I’m a sentimental fool.
Sentimental and contradictory. I love ceremony and tradition, yet I’m compelled to add my own shine to anything I do. In the family I grew up in, Thanksgiving included all the standard American traditions, but the holiday was meh, just something for my Italian mother to get through on the way to the “real” holiday of Christmas.
Yet in the family that I raised, I loved Thanksgiving the most.
My spin on the holiday was to invite all the strays who had no place else to go, sitting 25 guests around my extra-long folding table. In my propensity for never doing things the regular way, while my menu included typical Thanksgiving fare, not caring for ho-hum turkey or pumpkin pie, I also prepared delicious foods, like Betty’s bread and the best chocolate cake you’ll ever taste.
One of the joys of being married forever, is you develop routines that don’t need discussed.
Funk’s job was to stick his hand up the bird’s ass to clean it inside and out, after which he’d go outside in the freezing cold to hang the Christmas lights.
My job was everything else. Did I say there was joy in being married forever?
Anyway, once the turkey was baking and the bread set to rising, Funk and I bundled up and went for a long walk is the brisk morning air. There was so much magic in that. Just the two of us. The stillness. Having the first big work of the day already behind us.
The delight in my new tradition wasn’t in the food, but in making gratitude the focal point of day. Gratitude with a touch of whimsey. The highlight being, forcing everyone to write five things they were grateful for on paper leaves. During dessert, I’d read each person’s submission aloud, and everyone would have to guess whose leaf it was. Of course, me being a lover of practical jokes, I embellished each leaf with things the writer should have said, like how much they loved and adored their wives.
But seasons change.
This year, Funk and I were the strays. We spent Thanksgiving with my friends Dennis and Maria and their family. I’ve known Dennis since I was 12, so I felt free to add one of my traditions to his home.
Dennis is picky where it concerns food. Knowing how much he likes apple strudel, I made it my mission to find the best on the planet. The bakery set the goods inside a 2-foot-long box, and the minute I opened it I knew it definitely wasn’t the best on the planet. Freeing it from its container, the pastry fell apart in my hands. Seeing my struggle, Dennis asked if I wanted a spatula. “No,” I scoffed, and went back to placing my hands beneath the strudel and scooting it onto the platter.
Dennis looked a bit disturbed, so I thought I’d add to his misery. Leaning to whisper in his ear, I said, “I just took a shit, and I didn’t wash my hands.”
His laugh was so worth having lied.
He laughed and laughed, until the impact of my words hit home. On his way into the dining room, he turned around, and with a look of absolute revulsion on his face, he said, “That’s disgusting.”
Which is when I laughed myself silly.
And every day since that day, whenever I think about Dennis’s face, I bust out laughing all over again. I mean, I’ve been with the guy for 50 years, he knows most everything about me. Still, he doesn’t know that I never do my business in public, or that I constantly wash my hands.
Here’s to you for bringing sparkle to the holidays. In this time where everything we once thought to be true is upside down, we’ve got to usher in new enchantments, lest we go mad lost in nostalgia.
The Photo: To me, this little cabin in the woods embodies home. The tree behind it is my latest infatuation. Don’t you just want to go there and hug it?