Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving Plus One

it is the day after Thanksgiving that is always the hardest. I have come to terms with Thanksgiving being difficult and empty, a day of remembering how rich our Thanksgivings were when Don was here, and the children were still lovable and accepting, when even my son who took exception to the quality of my cooking ("Gourmet again! Why can't we have hamburgers like normal people?") took pleasure in my pumpkin soup in a pumpkin shell, Teriyaki Turkey with Chinese stuffing(almonds and crystallized ginger and turkey sausage, celery and beansprouts and water chestnuts, a festival all on its own.) And most unexpectedly and deliciously,Cranuberry Much, a side dish I'd learned when I visited friends in DC and went to cooking classes when Jimmy Carter was Prez. So instead of sweet potatoes there were grits, but I paid no attention to those. Ah, but Cranuberry Much! That was a dish to mollify the angels, espcially those who liked a good crunch.
I remember asking Paul, the doctor who was attending Don, his best friend who had failed to catch the bad cell in an early x-ray,if Don would be with us for Thanksgiving. Paul went a little nuts when he finally x-rayed Don in August and the whole right lung was gone-- he'd been giving him pain pills for his back, and in his crazed denial said"Which Thanksgiving? He'll be here next year and the year after that." But Don left us the 14th of November, so our warm cornacupia, the jewel-colored piled high vegentables and fruits, grapes dripping down the side.,with a brown felt 'Thanks,' that I'd bought at a street fair in Westwood, little embroidered Pilgrims in its center, sat looking at us merrily cartoon-like, as deeply into denial as Paul had been, and we would have been, too, except that we'd felt him dying.
But Susan came for the dinner,our sweet airheady friend we'd made in the course of our exploration of metaphysics,and she said at the table she'd been out in the back yard talking to Don. And because she was so divinely silly, or maybe so sillily divine, we accepted that she'd been out there with Don and that made us feel he was all right, and so we went on eating.
I have non-celebrated many Thanksgivings since-- when I was just on that wonderful cruise I realized that the 21st anniversary of his death took place during one of the impressive panels. But friends have been kind. I have celebrated with Sheila,and with the Boyarskys, and one time with my darling cousin Susie who made her Thanksgiving on the Friday, so because it was Shabbis, she being deeply observant because she thought G_d would save her if she was a good Jew, wouldn't re-ignite the gas as it was after the non-witching hour,so the turkey was little more than raw, but we ate it anyway, because we loved Susie,who died anyway.
Some Thanksgivings I have fasted, as my way of saying thank you, a custom I found out yesterday in an editorial in The Times might have been more to the point, that early pilgrims may have sanctified it as a spiritual observance, and so fasted rather than stuffed. As most of my true compadres are elsewhere, I decided to fast yesterday, and it was easy, really. But there were pieces of my soul that were splintered, because I wish i had a family that was real family, children, grown too big now to be considered children, who were nicer, more productive, less self-absorbed, grand-children I had real access to. None of this is larded with self-pity, as i have to cut down on cholesterol. But it would have been nice to wake up this morning with a sense of accomplishment, which fasting somehow gives you. Instead, though, I woke up with the feeling it was Sunday, and resented the fact that it wasn't. And that the paper wasn;t the Sunday paper, and people weren't easy with the day that it was.
It is bitter cold suddenly,and I wonder how I will make it through winter. I had a joyous day, truly joyous last Tuesday, when Julek blew in for a vsiti from France, and I went to the Gypsy run-though of Chita, the magnificent dancer from West Side Story who still tears a stage up at she says 72, but might be 78. The Gypsy run-through is when they do it for all the dancers in other shows, a special matinee so her peers can come and see. And cheer. My God, I never heard such cheers. The show is beyond exuberant. it is a paean to all the shows that were, when shows were shows and Chita was in them. And it made me weep for what isn't anymore in the way of theater: songs you can sing, music that thrills you, people you can root for. But I guess, in a way, that's the same thing you can feel about Thanksgiving.


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