Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Wednesday Night, the Eve of Thanksgiving

All over the country right now, people — women, mostly — are putting the prepared stuffing in the refrigerator next to the cleaned bird, checking the menu, stacking the good plates and silver on the buffet, getting out the candles and the goofy homemade Thanksgiving decorations from years ago.

Children are tired and underfoot. Someone has left fingerprints in the pumpkin pie and there are at least two pecans pried from the top of that pie. The apple rum cake is up out of reach.

All over the country, people — men, mostly — are counting the chairs against the expected number of guests, following “honey do” orders hauling the extra card tables out of the attic, and keeping one eye on the tube.

I’m not doing any of that this year. Instead, we’re going to Williamsburg to eat Thanksgiving dinner prepared by others who have to work on the holiday (bless them), and then I’m going to swim in the pool and — uh oh — watch television before turning in for the night. If it’s not raining, perhaps we’ll take a walk down Dog Street. A short walk, and a slow one, since my knee is rather game by now.

Back here it may snow, but any trace will be gone by the time we return on Friday.

All of which will be a nice break before surgery early next week. Today, I went in to sign the papers saying I understood the nature of the torture they propose for my knee, had blood drawn and an EKG to prove I will likely survive anesthesia, and then went to the Rehab Room to be taught how to go up and down the stairs with a walker — just the front and back steps of the house — without falling. I also made sure to get a prescription for pain medication, thank you. Stoicism is for those who don’t know any better.

When we came home, I noticed a few sad figs hanging on the branches of the bare tree. I never went back to get any more after I fell off the ladder. Which is not to say I am cured. Just wait till next September.

Thanksgivings Past echo now. The children laughing, eating the dressing before it was cooked (who knew from salmonella then?), running up and down the stairs in high glee. The trip to the ER the time I tried to slice the peel from a chestnut…they don’t taste that good, thanks just the same. I’d show you the scar but it’s lost among all the other cooking mutilations my hands have endured since I cleaned and roasted my first quail at the age of twelve.

Mother brought them home one year. Some hunter had given them to her and she came into the house holding them at arms’ length and telling me to open the trash can…but I didn’t. I grabbed them, looked at their glossy feathers, and thought, “so this is how people had to do it once…”

Fortunately, I had Louis de Gouy’s Gold Cookbook. If you can read, you can cook…those little birds were delicious, but I didn’t know singed feathers could smell so bad…nor what a long kitchen journey I had begun.


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