Just wrapping up from the long weekend, getting a chance to exhale. In planning for Thanksgiving I always vacillate between first and foremost, my gratitude and joy in getting to see my family. Especially since the pandemic I am even more grateful for time in person with those I love. Just being in the same room, breaking bread as best we can, delighting in each others’ company. I feel excitement to see four generations together under one roof, that of my brother and sister-in-law, from my 95 year old father to my 2 year old great-nephew.
And second, always in the background the unspoken concern, How will V do? Always a lurking unknown that we have to wait and see. I have a vast range of experiences from years past: most recently, he was so mellow at Rosh Hashanah, and I let myself hope that maybe we’ll have a repeat performance, if we’re lucky, And then I flash back to that year when V had a total meltdown en route and we had to pull off the road and stop the car in a beautiful placid neighborhood on Thanksgiving morning as he is inconsolably in his own world of some unspoken distress, something he cannot explain and we are left to conjecture. Somehow with a combination of the right food and music and love in our doing the best that we can way, he calms down enough to make the rest of the trip. That was rough.
How he will do is softened by the hospitality my brother and sister-in-law always show, affirming how we are family and share experience for the hours we are together, our separate circumstances intertwined. This year’s questions include: Will the toddler nap? Will the nonagenarian nap? Will V ever settle down? The answer to that last one is no, he remains on the move the entire time we are there. Fortunately T and I work well as a team, we go into trading on/off mode of V duty, where one of us keeps track of him, or takes him for a walk and the other gets to sit and eat and try to have a conversation. My family is very understanding. Still it is stressful. Year in and out, one event after another I have no way of predicting how he will be, so much is a mystery,
Hours earlier I start the day as calmly as I can, getting up at 630 to meditate on loving kindness and presence because I know I can get caught up in daily stresses and lose sight of what really matters. So I shower and dress – informal my brother says, as if there were any other way to dress these days. No, I’m informal to a fault. For me getting out of sweatpants and putting on a scarf heralds a step up from home attire (a nice term for frumpy), something that was once a mainstay of my appearance,that I inherited from my aunts, bright scarves that perked up my mostly black wardrobe of years back.
From that era I get out of the Audrey Hepburn t-shirt (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) that is falling apart but I can’t bear to part with. It’s so soft and comfy, perfect with sweats and crocs for baking pies. Pumpkin and cheesecake in a pie tin so technically I can say I’m bringing two pies. I read both recipes closely, make a general game plan and then get into a groove: first I’ll prep the pie dough and get it refrigerated and then a graham cracker crust that will also need to chill so have to make more room in the fridge and so on through things that have to be room temperature (I’ve remembered to take out the cream cheese bars as soon as I woke up to soften them up). I’ve done the trick to gently heat canned pumpkin in a pan so that it will taste more like homemade and of course freezing butter and then using a grater when recipes call for pea size pieces of butter in a dough, and so on. Following instructions from recipes and the community of fellow bakers who offer up helpful tips.
But despite following a recipe to a t my pie crust is an epic fail. Ice cold butter and water, flour measured carefully yet it refuses to congeal even after being well chilled. I make several valiant efforts to resuscitate, to turn it into a pliable dough but alas it’s futile. I take out the pre-made shell that was the plan b I thought I wouldn’t need and begrudgingly unroll it onto the pan and then crimp the edges. How did this happen? I feel dejected, but chalk it up to the mysteries of life. Sometime I’ll have a crust making lesson with someone and get my confidence back. For now here is a photo of a baking disaster.
Fortunately I know how to make a good graham cracker crust and the fillings turn out fine so the pies are a nice ending to a fabulous meal. Everything was delicious and our wonderful hosts even had fish for me since I don’t eat turkey anymore. Alas V is restless and on the move the entire time so eating talking walking eating talking walking is the order of the day. I am thankful to have T to share V duty all these years. If only he sat nicely at the table part of the time it would be easier to socialize with family, to sit with my Dad or to play with my sweet and adorable great nephew, to chat with my nephews and niece in law. He doesn’t eat a thing, doesn’t even touch the pie at the end of the meal.
Still I am so grateful to be with family; it’s especially dear to be celebrating with my father what was my mother’s favorite holiday. There is no traffic either way. There are no meltdowns either. I have containers full of leftovers that will make a delicious meal or two. (I love leftovers!) We find some good radio and V sits still for the first time since we arrive as we make our way home, safe and satiated from time with those we love.