Friday, November 16, 2012

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 the entirety of 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, the New England Patriots, and this year's entirely dispiriting developments concerning retail stores opening on Thanksgiving Day itself.

In going over this piece looking for bits to tighten up, I found My Grandma was specifically mentioned once 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 16th, 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 the canvas, but it isn't easy. And this year has been more difficult than any before it. Stores are opening in great numbers on Thanksgiving Day rather than having the decency to wait until so-called Black Friday. I think I may stay on the canvas this time and take the count. I'm amazingly tired of fighting it.

Christmas 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 eighteen 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, the Lions have a decent squad. Unfortunately, they'll be playing the Houston Texans, possibly the best team in the league, 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!)

(As a bonus, I get to watch my New England Patriots play their big rival, the New York Jets, on Thanksgiving evening. More pie! Yes!)

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, in that spirit of sloth, this will be my last post until December.

I wish you a Tremendously Happy Thanksgiving. Say your prayers, eat much, show love (and, if you value the day,  please don't shop.)

Soon, with more better stuffing.


joeh said...

Great post...but it should be if you keep dusting it off and adding improvements every year!

I am so with you, I love Thanksgiving though I have had a few bad ones..when your wife is a Borderline Personality Disorder there are a few bad everythings...But I agree, THanksgiving is my favorite.

And i hate those fucking all white Christmas lights. Give me those old giant multi-colored ones every day!

Do you remember "Bubblers" on the tree.

Suldog said...


I vaguely remember some other folks having them. We never did. They were pretty cool.

Tabor said...

I had not thought about the cold of the white lights...which we put on our house. Although this year I do not know if I will even go to the trouble to one coming to see it, that I know of. I do love TG and will be going away to enjoy it elsewhere. No cooking for me, which is the first in many years...but probably no leftovers either!

Mich said...

Can I come to yours for Thanksgiving?? This year my father and stepmother have decided to do the most blasphemous thing possible and GO OUT TO A RESTAURANT for Thanksgiving. :**( T

Suldog said...

Tabor - Enjoy the relaxation!

Mich - If you can find your way to Watertown, you'd be more than welcome.

Pearl said...


I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. All that cooking and silliness in the kitchen, the friends and family, the pies!


Suldog said...

Pearl - Pie!

Anonymous said...

I am wishing you another great Thanksgiving!

Suldog said...

Joan - And very much the same to you!

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

GS and I are gonna blast down the freeway about 330 miles on Thursday morning. That should take care of listening to the Lions game. When we get there it'll be an all family frisson and some pie, too.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

I guess I could mention that all but 3 miles of our journey will be on freeways.
You have a great Thanksgiving.

Craig said...

Mmmmmmm. . . pie. . . I could probably eat two whole pumpkin pies all by myself, if I really put my mind to it. One year, somebody brought a raisin pie, which I'd never had, but man, that was good!

We've still got a few years to go before all the relatives leave and Jen and I are left home alone together. But it's a cool fantasy. . .

And lissen, that team with the Stars on Thars has been playin' Thanksgiving Day games for quite a while, by now, but. . . I'm not old enough to remember the first Thanksgiving games in Detroit, but I do remember when ours was the only one. The rest of 'em are all interlopers. Talk about cheapening your holidays. . . :P

I can't quite bring myself to rank Thanksgiving ahead of Christmas on my list of Favorite Holidays, but I truly love the family-ness of Thanksgiving. I don't know if that constitutes 'frisson' or not, but it's one of life's special richnesses. . .

Suldog said...

(not my) Uncle Skip - Safe travels to you and GS. Pie!

Craig - Since we're close in age, I recall when there was only the one game on Thanksgiving. And it was the only game all year not played on Sunday, too, as I recall. I think a lot of folks outside of Detroit have a secondary rooting interest in the Lions because of those memories. As much as I like to make the little joke about them each year, I really do root for them on Thanksgiving (except for the very rare game versus the Patriots.)

messymimi said...

As a teen boy, i'll bet you had no trouble at all eating two Thanksgiving dinners.

This holiday is the best. Enjoy your pie!

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

I remember thinking that football on Thanksgiving was the high school championship game in San Francisco ...but I was only four-years-old and didn't know anything much about football

Then I found out my grandfather took me just to get me out of the house so dinner could be prepared

...and pie
I want mince pie!

Suldog said...

Mimi - Pie! See below...

IT - Mince is lovely. So is squash. And custard, and apple, and blueberry, and cherry, and pumpkin, and lemon mirangue (however in hell it's spelled), and key lime, and boysenberry, and sweet potato, and banana cream, and chocolate cream, and vanilla sugar pie (which is an odd one that seems to only be prominent around Indianapolis), and shoo-fly (which is way too sweet, but it's still pie!), and steak-and-kidney (which is probably overkill on a day when the main course is turkey, but what the hell, it's pie!), and I don't know you could wrap a brick soaked in tar in dough and bake it and I might not eat the whole thing but I'll probably try it just to be polite.

Michelle H. said...

I might try to make an apple pie sometime. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Suldog said...

Can she bake an apple pie, billy boy, billy boy...

Buck said...

Yup. Your traditional Thanksgiving post is a keeper amongst many keepers.

Enjoy your week off. I KNOW you'll enjoy Thanksgiving.

Suldog said...

Buck - And a very Happy Thanksgiving to you, my friend. Who is ND playing this weekend? Since I know it's not BC, I'll root for them :-)

stephen Hayes said...

This is the second time I've read and enjoyed this post, so consider this a well-written, well-worded generic comment.

Jackie said...

Always love this Thanksgiving blog.
Wishing you and your wife the loveliest Thanksgiving ever.
Kudos for having your blog mentioned by Christina Hager on WBZ-TV.
Hugs and warmest smiles,

Lowandslow said...

Now that I'm older and find it easier to put on a fwe pounds, I find Thanksgiving very frustrating. So much great food, so few notches left on my belt. :(

Seriously, I share your feelings about Christmas, and am most thankful we still can enjoy Thanksgiving. Have a good one. :)


Hilary said...

Always an enjoyable read. I wish you and yours another beautiful Thanksgiving, Jim.

OldAFSarge said...

Beautiful Suldog. Wicked awesome. May you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Judy said...

In rural WV those "cold" white lights twinkle just like the stars so visible in our night sky. I love lights - any color. Just don't put them up until after we celebrate and eat our way through Thanksgiving.

CLR said...

I love this. Love the pictures of Thanksgiving. THAT's the Thanksgiving I remember too. Long live Thanksgiving.

Julie said...

Enjoy your thanksgiving :)

Anonymous said...

C/M - I already have pumpkin and apple on the list. Give me your preference for a couple more and I'll try to get them. I was thinking pecan and ?. Also making bread pudding. Anything else?
Oh, and hard sauce, whipped cream and ice cream.

Anonymous said...

I love re-reading this, so thanks for re-posting it! I also love that you take the whole week off. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Suldog said...

Mom (that's C/M, folks) - Bread pudding! Yes!!!

I already bought some whipped cream, so if you haven't already, don't worry about it.

If you can do a mince pie, that would be a treat. But, really, I'm thinking what you've already got is more than enough. Pumpkin, apple, bread pudding, and ice cream? My goodness. There's only 7 of us this year, you know.

But I sure do love that you asked!

Hilary said...

Geesh.. all that food and only seven of you? Ya know, 589 of your closest bloggie buddies could stop by..

Suldog said...

Wellllllll, I've only got seven chairs this year. But next year, I'll plan on 596.

cathy jones said...

Reading other's memories of Thanksgiving and the holidays puts me in the mood for it faster than a rerun of It's a Wonderful Life. Thanks for sharing.

I may be one of the few people in America who don't shop on Black Friday, which means I sure as heck won't be venturing out on Thanksgiving, except to a movie with my girls, a long family tradition with the girls in our family, while the guys stay home and watch football. We are always back in time for PIE. :D

lime said...

have a WONDERFUL thanksgiving!

Daryl said...

Have the best thanksgiving yet but please don't be upset if the Jets win ... ;)

Suldog said...

The Jets... I was hoping for some Tim Tebow action yesterday, but then Mark Sanchez went and had maybe his best day ever with the team. So that means he's saved his starting job for at least one more game. More's the pity for him because the Pats are just destroying folks right now. I think it will be a happy evening's close to the holiday for me, not so much for Jet's fans. That's why they play the games, however, to see what will actually happen, and who knows?

Uncle Jim said...

Happy Thanksgiving and I hope Christmas mail on Friday brings you what you hope for. Love

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
i beati said...

Although I don't eat anymore, I love a day when all we do or intended to do was shout thanks to the universe for our being etc.It's so unabashedly American which we cannot say abut a lot of things any more..God

Jenny Woolf said...

Sometimes I think we really miss out in England from not having Thanksgiving. Not much point in it, I admit - at least if we give thanks for the same stuff as you do. But still, I feel quite deprived.

I entirely agree with you about Christmas lights. I have always thought that they have blue and white ones now because they are cheaper to run. Sigh.

As for Christmas music, I do agree. Although old fashioned carols still tend to be reserved for the period right around the big day.

What are your Christmas songs anyhow? The one which always makes my heart sink is Slade's "Merry Christmas Everybody" It is the most dispiriting song and always makes me think of being in the "Everything £1" shop trying to find cheap Christmas tree ornaments.

Some Blogging Guy said...

Working in South Florida the vast majority of my staff are from another country. This is sad as they do not know the origins of the holiday. I try my best to explain it to them but I fear some have become so Americanized that they only think of Thanksgiving Day as a shopping day!

I for one, will be with family and won't be shopping today or tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Some Blogging Guy

Jackie said...

Hoping your Thanksgiving was a beautiful one....

Suldog said...

Jenny - In general, I love Christmas music. But we have more than enough dispiriting Christmas music to go around without importing Slade :-)

(And I should add that I actually am somewhat of a Slade fan. Saw them in concert here, back in the 70's, and enjoyed them very much. Own two of their albums, actually.)

My least favorite is a tune called "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer", which seems to me the epitome of soulless.

Jinksy said...

I can't believe I came here and read all about your lovely food, and went away without making a comment - must have been because my taste buds were salivating, and caused me to rush off to the kitchen quarters to raid the fridge. or slurp up the contents of the dog/cat/goldfish bowl in an attempt to feed the inner man - er - woman.
However, it may be the sight of those golden haired poodle-things lining up on that cornfield postcard, that set my mind off and running. If I hadn't traipsed all the way back over here to see if you've digested your dinner yet, I wouldn't have seen that blogger had no record of my earlier visit. Next thanks giving, I'll remember to bring a sarnie in one hand before I open you post, so hunger pangs won't get in the way again! ♥

Chris said...

This year's Thanksgiving memory, and I'm sure you relished it as well, is the Amazing Sanchez Butt-Fumble.


Chris said...

And just to throw in my two cents, best Christmas songs ever:

The Christmas Song (aka, "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)

Christmastime is Here (from A Charlie Brown Christmas)

Joanna Jenkins said...

Hey Jim, Hope you've recovered from all that great food. I'm with you, Thanksgiving is the best day of the year followed by the day after for all the leftovers!

Stop by, I'm having a Christmas Giveaway!