I had a very nice Thanksgiving. My family gathered in Coralville with our Aunt Alaire, my motherʼs sister, as we have done for decades now, every other year. (This means that Christmas 2010 will be with the Norton clan, naturally.)
Janet and I got started somewhat later than I had intended, leaving Maquoketa just about 10:00, delayed partly by me loafing and partly by unexpectedly deciding to warm both the stuffing and the mashed potatoes we were bringing to the feast, along with the pies I told you about already. And we stopped at Caseyʼs westside for some convenience-store “cappuccinos” to enjoy on the drive to Iowa City, which added a few minutes as well.
We arrived well before 11:30, however (The Lovely One was driving). Everyone else was already present, including niece Rachel and nephew Tim, offspring of my brother Paul and his wife Nancy. Paul is the one who has embarked on a second career this year, becoming a United Methodist minister after many years of training and experience as a “local pastor” in a small town and with Hispanic communities in his home area. Margaret had been staying with Alaire since Tuesday, and David had obviously gotten up much earlier than us, making his drive from northwestern Iowa end earlier than our much briefer pilgrimage. Alaireʼs complex has a gathering room the residents can book, and although itʼs probably about twice the size we really need, the community room beats the narrow confines of her single apartment — comfortable for her, certainly, but nowhere nearly enough room for all of us (especially as some have grown in girth over the decades, meaning me in particular).
We carted in food, drink and presents, and I settled down to chat with everyone, none of whom I had seen in many months (except for perhaps an hour talking to Margaret and David at my Uncle Bill Burrowʼs funeral last month). Tim or David, both readers, brought up the blog, which directed conversation for a long time in many paths, particularly the nonsense of Tighty politics and their blowhard leadership. (One benefit of family is that theyʼre usually the people who can most easily agree with you, regardless of my solitary black sheep status on religion. Or at least tolerate oneʼs rants and foibles.)
Aunt Alaire decided, pretty quickly, that since we were all there, it was time for the food, even though the turkey had been more or less scheduled to be done at least an hour later — in fact, when Paul and I, elected by default, I guess, started carving the bird, he quickly decided it needed more time in the oven. I was very glad I had stumbled on the tail-end of an Alton Brown show on Thanksgiving turkey and saw the few minutes he devoted to “how to carve your bird.” With Paulʼs guidance and help, we did a fair job of slicing the meat (I even used Altonʼs technique for cutting away the leftovers from the bones, later on).
Once we had let the turkey bake a while longer and actually completed the slicing job, everyone helped to serve up the food, and (to misquote Huck Finn) “wasnʼt there a pile of it and plenty for everyone five times over.” The talk ebbed and flowed on all sorts of things, particularly on childhood memories between Paul and me for a few minutes, while we ate, more diffusely and in several smaller groupings as we cleaned up, and for a while longer between all of us together. Wine flowed (sweet and dry, white and red — predictably perhaps, I enjoyed a few Guinnesses) before during and after the feast itself, but no one imbibed to any large degree whatsoever (although The Lovely One did ask me to do the driving home). Eventually it was time, late in the afternoon, for many to head northward to Minnesota, there to visit with missing brother Stephen (I probably should have gone, but I knew that tasks and other activities awaited for this weekend at home), Alaire to return the leftovers we hadnʼt claimed to her apartment, and for those of us not driving to the state of ten thousand lakes to head home.
This particular gathering was special because we had decided, at Janetʼs urging, to bring most of our Christmas presents to Thanksgiving and turn them over to their recipients then, saving postage. (I say “most” because I screwed up and had amazon.com send items for my youngest brother, David, and sister Margaret straight to them.) So we did have to do the present redistribution before all taking our leaves, but that procedure was fun as well.
Janet and I were driving home about 4:00, reaching the domicile in time to catch local news and the weather report. We definitely didnʼt want any supper that night (as we enjoyed immensely the PBS broadcast of the Broadway birthday tribute for Stephen Sondheim that Iowa Public TV aired that night)!
The day was cold and quite windy, but the cheer and good harmony were very warm last Thursday for my clan. I enjoyed seeing everyone and talking as best I did with each and all. My family is certainly worth being thankful for.