savoring the moment



I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love Thanksgiving.

Oh sure, everybody admits it’s a lot of work, and often it’s a strain getting a bunch of people who are all related to each other to be under the same roof without, you know, things being said. But all in all, pound for pound, you will hardly find a nicer holiday than Thanksgiving. Never mind that they’re trying now to attach an adjunct holiday to it, by calling the day after Black Friday. We see through that completely…and we are NOT going along with it. Charlie, who is 6, put it best. He said, “I don’t really celebrate Black Friday.”

And I think that is the wise way to approach a day that asks you to get up in the middle of the night and go shopping, of all things.

Anyway, so Thanksgiving came and went. We had ten people here, in a house designed for maaaybe five, which can often be just the thing that magnifies even the slightest difference.  (“What?! You like steamed broccoli? Were you raised by wolves or something? Don’t you know the only way to eat broccoli is to saute it?”)

Despite all this, we had a wonderful time. This year we had two vegetarians, a gluten-allergic person, two 2-year-olds, a pregnant person, a few people with asthma, a 6-year-old, some people who think the minimum acceptable indoor temperature has to be in the very high two digits, others who suffer from hot flashes (mostly me), and plenty of food to keep us all groggy and busy. As usual, we had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and green beans for the meat-eaters—and Indian food for the vegetarians. This has been the family story for years now, that we serve food for both the pilgrims and the Indians.

By Friday, naturally, everybody was ready for Chinese food. And on Saturday afternoon, there was a blow-out feast with a little bit of everything on each plate. I myself had turkey, saag paneer, dumplings, pork egg foo yung, and pumpkin pie. Others ate stuffing, lo mein, and tikka masala.  The babies settled on raisins and whipped cream. (There’s a wonderful picture of one of the 2-year-olds face down in his chocolate cream pie. I think it’s a symbol of Day Three of the Thanksgiving holiday.)

It was loads of fun. Over the three days, we managed to replace a computer router, two cell phones, and a camera—as well as play Beatles Rock Band as often as possible, in each conceivable configuration. The two-year-olds made wonderful drummers, using my bamboo knitting needles as drumsticks. Josh, who is 2, loved stuffing our decorative baskets with random objects and distributing them all over the house. I expect to find the bag of onions any day now.

Basically hardly anyone slept. People were up all night, wandering through the house getting drinks of water, changing diapers, or taking to the living room couch where they hoped they might find silence. 

And it was over far too soon. Right after Saturday lunch—a lunch interrupted by the whole family needing to get to its feet to do the celebratory Miles Pooped On the Potty dance, I could see that time was running out. Everybody started sauntering through the house, packing up their items that had managed to get scattered all over. Teddy bears, computers, cameras, cell phones, BlackBerries, pacifiers, Play Stations, leftovers, blankies, and luggage all were packed up into the station wagons.

As Miles, age 2 1/2,  put it so succinctly, “Pack up my potty chair. I’m going home!”

It’s only Sunday night, and I’ve since called everybody at least twice. I’m afraid I can’t wait for Christmas.

I have barely gotten used to the idea that the leaves on the trees are turning from green to yellow, haven’t even let myself take in the fact that they are going to, you know, FALL OFF the trees and then we’re going to be back in Stick Season again…and then, for no good reason at all, SNOW started pouring from the sky today.


And not just a little bit of snow either. Not just snow as a nice decoration. This was BIG. Huge, fat flakes of snow—honestly the size of baseballs—blowing so hard through the air that they flew  sideways. They were mesmerizing, actually: the kind of snowfall that makes you feel you’re looking through a kaleidoscope of changing shapes, with pieces flying in from all over.

It would have been nice, if—hello!–it not been OCTOBER 18th! This is the time of year when a person is still strolling through apple orchards and bringing home a bushel of Macouns to make apple crisp. We’re still supposed to be picking the very last of the really great tomatoes off the vines. In fact, until last week, I was still going to the beach, and calling it nature’s hospital!

I take this kind of weather personally. I’m from Santa Barbara, a place where the weather knows how to behave year-round, where the earth doesn’t ever give you the sense that all of nature has gotten tired and is heading into darkness. In Santa Barbara, you just know that it could always be 72 perfect degrees outside…and that you yourself could stay young and firm with just a little bit of extra effort. It wouldn’t even be that hard, Santa Barbara whispers to you.

But of course that’s not true. Now that I live in the world of seasons, I have gotten used to the idea that things really do change, that life goes through cycles, that the light green of spring has to become the yellow of autumn, and then has to turn back again. You know, the dark and the light. The great circle of life.

Outside the sky is getting darker earlier every day, and the sunsets are brilliant crimson with huge purple streaks. Eight of the trees in our front yard are already bare, while the dogwood tree in the back yard has turned a lovely copper color and is dropping bright red seeds on the ground. The air smells crisp, the evenings are cool. Some nights lately we’ve made a fire in our fire pit, and sat outside looking at the stars, shoving our hands down into our pockets, pulling our hoods a little tighter.

Our lovely next door neighbor died after a summer of illness. My daughter’s college-age friend is battling cancer and has decided to forego further debilitating treatment now that her tumors have recurred. Another friend is in the hospital awaiting the results of tests. He sits in a room overlooking rooftops and tries to make sense of his symptoms.

I stand and watch the snow falling on the still-green leaves, coating the last great tomatoes.

And slowly, slowly I think I might know what the snow is trying to tell me: Pay attention. Hold onto the moments. Breathe deeply. Look around you. Learn to savor.

And try to remember where you put the mittens at the end of the season last year.