Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksliving! (nope, that's not a typo)

I just came in from an early morning walk with Maya. What a glorious morning! The sky is a rich, deep blue, streaked with pink clouds. As I stood and gazed up in wonder and the sun continued it ascent into the Carolina sky, the clouds faded to a rich, deep orange. Almost directly overhead, the half moon took its last glance at the rising sun and smiled its ever-white smile in its direction. Even Maya stopped her incessant sniffing and looked up for a few seconds.

The street is quiet. Cars are not pulling out of driveways and heading uptown to park beneath the many banks that dot the Charlotte skyline. Front doors are not banging shut behind children heading for the bus stop at the corner. Dogs aren't even barking this morning. Birds, however, are singing their usual songs of greeting to the morning light - and warning each other that the crazy little dog from 8724 is out again.

She can barely jump up and reach my kneecap, but Maya is crazy about chasing birds. Across the street from us, our neighbors have a grove of very low bushes flanking their front walk, and there must be 50 birds living in those bushes. They cluck and squeak and rustle the branches. They preen their feathers and stretch their wings and hop around on the grass on either side of the path. And it all drives Maya absolutely bonkers. My poor little hunting dog has absolutely no genetic choice but to do all within her power to empty those bushes of those birds. Once she hones in on them, no amount of Alpha Dog correction on my part can divert her attention. So on the odd morning, I allow her to pull me across the street where she noses around underneath the leaves, sniffs, stretches her tiny neck, and sets her sights on liberating the Ayers family from the captivity of "The Birds." She'd like to eat them, but she gladly settles for scaring a few of them and watching them fly away.

This morning, however, we stayed on our side of the street, and I contemplated the events of this Thanksgiving Day. I imagined hundreds of men and women checking on their slow-roasting oversized turkeys during the morning hours. Stuffings are being prepared, cranberry sauces slow simmered - that is, unless they are being cut out of cans... Gravies, sweet potatoes, salads, and pork roasts will soon be cooked to perfection.

Yup, you read it right: pork roasts. Much to the chagrin of my mother and mother-in-law, we will be dining on pork today. I don't like turkey. I never have. Well, that's not entirely true. The only part of the turkey I like is the thigh, the dark, fatty, juicy meat of the turkey thigh. But since supermarkets carry only whole birds, breasts, or legs, I am plum out of turkey thigh luck. True to my ingrained rebellious nature, I refuse to be coerced by society, tradition, or my mother-in-law into cooking an entire, dusty, dry bird in order to nibble on a few bites of a thigh.

I've been told countless times by friends, acquaintances, and enemies alike that there are ways to keep a turkey from getting dry, but I've never had the pleasure of eating a slice of turkey breast that wasn't dry. So today we will eat pork tenderloin. There will be stuffing, cranberry sauce, and my mother's candied yams. In an effort to honor the traditional consumption of food with feathers on Thanksgiving, my mother is also bringing her famous fried chicken. Now that's a bird I can eat with gusto.

We will eat at noon. Yup, you read it right. Why wait until 3 or 4 in the afternoon when everybody's gotta eat lunch anyway? I figure we may as well eat the real deal early and have dessert as the main course at 5 pm. In fact, we've been invited to two Thanksgiving desserts: one at 5 and the other at 7:30 this evening. This is my kind of day: breakfast, lunch, and two rounds of dessert, all washed down with sparkling cider, sweet tea, and wine. For this great bounty, I am indeed thankful.

What else am I thankful for today?
* this morning's beautiful sky.

* baking and cooking these past two days with the children: chocolate chip cookies, a lemon pound cake, stuffing with pork sausage, and cranberry sauce made from fresh cranberries.

* the sounds of my home this morning as the heat kicks in, the hamster wakes up, and my son tunes into SportsCenter on ESPN.

* the quiet breathing of my daughter and my husband as they sleep.

* the anticipation of reading the notes of thanksgiving we've written this week and placed in a beautiful shoe box. We will read the notes one by one over the course of the day. The goal is to guess who wrote each one, but the real joy will be in conspiring (as in "breathing together") on prayers of thanks.

* lengthy conversations with three of my best buddies yesterday. I sat at Starbucks with one friend and talked for two hours while we nursed peppermint mochas and flipped through a book of Caravaggio's paintings. Such good memories I have of seeing his works in London, Rome, Florence, New York, and one right here in Charlotte!

* listening to the pastor talk about the importance of "thanksliving," not just this week, but always. May it be a way of life, not a single day of overindulgence with a brief prayer of thanks thrown in for good measure.

* listening to that same pastor sing a song about all that God has done for him.

* watching a video at the same service about a young man from our church who'd had a terrible dirt bike accident nearly two months ago. His helmet came off during the incident, and he suffered a very serious head injury. After his parents had been briefed and prepared for a recovery time of three to twelve months, one month and one day after the crash, he walked out of the hospital, completely restored, both physically and mentally. My son and I approached him on Tuesday night after the service and told him how much we'd been praying for him during the time of his chemically-induced coma. He thanked us, smiled his wide braces-bound smile, and went back to sipping his hot cider. Young Aaron is a living, breathing, walking, smiling testimony to the power of love, friendship, medical technology, and pure, old-fashioned prayer.

* I am thankful that another year has passed and we remain in good health. We are still together as a family. We haven't lost anyone to death, serious illness, or accident. We have so much for which to give thanks.

So here's to eating, drinking, laughing, looking around the table today at family and friends, and giving thanks for their presence, for their love, and for their willingness to share this day with us.

Here's to raising a toast to far away family, friends and loved ones who are not with us in body, but who are always with us in spirit. I will give thanks for all of you as well.

And finally, here's to remembering the one who aren't with us anymore: my father, my father-in-law, all four sets of our grandparents, Jill's father, Cindy's uncle, Suzanne's son, Ida, Leza, and countless others whose names I don't remember and probably never know. You are sorely missed, but we give thanks for all that you gave us while you were here.

Happy Thanksgiving.
Happy Thanksliving.

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