Not claiming to remember each one in particular, I yet believe this Thanksgiving has been the best of my life–at least I cannot think of such an occasion that supersedes this one. From time to time, an event argues to be poetry; its being smacks of moonlight slanting at sea water or cottages set in deep meadow. Such celebration becomes the benchmark for future events. These past few days have been of that kind. (Always extremely thoughtful and polite, Melina brought these adorable owls and turkeys. On her site, she tells how to make them.)
The pleasure began early, when last Sunday evening Andrew and his family arrived, wagging in luggage, grinning, hugging, and with the five children quickly scattering about our home since they visit here frequently and know they have the run of the place, including the “secret room,” the game room, and the picture room. Actually, the earliest pleasure had been the moment I knew all four of our children would be coming for Thanksgiving. Already I knew my brother was flying in from Chile, my step mom was coming from Missouri, and two of my nieces were traveling from Pennsylvania. It would be a rare Thanksgiving. (Pictured here are my children, their spouses, my brother, Farrell, Jr. on one end, my step mom on the other end.)
Although we strayed a bit from the master scheme, I had planned all the meals, beginning with chicken tacos on Sunday evening, roast beef on Monday, ham on Tuesday. . .Yeast rolls ready for the oven were in the freezer, as were three pie crusts, cookie dough of four varieties, frozen cranberry salad, and Miss. Hulling’s squash and apple casserole, a dish so delicious that from the cafeteria where I first ate of the delectable concoction, I bought a cookbook just for that recipe, and without which I cannot image a Thanksgiving dinner in the Gerald Buxton home. On the bread shelf was a bulging bag of crumbled cornbread and a few biscuits ready to be developed into dressing for the turkey and over which would be spooned giblet gravy.
We had The Plan. I had cleaned every nook and cranny of the house (well, almost, for to be honest, I can think of a few hidden spots that could stand a bit more “spit and polish”) made lists, arranged tablecloths, napkins, centerpieces and considered seating arrangements. I had shopped. A lot. More than once. Yet, when Rebecca called on her way up and inquired, I said, “Yes, please stop at the grocers and bring these things,” as I read from the list in the little book that resides on the shelf near the fridge.
On Monday morning, I was disappointed to learn that Andrew had to go to San Diego to finish up some of his jobs (construction work), and would be back by Tuesday evening, but while it was yet daylight on Monday, here he came, some development having given him the option of being here the rest of the week. Yes! On Tuesday, a baking mood enveloped him and Gentry. They took over the kitchen and produced some tasty goodies, including these fine sugar cookies. Then–if you can believe it–there was a distinct possibility we would run short on butter, so off to the store again went Andrew. Butter, more milk. . .
By Wednesday evening everyone had arrived–from San Diego, Lake Havasu, Chile, Missouri and Pennsylvania–we were all here. Festivities swelled into high gear; from the game room the youngsters brought down puzzles to spread about on the dining room table and stuffed animals were retrieved from the secret room to be scattered about the house. (Pictured above are my niece and great niece, Sandy and Moriah, and my beautiful daughter, Rebecca.) We ate. And again, we ate. Spaghetti and meatballs on Wednesday served up with the most delicious bread of Melina’s preparation, hot from the oven, running with cheese and herbs. Sandy, my niece from Pennsylvania, had presented herself at the door with large boxes from The Cheesecake Factory, and because my ample fridge was bulging, we utilized my “winter refrigerator”–the back deck table. Three ice chests also sat there for two turkeys and a massive prime rib roast were doing their deal with brine solutions and handsome rubs.
Balderdash–the funniest family game we play, and from which uproarious laughter has been known to cause the temporary, but absolute, loss of breath. Some also played Apples to Apples, Scrabble, and upstairs the youngsters played some kind of card game, and maybe Twister, for I recall seeing parts of that game once during these happy days.
Steve bought and cooked the spectacular standing rib roast in the house oven, while in a Chinese turkey roaster, Mike cooked the two turkeys he had bought in Lake Havasu.
Chloe whipped up the mashed potatoes, Shawnna added her famous green beans, Melina’s chutney, the dressing and gravy were finished, the rolls cooked . . .
Black Friday sales snagged some of the bunch, some had to make airport runs, and while they were gone down the hill, others of us–the wise ones– began thinking of food–in particular the large prime ribs which Steve had removed before slicing up the meat the day before. Light the grill, he said to his dad, and in a short while we were sitting around the kitchen bar chowing down on prime rib bones; succulent bones–some naked, some with a BBQ sauce Steve had whipped together. One rib was left in the pan, when my brother and my step mom knocked on the door, and perhaps looking slightly sheepish, probably with BBQ sauce on our faces, we insisted Junior indulge by taking the last rib. With little persuasion, he hiked himself onto a bar stool.
I would speak of the killer French dip sandwiches we had on Saturday with the remaining beef, or of the straight from the oven oatmeal and ginger cookies we ate gathered about the oven, or of the apricot and cherry stollen, but I must stop. This has gone on too long and I want to speak of leftovers . . . except that first I want to show you a picture of my granddaughter Sarah who came to visit on Friday afternoon. . . and the light was streaming through the window perfectly, and she is so beautiful. . . and spontaneously she arranged her arm and smiled.
Some believe leftovers are the best: I agree. My favorite leftovers, however, are not what one might expect. They are neither of roasted meat or dressing or gravy or warmed yeast rolls or chilled pumpkin pie. My favorite leftovers are those in my mind; the memories I retain, the sights and sounds of my children now grown, and of their children still small and middle-sized, but then there are Chloe who is 16 and Gentry who is taller than his Pappy and whose voice has changed since last Thanksgiving. . .who is almost a man, and Sarah with Gage, our only great-grandchild who was able to come for Thanksgiving.
My leftovers include visions of every bedroom full, Mike and Melina sleeping on a blow-up mattress on the floor in the game room, couches full, and youngsters dragging around quilts and pillows as someone made them a bed somewhere. My leftovers call up the crooked wreath on the stair wall glimmering with Christmas lights, but with a few ears of Indian corn tied on as a nod to Thanksgiving. Wood stacked. Wood carried in. Blazing fires all day and into the night.
My favorite leftovers are memories of Jerry speaking to us, and his becoming teary, and his prayer before we ate our beautiful meal; of the moments we gathered about Shawnna–adults and children alike– to pray, as she had been sick for a couple of days. My favorite leftovers include the short conversations I had with some of you, my children, about God and His work and our place in it. My favorite leftovers are recalling the spontaneous hugs and words of love I saw you give; of hearing that Jessica must be admitted to the hospital and that in a short while we would have our 9th great-grandchild, and that Mike’s face was worried, and that he said we should pray for her. My leftovers include Andrew–the last to leave–as he sat with his wife and children in the living room and asked Jerry and me to pray for his family.
Leftovers. Abundant, delicious leftovers. In my mind. In my spirit.