Friday, December 5, 2008
Memories of Thanksgiving
Yes, the 2008 Thanksgiving holiday was a special occasion. Family and friends were gathered at our home by 1:30 in the afternoon for a glass of punch and appetizers, before heading off for a stroll on the Carlisle Cranberry Bog, a pre-dinner tradition we try not to miss. This year, in the unexpected mild weather, we met more than the usual number of Carlisle families, joined by relatives visiting from near and far and children home from college for the holiday, many followed by their family dog(s), enjoying the afternoon outing.
Back home after our walk, scampering about in the kitchen, with assistance from my husband and our niece on break from University of Pennsylvania, I was determined to get the turkey out of the oven on time, keeping it warm on top of the stove while assembling ingredients for the giblet gravy and heating up the already cooked potatoes, squash and Brussels sprouts. There was just enough time to get the turkey carved before calling the guests to the dinner table. Whew, what a job, but the food we served was still hot! And that organic 18-pound turkey, purchased from Debra’s Natural Gourmet in West Concord, was especially delicious.
Conversation around the dinner table was very upbeat, with all of us excited about the prospect of Barack Obama becoming our president in January. “Would he really nominate Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State?” someone asked. And what about Robert Gates staying on as Secretary of Defense? We felt especially comfortable talking politics, since our Republican relatives from California were not with us this year. Before the meal ended, we tried something new this year. Going around the table, we asked each person to share a special Thanksgiving memory from the past. The stories we heard were poignant and amusing, and we had a few laughs.
On the day after Thanksgiving, there was a trip in the rain to Drumlin Farm with our two-year-old grandson, a visit to a crafts fair in Concord with my daughter-in-law, and a run in the Estabrook Woods for my son who always manages to run on those familiar trails whenever he pays a visit to Carlisle.
Thanksgiving was a special holiday for many of us here in Carlisle. However, as we enter December, there are questions to ask as this now-certified recession gets deeper. Top of the list is how to reduce extravagance and simplify the celebration of the holiday season.∆
On the road again
One of the great licenses given to youth, if youth only knew it, is the passport to move between worlds. Kids come and go between each others’ houses on a whim in a way taboo to adults. Kids who live in affordable housing have permission to enter and hang out with friends who live in McMansions, and vice versa. The passport is valid across time, too. Think of the special bond between grandparents and grandkids. And one of the great privileges of middle age is the opportunity to tag along on these journeys, sometimes in person at home, sometimes on the road, sometimes vicariously, sometimes from the freedom to take wing resulting from an empty nest.
Over the past couple of years we’ve witnessed and experienced a good many of these travels from our home here in Carlisle (or as I sometimes think of it, The Shire). Vicariously (with the help of phone calls, emailed photos, YouTube and Google Earth) we have journeyed to Mongolia, China, Japan and Turkmenistan. We have tagged along on college visits to the Pacific Northwest and up and down the Eastern seaboard. The mutual co-independence of parents and young adults has given us the freedom to see the Caribbean for the first time, to return to the utterly transformed lands of Iberia visited in our own youth, and to make the cultural exchange trips for which we erroneously thought we lacked practical permission back in the day.
Yet increasingly it has become plain how distant and in need of study are the lands and people nearby.
Before crossing from Washington State into British Columbia this spring, we were first required to justify to American Border Patrol officers why we would want to visit Canada. (Canadian officialdom, by contrast, was merely satisfied with our US Passports.) It had never occurred to me before that the USA was the kind of country that might feel the need to keep its citizens at home. I had traveled somewhere else without even knowing it.
The same week Barack Obama was elected President we went to the auditorium at Boston English High School, bringing a CCHS student to join dance practice with the Floorlords, a Boston hip-hop group of considerable talent. Over the course of a couple of hours, the Floorlords worked with teenagers from English High, kids from other neighborhoods, and a group of grade schoolers brought by a local community leader. Sitting in the back seats of the auditorium, we were as much a curiosity as we would have been in a Baghdad market.
An English travel writer has constructed whole narratives by walking the distance from airports where he lands to central city, finding he develops a far better understanding of local people and daily life than when he is whisked in by limo or train. Similarly, the father of a friend, a well-known Evangelical minister who lives in the Philadelphia area, now refuses to go on missionary travel abroad. He points out that there is a third world country known as Camden, New Jersey, where he can do the Lord’s work without leaving home.
I suppose this anthropology-of-the-close-at-hand should not be surprising, or new, to residents of the places once sauntered by H.D. Thoreau while he contemplated the lives of the people he met, and their connections to far-away places, timeless stories and broad social trends. Happy travels. ∆
© 2008 The