Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Best Day Of The Year

This, as long-time friends would soon know without aid of this silly preface, is a repeat. I always publish this one during my last time at work before taking Thanksgiving week 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 concerning the Detroit Lions.

I feel I should note that this will be the first holiday family gathering since My Grandma's passing. She was a large part of our Thanksgivings past and, even though she hadn't been able to physically attend the past couple, her not being at table this year will still feel a bit odd for us, I think.

In going over this piece looking for bits to tighten up, I found she was specifically mentioned once by name in a way that would have made it sound as though she was still with us bodily, which she isn't. It would have been awkwardly dishonest to leave her name there, so I excised it. Her spirit, however, will always remain, and the other spots wherein she appears (in a photo, and in the pleasant little story concerning a Dane and some turnip) remain, as they should.

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, that magic has ebbed. I haven’t changed, though; it’s the world that has.

When I was a child, nearly every house in the neighborhood sported pastel lights of red, yellow, green, blue and orange, 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 from Photos From My Life. Isn't it a beautiful tree?)

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 17th, there have been radio stations playing Christmas music 24 hours a day for the past couple of 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 keep throwing haymakers at me and a few do connect. I keep getting up off of the canvas, but it isn't easy.

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 sixteen 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 big pats of yummy sweet butter. I remember other times of waking in my upstairs bedroom to the smell of a turkey roasting in my childhood home in Dorchester. Later, 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 loved them.

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, for the first time in ages, the Lions actually seem to be a decent squad with a chance to win. Unfortunately, they'll be playing the Green Bay Packers, who may be the best team the league has seen in a decade, so the Lions will probably lose again. Oh, well. Pie!)

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. Finally, after all others have gone, 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 gravy, and eat them while I watch the end of the Dallas game (and if they'd lose as often as the Lions, I'd be a happier man, but, once again, Pie!)

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.

I wish you a Tremendously Happy Thanksgiving. Say your prayers, eat much, show love.

Soon, with more better stuffing.


i beati said...

embracing it all

Anonymous said...

Seen it before, love it still.

Three Hundred Sixty Five said...

Have a wonderful week, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Daryl said...

Loving that you are posting your celebration early .. enjoy the anticipation!

Deb said...

What a wonderful post Sully, thanks for sharing. Enjoy your holiday.

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.
Fortunately the station that I listen to has held off this year (I think they prob'ly got blasted a couple of years ago when they started in October). My iPod gets a heck of a workout in December; I can only listen to Gramma getting run over by that reindeer so many times before I want to hurl.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this reread because it warms the cockles of my heart that YOU do all the prep work.

That, my friend, gives me a frisson the size of the moon!


Happy Thanksgiving back at you! See you on the flip side!

Bill Yates said...

Jim, that is so good. It made me think back to many wonderful Thanksgiving dinners at my mom and dad's house, with some precious people whose love and grace will never be forgotten.

messymimi said...

Poor teenage Suldog, having to eat two Thanksgiving dinners. Ha. If you were anything like my Sweetie when he was a teen, it didn't even half fill you.:)

A blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving Day to you and your family.

Jackie said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Jim. Warmest regards from our family to yours...

The Broad said...

I can almost smell the turkey! Happy Thanksgiving and God bless and your wonderful family.

Michelle H. said...

A man who cooks the Thanksgiving dinner is a man who is a rare bird indeed (pun intended). Happy Thanksgiving, and hopefully your bird comes out tasting fantastic!

Craig said...

Very evocative post, Jim; I could almost smell the turkey right off my computer screen. Thanks.

We always 'rotate' the holidays with Jen's family and mine. One year, we do Thanksgiving with her family and Christmas with mine, then the next year we flip-flop. When it's her family, we've done the hosting for the past ten years or so. Which, as you say, means more leftovers for us. . . ;)

And this is the first Thanksgiving for us since my dad died, so we'll see how that goes. . .

And hey. . . the Lions are pretty close to break-even on Thanksgiving, even though we've lost the last 7, and 9 of the last 10 (folks around here are not real fond of Matt Millen). Somehow, we've ended up playing the Patriots three times in the last 11 Thanksgivings; must be the Tom Brady-Michigan thing. . . Did you know that the shortest overtime game in NFL history was a Thanksgiving game (the Bears ran back the OT kickoff in '80 - our first Thanksgiving as husband & wife), or that the famous 'coin-flip' game was also on Thanksgiving (Steelers '98)? And just for historical context, the Lions and Packers played 13 consecutive Thanksgivings from 1951-63 (the Lions won 10 of 'em) We're talkin' some serious history, here, man. . .

notactuallygod said...

"...with more better stuffing."
Couldn't resist, could you?
Good post.

Tabor said...

My favorite as well because there are no religious pressures and no need to give someone something that they do not want or need...just good food and fellowship.

Anonymous said...

It's just as good the second time, just like Thanksgiving leftovers. "Oh, well. Pie!" Now that's a great attitude! Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your week!

Suldog said...

Craig asks - "Did you know that the shortest overtime game in NFL history was a Thanksgiving game (the Bears ran back the OT kickoff in '80..."

I had a bet on the Lions that day. It was the last bet I ever made on a family-gathering sort of holiday. I decided that whatever money I could have won would not come anywhere near making up for the time I took away from the celebration of the holiday. Losing the bet, of course, made the decision easier. I have never bet on a sporting event, on a holiday, since that day, and I never will again.

silly rabbit said...

Very warm, familiar and cozy here. Well worth reading again! I agree the planning and prep is all part of the fun. I hope you and yours have another wonderful Thanksgiving.

Chris said...

I started to comment about the Lions' game, about how I thought it might be nice to see them actually win since they're having a decent year . . . and then I saw they're playing the Packers.

But THEN I saw your response to a comment where you actually admitted to having BET on the Lions. There's no excuse for that, unless it was during Biblical times and you took the Lions over the Christians, giving the points of course.

Buck said...

This particular post is my favorite re-run of yours. For the LOVE that's innit.

Thimbelle said...

I love this post - every year. :) It has become as much a part of MY Thanksgiving as the turkey or pie!

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friend! :)

Rhea said...

I love this time of year and I love holiday music, too. I'm Jewish. Go figure.

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

I like this post, too. I've never quite understood families who don't gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. I know I'm looking forward to listening to an entire football game, and part of a second, while driving to my sister's.

Mich said...

I want to come to Thanksgiving at your house! It sounds so nice and full of frissons. :D

I must admit that in recent years, I have become a total sucker for the constant non-stop Christmas stuff from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day. But I definitely agree with you on the lights--I miss seeing more coloured lights. Then again, some lights are better than none at all, which is how my town is because pretty much everyone else in the town is Jewish. :/


Ami said...

I went to high school with a guy who ended up playing on special teams for Detroit back in, hmm, well, let's just go early 80's. Not sure exactly. He was a jerk. And I wouldn't invite him for Thanksgiving.

I love the lights at Christmas, and remembering the really large, fat colored bulbs on the tree at Grandma's,surrounded with angel hair... makes me feel all warm inside.

Awesome that you make dinner. I love doing it, but my family is booting me out of the kitchen this year, they want to take over. Okay. I'll relax with a book. And probably some Christmas music.

Joanna Jenkins said...

There will be one less loved one at our Thanksgiving table too, Suldog, so I can very much relate to your loss and the odd feeling tugging at your heart.

Thanksgiving really IS the best day of the year-- For all of the reasons you've written about. Your family photos reminded me of our Thanksgiving in yours past, and when I got to the photo with the Cool Whip I broke out into a huge grin. No Thanksgiving is complete without a big tub of Cool Whip at our house :-)

Wishing you and yours a wonderful day loaded with great food and many leftovers.

And thanks for your nice TCF comment on my post. It was very kind of you.

Cheers, jj

Unknown said...

Thanksgiving is the best ... family, fun, love and of course, dressing!

Anonymous said...


This will be my first Thanksgiving without Wheat, or any other grains, for that matter. I know I loved my first Wheat-free Birthday; it was amazing.

Lovely warm memories you share, thank you.

Music-wise, I'm on the backstretch of releasing a tune called "Mythic Time," which features without a doubt my best Strat solo EVER. I'll post a link when it drops.

I'm also linking to you on my blog. Sorry it took so long. Or short, depending on whose watch you're looking at.



Jeni said...

Jim - You probably won't see this in time but here's a blog you need to read -especially his post about rethinking Christmas -
Very good writer and one who I recommended to him that he put the above post out to you in recognition of Thanksgiving Comes First. (See, lots and lots of people agree with your theory about this stuff!) Anyway -hope your Thanksgiving is the best it can possibly be for you! Ours here, won't take place on Thursday as my kids work schedules won't allow that but we will celebrate the thought of THANKSGIVING as intended way back when in giving thanks for family, food, friends, fellowship and everything else imaginable! Peace.

CiCi said...

Nice. What a blessing for you to be able to say you have never had a bad Thanksgiving Day. And hosting the celebration at your house for the past so many years must even add to the abundance of blessings.

Shammickite said...

One day, I'm coming to your house for Thanksgiving Dinner. It sounds so GOOOOOD!

Shammickite said...

And I'm bringing ALL my grandchildren.

Carolina said...

Okay, I wish I hadn't followed the link to turducken. I feel sorry for them all. To be killed and then stuffed inside... Very undignified ending for any creature.

Anyway, happy Thanksgiving to you all ;-)

David Kirscht said...

I very much agree about the merchants ushering Christmas too early. noticed it well in advance of Halloweens, this year. I rufuse to do anything with Christmas (as much as I enjoy it) until December 1st.

3GKnight said...

Cool post! I completely agree about the white Christmas lights. It ain't Christmas without a lot of color.

I'm cooking a full Thanksgiving meal for just me and my girlies. Can't wait!

lime said...

although you won't read this til you return to work i do wish you and YOUR WIFE the most wonderful thanksgiving. please know that your friendship is among the many things for which i am giving thanks this year.

Steve Bailey said...

Nobody loves Thanksgiving quite as much as you I think. I am looking forward to that Lions game this year!! Its gonna be good... and one of these days Im gonna have to try turduken... Anyways since you love Thanksgiving so much I thought I would share with you my "different take" on it. Its up over at my site. Check it out if you like. Either way... Happy Turkey Week!!!

Lisa Johnson said...

Happy Thanksgiving Jim! I'm sure you and your wife are busy getting things ready for the big day. I can't think of this holiday without thinking of you! : )

Shammickite said...


Shrinky said...

Sheesh, I'm starting to feel I'm really missing out over here, not having a Thanksgiving to celebrate!

Angela Christensen said...

Okay, you reminded me in your great kindness, so here:

Also, if you *really* love Christmas and its music, and can overlook all the mistakes and accidents of live recorded music and don't mind very simple a capella harmonies, I'd love to send you a copy of the MadriGals CD. Email me at with your snail address. It would be my pleasure to send you a copy. It's just as plain as my blog. You might like it.

Sandra said...

Love it just like new. Of course, that's because I'm 65. May you be blessed with many readers like me -- you can repost forever and we'll never know it. :)

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

It is totally all about giving thanks, no matter where you are or who you're with its most important to remember how great it is you're there at all!

And you know I'm a Packers fan so while I am thrilled to no end with the outcome I am also happy for you that you got your pie regardless :-)

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving & a wonderful week off!