Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Live to see another Thanksgiving

    Why yes, I am proud to have snapped this not-all-that-bad photo of a Cooper's Hawk Sunday at the Chicago Botanic Garden with my iPhone 8, not a device well-suited to taking pictures of birds on the wing at a distance.
     And yes, I would like to spend this entire post musing on hawks, and their various splendors and glories. While recognizing that it might not really be a Cooper's Hawk*; I have a tendency to call every hawk I see a Cooper's Hawk.
     But I'm not going to do that, discuss hawks, I mean.
     I can't do that.
     Because of you.
     That is assuming you're one of those people who are actually gathering for a big traditional Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday, despite there being a Level 3 Code Red Emergency Pandemic Alert, or whatever they call it, because you've already bought the turkey or you always have a big Thanksgiving and people expect it and you just can't imagine missing Thanksgiving dinner even if your life depends on it which it may very well.
    I know. Tradition and family and expectation.
    Well boo-fucking-hoo.
     You think I don't miss Thanksgiving? We had 27 people at our house last year. Twenty-seven. My sister came in from Texas. My parents came in from Colorado. We made two turkeys, one roasted, one deep-fried, because one turkey just isn't enough.  We always make two turkeys. So yes, tradition. 
     You know how many people we're having over this year? None. Sure it's stressful. My wife is making a full Thanksgiving meal anyway, complete with a 14 pound turkey, due to ... I don't know, muscle memory. Which isn't quite Miss Havisham in her wedding dress. But in the realm. You know what I said when she asked me what we should eat this year? I said, "Swanson TV dinners. The frozen is just as good as the real." An homage to "Broadway Danny Rose" and sincere expression of the who-gives-a-fuckism that has been getting me through the past eight surreal-if-not-nightmarish months in this country.
     And you see how well that worked. Big turkey. Gravy. Stuffing, Sweet potatoes. Green bean casserole. Some kind of carrot salad and God knows what else. Homemade cranberry relish. 
     So we're going to make this enormous spread and get it on the table and sit down and just look at each other. No guests at all. Nor did we accept any of the invitations to have Thanksgiving dinner anywhere else. Not with my brother. Not with our son studying across the country. And do you know why? Because we don't wanna die. We wanna live to have a better Thanksgiving next year. It wasn't even a decision. It was the biggest no-brainer of all time.
     Returning to hawks. You know how I was able to sneak up close enough to get that quasi-good shot of the hawk? Because he was focused on a squirrel, which was standing still, as frozen as a squirrel ever is, whispering whatever squirrel prayer squirrels say when a hawk is bearing down on them. Because we live in a natural world where hawks hunt squirrels, and eat them for lunch, if the squirrel is not careful and often even if it is. Where the predator swoops in on the breeze and carries you off, from hawks to viruses, and neither care that it's your special holiday. COVID-19 moves from host to host without giving a rat's ass whether it's Thanksgiving or not.
     I'm not writing this to upbraid you. Well, yes, I am. But there's more to it. I'm actually passing along a useful, thoughtful, spiritual idea. Which makes this the blog version of Hints from Heloise, to date myself. A warm, loving suggestion which, needless to say, did not originate from me. The extended family was communicating our general agreement that we were not getting within throwing distance of one another this Thanksgiving when my sister-in-law said yes, yes, that notwithstanding, she'd still like to bake pies for everyone, as a way to off-gas all the goodness in her heart, and to keep her pie-baking muscles limber and what kind of pies would we like? And I put in my order—pecan please—and manfully restrained myself from adding, "...and pumpkin and sour cherry, if possible. Plus chess. And key lime." Then I spent a few minutes thinking about the pie I'd be getting, and then an alien, unfamiliar, completely uncharacteristic thought came to me, like a stranger edging into a vast, empty hall, raising a finger and clearing his throat.
     "You know..." the thought went. "The stuffing I'm making for Edie and I .... the trademark challah stuffing ... I could ... I suppose ... in the same away Janice is making a half dozen extra pies .... could, without the expenditure of too much extra effort, really ... make MORE stuffing, by using extra ingredients ... and put that additional stuffing into those little square aluminum tins, and when I go to her house, to collect my pie (or, ideally, pies) I could leave a few tins behind, for her and her family, and other members of the extended clan, who could get their care packages of stuffing, the stuffing they always eat at Thanksgiving, and enjoy my primo perfected over a quarter century stuffing instead of whatever sucking-pebbles-in-the-desert stand-in for my stuffing that they would cobble together on their own.
     I examined that idea, blinking, surprised. That came from me? With inspiration from my sister-in-law, of course. A boost over the wall. But still. My idea.
     And it felt ... nice.
     So if instead of getting together, and getting each other sick, as millions of Americans seem to be doing because they're dumb as dirt and their lives are forfeit, you could adopt the patented Janice Live Through the Holidays Strategy and safely swap homemade foodstuffs. It seemed an idea worth sharing. I know there's only 48 hours until Thanksgiving, and you might have to scramble. But heck, that should be plenty of time, so get to it. 
     And, if not, well, I tried.

* It isn't. Tony Fitzpatrick tells me it is a red-tailed hawk, and if there's anybody who knows his birds, it's Tony. 


  1. Great plan. I'm sending this column, along with an article about how just one test is not a guarantee you are not contagious, to a friend who will be flying to Texas to have dinner with his son.
    I don't want to be too hard on him so I refrained from the "part of the problem vs. part of the solution" lecture.

  2. Yes home, just the 4 of us who live here. My wife seems to be cooking for the usual 20 and I'm not going to say a word. I know she needs to.

  3. Great move! I will surprise the wife with a batch of stuffing, her favorite, for Thanksgiving.
    Even more of a surprise, it'll probably happen the weekend after!

    Happily holidays to all you goddamn people.

  4. Beautiful idea. There is not one thing I make that is share-worthy...but I love this idea of spreading joy. My kids are SO near...but we will content ourselves with a drive-bye and wave. Maybe I can locate coloring books and crayons to occupy them. Pretty soon, you are going to lose your curmudgeon reputation.

  5. Many young people are dismissing the threat on grounds that if they get it they probably wont die. All true, but my own viral experience suggests it's not that simple. A few years back I was hauled to the hospital with chest pains and diagnosed with congestive heart failure, caused the doctors said, by a virus. A debilitating condition that is treatable with a bunch of expensive medications but uncurbable. One side effect has been fluid in the lungs causing bouts of pulmonary
    distress severe enough to convince me that ending up up on a ventilator fighting for breath, the usual course of Covid 19 casualty, is not a good way to go.

    On the separate matter of word coining, will "who gives a fuckism," you think make it into the OED?


    1. Tom -- FWIW, there was an expression popular in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) that is almost an exact translation: Je m'en foutisme. It was uttered to express the frustration in living in one of the world's most corrupt nations.

  6. The other day I saw a meme that said something like, "Either have a Zoom Thanksgiving or an ICU Christmas." It was illustrated by a photo of a face-down, intubated patient in a COVID ward. Very convincing, for me at least.

  7. Haven't seen my wife's family in almopst a year now, but someone in my neighborhood, whom I've never even met (except at a messageboard) has offered to drop off two complete home-cooked turkey dinners with all the fixins...southern style (she's from Georgia). Black-eyed peas and collard greens and the whole Confederate megillah. Should be interesting.

    What makes this so extra-special is that she was a red Kool-Aid drinker, who duked it out with me online for several years. But the Plague enlightened her.(she's a bartender who's grown extremely tired of anti-distancing and partying and drunken maskholes). And she hates Trump now. Either she wants to bury the hatchet, or she just pities an old geezer and his wife. Now we can freeze or save everything we bought...until Christmas.

    If individuals can mend fences and cease hostilities, and perhaps become friends, maybe there's still some hope for the teeming millions. Or...cynic that I am...maybe she's just trying to poison me.

  8. My parents have been married 56 years, and this will be the first time they have spent Thanksgiving by themselves. Mom is still making a full traditional dinner, muscle memory indeed, just a lot less. I've decided eff it, and have fun with the menu. Venison as a nod to the original Thanksgiving and popcorn, toast, and jelly beans from Charlie Brown. Some normal sides to round it out, and I think we'll have a good feast.
    i wish everyone a happy and especially safe holiday.

  9. Ha, I made the same wisecrack about Swanson's TV Dinners (turkey) to my wife. She was also not amused. We are, however, celebrating Thanksgiving with just the two of us anyway. Turkey legs in the crockpot, I believe. It'll be fine.

  10. If we are honest, most of us consider any turkey dinner other than our original family fare as unsatisfying as a Swanson's. My fathers dry dressing, consisting of stale and toasted white bread, sauted onion, chopped crisp bacon and sage, is still the standard for me. His homemade gravy was the perfect compliment. If you saw the tiny '50s tract house stove that prepared dinner for 15-20, you would be amazed.


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.