. See you in 12 or 13 days, with more better (albeit old) stuff.


Michelle H. said...

And a very Tremendously Happy Thanksgiving to you, my lighter gray friend!

Cricket said...

Indeed, Jim. A worthy rerun. Still love that turnip story myself, and I wasn't even there. That comes to mind every time I make one. I love them. Most of my family, not so much. Nana liked them, Mom too. Everyone else, not really, and my father and grandfather truly hated them with an unholy hate.

Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving, which, as you know, comes first.

Matt Conlon said...

You know, I sometimes think that the two of us could be related. I feel exactly the same way.

I do not deal well with a break in routine, and a holiday that requires so much work and coordination as Christmas is NOTHING if not a break in routine... It's like, two months of broken routine! It's always been a source of stress in my life... one which, if executed poorly on my part, reflects very badly. The wrong size clothes for someone might give the impression I think they're larger than they are, or just don't care for example... and I am terrible with numbers. Why can't women just have small, medium, large, and so on?? I can remember those!

Anyway, I came out of it in my late teens believing that I hated Christmas. I tried to sum it all up only just last night to MY WIFE, and really, it's just the forced interruption and expectations I hate. I LOVE Christmas day when it's happening, but the build up...

Anyway, great post. I think I might start joining you in taking the week off in the future.

Go pats!

Matt Conlon said...

Oh... And thanks for the addition to my vocabulary. It's been a while since I had to look up a word from your blog! :)

Craig said...

"If the Lions win. . ."

I don't understand. . . what is this 'if-the-Lions-win' of which you speak?

But hey, this year, most of our losses have been close ones, so maybe our strategy is just to worry the Pats into the 4th quarter, and maybe they'll get flustered. Sure, that could happen. . .


Thanksgiving is way high on my list of favorite holidays, too. I love it for all the same reasons you do, I think. The 'family-ness' of it, probably most of all. Of course, one can never have too much pumpkin pie. . .

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post.

Although, I didn't participate, I agree with the Thanksgiving Comes First principle.

I, don't care for Christmas music all through November and December either.

The only thing I could find "disagreeable" about your post was.... the turnip.

I'll pass on the turnip and be grateful that I can!


And I ADORE that you do all the prep and cleaning for your wife!

What a grand, grand, GRAND idea!

You go Suldog! You go!

Have a wonderful holiday week!

Daryl said...

Now I wish I lived closer to you ...tho we've been doing the untraditional for so long its become traditional.

3GKnight said...

I think you, Matt, and I must be related. I feel the same way about all of this stuff!

The colored Christmas lights thing even got to the point that we'd have 2 trees. Mine was colored, hers was white. And if she wanted the outside lights white, she'd have to put them up herself.

Matt Conlon said...

I'm glad someone mentioned the colored bulbs, cause that was a very big deal for me. We always had the bigger colored bulbs as a kid, and my wife only likes the small white ones.

These days, I've conceded that I prefer the smaller bulbs, but I rather color than none. said...

A very Happy Thanksgiving to you, Jim. Enjoy your time off and we'll look forward to seeing you again when that other holiday season officially begins on December 1!

Suldog said...

I wonder if it's mostly a male/female thing, with the colored versus white lights? Obviously, there are folks of both sexes who like the opposite, but MY WIFE, also, prefers white, while I like colored.

Craig said...

When I was growing up, we had the thumb-sized colored bulbs on our tree; my dad wasn't much for putting stuff up outdoors. But ever since I've been putting up my own trees, we've had the white twinkle-bulbs on the tree, and we run another string of 'em around the edge of the porch. I like the sort-of 'simulated starlight' aspect of 'em. . .

Jeni said...

I never thought of whether or not I ever had a bad holiday but now that you mention it, Thanksgiving is one that I don't remember ever having any bad connotations accompanying it. Christmas though -there was one year I ended up with swollen glands a day or two before Christmas and another year, when my uncle and aunt and their five children were enroute from Pittsburgh to "home" (meaning here, my grandparents house and which my uncle always referred to as being "home" whereas his house in the Pittsburgh suburbs, which was a beautiful place he built himself, was always simply called "the house.") Anyway, the weather was nasty, and as my uncle was rounding a sharp curve, he had a blow-out on one of the tires of his car. He managed to find a house where the residents allowed him to make a phone call for help. We had no phone then so the call came into our neighbors place across the road and they came to get my Mom to talk to her brother. After he explained his dilemma, she was then to use his directions to where the car was stranded along the snowy road and come pick them up. Her car wouldn't have made the trip safely so she got another neighbor to take her there -in his old Ford -a 1949 or 1950 model -which was not a roomy car at all. She had to ride with him because he had never been to that end of our county and didn't know how to get from here to there. But can you imagine how cramped it had to have been for four adults and 5 children in an old Ford Coupe like that? (Especially since my Aunt was a tad on the heavy-set side too!) Needless to say, that Christmas has always remained in my memory as one that was scary for the entire family till my aunt, uncle and cousins were all rescued and brought here and also, one that made me realize a whole lot about having wonderful neighbors, willing to drive 60 miles on very slippery roads to an unknown destination and bring our family together for the holiday. A holiday that didn't have great beginnings but ended up with everyone getting to and fro safely.

Maggie May said...

Well we don't do Thanksgiving over here as you well know but I am sick of the early start every one makes of Christmas.
It seems to get worse and worse.

Your thanksgiving table looks lovely. In fact I well remember this post from last year.
Peace be with you all at this special time.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Ericka said...

lovely post, jim. i quite agree... well, except for the football thing. but whatever floats your boat!

have i ranted to you yet about having to battle my way past the christmas tree forest to get to the halloween decorations this year?? of course not, it's in edit. *hangs head* i suck.

anyway, happy thanksgiving to you and yours! have a great week off!

Chris said...

Jim, you are truly the holiday cheer-master.

And I love the photo of YOUR WIFE. Camera shy?

Jackie said...

Jim...This post never will grow old....never. I read it with smiles and warm feelings...just as I had read it before. What strikes me the most is your love for YOUR WIFE and for the blessings of life that you have. May you and YOUR WIFE have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Hilary said...

Wishing a very Happy Thanksgiving for you and YOURS. Enjoy. :)

Anonymous said...

This post always makes me smile. :)

Dear Jhim, I hope that your Thanksgiving is every bit as special and wonderful as it can be!

Thim/Tim :)

Bruce Coltin said...

It is also my favorite holiday, and I am not really sure why. There is something warm about it, just when the days have become shorter and colder. Also, there is no pressure to make it something special. It just is special all on its own. It is so wonderfully simple. Have a good one, Jim.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving and pass on the same to all of your family Jim!

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Unknown said...

Wonderful repost Jim! Like you, we've always had a grand old time at Thanksgiving where family gathered, told stories, at good food, and simply enjoyed being with each other. And it remains so today, thank God!
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your.

The Good Cook said...

I'm with you. I love Thanksgiving. No presents to buy, not shopping woes, no stress. Just BE. With family, with friends, with people you call family even if they are not related. I love the food, the smells, the ease of it all. I love the weather. I love the football games on TV and the feeling of fullness.
I was thinking yesterday about what I have to be thankful for this year - a very difficult time for me. And it came to me. Like a bolt of lightening. I am thankful that I have known love. That I have love. That I am able to love.
I am thankful for the years my husband and I shared. wait... I think I need to do my own post.
Blessings, this Thanksgiving and always,

Sueann said...

I know you will have a terrific Thanksgiving and so will we. Spending the few days with family and friends. Just fabulous!!

Buck said...

Enjoy next week, Jim.

Your re-runs are better than most folks' originals. Note I said "most," not everyone's. That in deference to your esteemed commentariat, of course. ;-)

Barbara said...

A Tremendously Happy Thanksgiving to you, too! This was my first time to read it, but I know I won't mind reading it again next year. Enjoy your week! Thanks again for reminding us how special this holiday is.

Karen said...

Hmm, I've never had a bad Thanksgiving, either. Thanks for the reminder. I like the pic of the teddy bears watching over the pie :) I hope you and YOUR WIFE have a wonderful day.

Pauline said...

Thanks for supporting turkey day, lambasting the Christmas spoilers and making my mouth water! Have a great Thanksgiving. I promise to keep my red, blue and green Christmas lights in the box until the week before the actual Day :)

i beati said...

I don't eat but I love the holiday I think it's so darn great that we celebrate being thankful I mean we do it everyday but to celebrate that is just a big big thing ..Have a memorable one for sure Sandy

Land of shimp said...

You never had a bad Thanksgiving? Jim, in all sincerity, that's one of the loveliest things to read for anyone. That's fantastic, and I'm so pleased for you.

Indeed, the pictures look festive. Large family gatherings always seem so very exotic to me. It's like peering in on a foreign tribe. I particularly like that the Cool Whip tub is overseen by bears. Do you have to wrestle them for a scoop? 'cause that would be festive too!

Sir, I thought of you and cackled the other day. That's right, cackled. You see, I have to start my Christmas shopping early every year because whereas my family is tiny, hardly detectable really, my husband hails from a large clan and it is my responsibility to do the shopping for those out of state. Meaning all of them.

So I order things online, which I started to do this past wednesday. While I was at it, I ordered a couple of things for my husband and son, which arrived yesterday...and I promptly wrapped them, and deposited them on a table in the living room, as we don't have our tree up yet.

As I did so, I thought of a certain Softball Player's "Thanksgiving Comes First!" and realized, "Oh hell, I'm part of Jim's problem."

And that's when I maniacally laughed ;-)

You have a lovely, wonderful, thankful Thanksgiving, Jim. For whatever reason I always feel the need to tease your mercilessly. Please forgive me. Or beat me with a Turkey Leg, whichever suits the works.

Seriously? Happy Thanksgiving.

Angela Christensen said...

I love, love, love this post. In very differnent practical ways, it's exactly how I feel. Every year I start to get excited about the whole season in about September, and it's a buzzy kind of high that lingers through to New Year's (though I hear you about the varied Issues and Defects of the later-season holidays). Thank you for putting words and pictures to this. And happy, happy holidays to you, YOUR WIFE and all your other peeps, family, friends or others.
Love, love!

Lisa Johnson said...

Happy Thanksgiving Suldog! I always think of you as I see all the Christmas ads on TV and think Thanksgiving Comes First! ; )

Jane said...

The Thanksgiving Comes First homage continues on my site...although the message may have veered off track a bit.

Thanks for the inspiration and Happy Thanksgiving!

Chuck said...

I think one year I'm going to order a bacon explosion for Thanksgiving.

I do get sick of all the pre-Thanksgiving Christmas crap. I saw Christmas stuff out before HALLOWEEN this year...shameful.

Have a great holiday, Suldog!

lime said...

you capture what makes the day sop special and untainted. i wish you and YOUR WIFE a lovely and loving thanksgiving in the embrace of loved ones.

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope's it's the best ever!

Anonymous said...

I always wondered what "frisson" meant; I won't forget now after seeing the word so many times. ;-)

Recently husband & I have become nostalgic for the colored Christmas lights...perhaps we're getting older and more nostalgic? You are right though; colored lights are warmer looking. Growing up in the Midwest, the pretty glow of those colored lights was comforting against the cold white of the snow and the black of the bare branches outside.

Remember how hot those big oval-shaped colored Christmas lights were? My sisters and I used to "cook" slices of bologna on those lights; we still laugh about it.

Hope you and your family had a lovely Thanksgiving day and are enjoying left-overs today.

Kate said...

I found you from Dona Nobis Pacem. I love your site. I’m going to poke around a little bit, but don’t worry I’ll put everything back where I found it!!

Sandra said...

What an enjoyable post. Thanksgiving is wonderful. But I have to confess that we ordered our whole meal from Cracker Barrel this year, because I'm still recuperating from surgery. And it was very good! But I certainly have cooked many a Thanksgiving dinner over the years, and you are right -- nothing makes the house smell better. Thanks for sparking all kinds of Thanksgiving memories of my own. I hope you had another wonderful Thanksgiving day. :)

Moannie said...

My very dear Jim. Plenty of spleen in this post and a whole lot of heart. To save your spleen and yourself from apoplexy might I suggest you try, very hard, to ban all thoughts of retail pirates, lying politicos,pre-pre-Christmas jingles and anything that is likely to upset your particular apple-cart.

Concentrate instead on all the wonderful things that you love about Christmas, lalalala very loudly and drown out sounds you do not wish to hear. Isolate yourself and your loved ones in a cocoon of joy, love and faith.

I wish I were there at our table, feeling the love.

Is it too early to wish you a very very happy Christmas?

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

We did something a little bit different from past years this year... and took about two weeks longer to do it, too.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

As a matter of fact we got home only about three and a half hours ago.