Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All American

It’s Thanksgiving Eve and the three matriarchs of the family are busy slicing, dicing, stuffing and baking. My mother is queen of the turkey. Tonight she is lovingly marinating the bird and preparing her now famous stuffing. The entire time she’ll worry the bird is much too big and there’s no way any group of human can nor should consume this amount of food. My dad awaits his cue; it arrives tomorrow. He is the mashed potatoes man. Simple, easy, yet those creamy peaks of buttery goodness are his domain and he knows he has us salivating from the moment he brings the dish to the serving table.
Meanwhile, 5 floors down in the same building, my sister will be creating her signature contributions to the table – the world’s most exquisite pies. Pecan, apple, pumpkin. A little something for every taste, she has perfected these sweet offerings over the years to the point where no other pie can compare. And woe to whoever should try!
A few minutes away, I am in my kitchen watching the cranberries jump and split, thinly slicing shallots, stuffing sugar pumpkins… I am the side dish lady. Saddled with two vegetarians in my household (who of course bring along other vegetarians on this fowl centered holiday) I was delegated the vegies. Each year I try something a little different, hoping to sate the obvious loss those vegetarians must feel upon seeing the gloried golden bird arrive.

What’s funny about this family scenario is that Thanksgiving was a complete mystery to my family of origin when I was growing up. It was labeled as “an American holiday” by my parents, and they seized the wonderful advantage of not having to work their assorted jobs and shifts but that was it. Turkey? Heavens no! That was for Christmas! Cranberries? Mija! They look poisonous.
At some point, either my sister or I insisted on something special for the holiday and my parents began taking us to Wan Q for dinner on Thanksgiving.
A Polynesian themed restaurant, you couldn’t have designed a kitschier stereotype of all things Asian. But they had cloth napkins. You ordered from a menu, family style. And so it was deemed “our special Thanksgiving”.

We did this for many years until one year my mom’s baby sister, who had come to live with us and was a freshman in college, somehow convinced my parents to join the millions of other November-turkey and cranberry eaters of the country. I don’t really remember that meal. What I do remember was missing the fake tiki torches and canned ukulele music from Wan Q. I missed the fried rice (hold the peas and carrots ‘cause who puts that in their arroz con pollo?), the crispy won tons with unnaturally red sweet stickiness and the mysterious fortune cookies.

Tomorrow afternoon we’ll gather around my parents’ dining room table; my sister and I contributing not just our culinary offerings, but husbands to help in the cleanup; my 98 year old father in law missing his beloved wife; my daughters with their special friends. We will all hold hands as we say grace, thankful for another year of blessed bounty and unity.

And I will be remembering Wan Q and a season of thankfulness in a strange land.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baby turns older...

There is no other reason for my absence from the blogging world than sheer unadulterated laziness. Plain and simple. Having confessed, I will await absolution.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my 25 plus years of parenting. I’ve been blessed with two remarkable daughters, each one unique and beloved, each one extraordinarily gifted and singularly quirky. I’ve savored each season, every phase of being their mom. Some were sweet, others tart … but regardless, each one molded and shaped me into the person I am today. It also gave me an appreciation of then and now, the richness and profundity of what has been, but also the wonder and excitement of what will be.
Last night, my eldest (now 25) came home with a friend after having dinner out. They came home in a most grown up way – to have a cup of tea and chat. And although the evening began that way, soon my daughter was hiding in a large box breathlessly waiting to jump out and scare her dad when he arrived. I could hear her breathing heavily, suppressing giggles inside the box while her friend hid in the bathroom also laughing.
I recognized this young woman, professional graphic designer and musician, as the same little girl who would devise complex mazes and art installations for her father to inspect and experience when he came home from work.

Today we’re celebrating my youngest daughter’s birthday.

In years past, that would have meant baking a Barbie cake, and making a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese. There would be two presents to her from us– a “need” (usually a winter coat) and a “want” (Barbie and her accouterments). There would be significant cuddling and a retelling of the day of her birth. It was a perfectly sunny but crisp Monday morning, yes Dad was in the delivery room, no it wasn’t as long as her sister’s delivery, yes I got to hold her right away, no she didn’t cry but instead looked around the room inquisitively and yes – yes! She was the most beautiful little baby in the whole entire world, absolutely perfect in every single way.
This would usually lead to a round of tickling and more cuddling, perhaps even a viewing of old videos of her as a baby, learning to walk, babbling in her made up language and of course, the now famous (in our little world) of her at 6 years old, twirling at her friend’s house declaring “I’m the most beautiful girl in the world!”
Now, at 23, my little girl will come to dinner with her sweetheart. Her menu of choice includes spinach risotto and halibut steaks in a balsamic pomegranate reduction. Gifts will be practical per her instructions and there will be little to no twirling. Although her large expressive brown eyes still twinkle with laughter, she is more reserved, thoughtful and will converse about her upcoming college graduation, month-long trip to Venezuela and other future goals.

And there will be cuddling. Oh yes, plenty of it. There always will be.