November 23, 2016

The Waiting, on Thanksgiving

I'm sitting in my comfy recliner with a sleeping kitty on my lap, looking at the first of I'm not sure how many Christmas trees will be up before the end of the month, a steaming mug of half and half (coffee and dark chocolate almond milk) on the table, thinking about Thanksgiving.

Last year, we spent Thanksgiving with my family at the old farmhouse in Vermont where my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew live.  Everything was delicious: dinner; the conversation; wandering around outside with the dogs; my nephew's apple-launching gun; the fresh eggs we used to make French toast on Friday morning; the wide plank floors in the oldest part of the house, where our room was, at the top of one of those steep old staircases. We all took a walk up to the top of the hill before dinner, and I was reminded of another Thanksgiving hike, some 45-odd years ago.

My Dad and I had decided to take a walk one Thanksgiving; the turkey was in the oven and it was the start of The Waiting, that period of time that only happens once a year, at our house. It starts when the pale, cold turkey goes into the oven, then builds as the house fills with the aroma of the bird cooking, and ends hours later when it comes out, richly browned, juicy (never dry), bursting with flavor, and joins all of the fixings on the table.

We started out with a plan of sorts: we'd head around the corner and aim for the woods off Liberty Street, a short walk from the house. There were trails leading from the dirt road into the woods, carved by years of kids walking and running through the vines that hung thickly from the trees, crisscrossing the hillside in every direction. We wandered, following the trails until we came out of the woods, on the crest of a hill, farther away from home than we had anticipated, but not so far as to turn back.

If we go this way, Dad said, pointing generally south, we should come out near Yawney's farm on Brutus Road, and we can walk home from there. Sounds good, I think I said - because why not? It was Thanksgiving, and it was during The Waiting. So we walked and talked, although I don't remember what we really talked about. Knowing him, and knowing me, it was probably current events or sports or whatever show we were watching on television that year, or something in the paper. Maybe about school. Just conversation, father and daughter, teacher and student, walking through fields.

We crossed over an old barbed wire fence and low stone wall or two, meandering more west than south it seemed, longer than we thought we would. We were damp - it was November, after all, and we were walking through fields and brush and tall grass. I can feel my nose running, and Dad's handkerchief, and burdocks, and laughter. And I remember a point at which we decided we needed to 'get somewhere', because it felt like soon, The Waiting would be over, and Mom would not be happy if we were not back; we had things to do, Dad and I, when the turkey came out of the oven, and even before.

Onward we pressed, looking for some sign of civilization, and finally came out from a small grove of trees saw a house that we recognized. We had not gone south towards Yawney's - not so much.We had gone almost due west, and had come out on Pump Road, several houses away from where Mom and Dad's friends Ron and Doje Marks lived. It was our Aha moment - we are saved! - as we jumped across the ditch, onto dry pavement, and headed off up the middle of the road, making much better time now, to get to Marks' house, call Mom, and get a ride home. Surprise all around, I remember.

We were a mess - wet, covered with all kinds of debris (derbis, Dad said) - but we were happy, and Mom wasn't too terribly mad (at least, not in front of me), and Thanksgiving was delicious - the dinner, the conversation, the wide plank floors in our old house, and my room at the top of the stairs at the end of a long, crazy, happy day.

We weren't able to make the trip to Vermont this year, so even though it's only going to be the two of us, I'm still cooking a full dinner. I'll get up and get my turkey ready in the morning, and then, I think I'll drag my husband out for a walk around the neighborhood, during The Waiting.

Happy Thanksgiving.