Friday, November 17, 2006

Turkey Time

I know it's almost a week away, but I want to share this special Thanksgiving piece I wrote a few years ago. Those of us who wax nostalgic over holidays can't get enough of this stuff. :-)

There's an old Thanksgiving song that starts out, "Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go..."

When I was a child, my Dad would break into that song as we crossed the Pennsylvania border into West Virginia on our annual pilgrimage to celebrate the Holiday with his family. "The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, through the white and drifting snow..."

The closer we got to his childhood home, the heavier his foot rested on the gas pedal as our Chevy station wagon climbed the hills on twisting roads and flew on the downside. His rich baritone voice belted the song, and in my imagination we were on that sleigh behind dapple grays in their rhythmic trot. I could hear the clump of their hooves and feel the blowing snow bite my cheeks as we were carried along.

It was magic, pure and simple. A magic that continued for the few days that we stayed in that 'otherworld.'

Today as those memories float pleasantly through my mind, I can almost smell the wonderful aromas of sage dressing, pumpkin pie, and mulled cider that permeated my grandmother's house. And I can hear the bustle of activity accompanied by short bursts of conversation among the women in the kitchen. The front bedroom is where the men gathered and brought out instruments. Their music became another soundtrack.

My brothers, sisters, and I would join other cousins in the back bedroom in between our numerous trips outside. Our biggest challenge was to see who could roll down the hill and retain the most amount of snow, turning ourselves into living snowpeople. The second biggest challenge was to see who would have the honor of receiving the drumsticks. They were doled out on a 'merit' system based loosely on which of us waited the most patiently for the great announcement, "Dinner's Ready."

In the early years of married life I found it a formidable task to create Thanksgiving Days that would live in a similar glory for my children.

We were living in Texas, so mountains and snow were out of the question, and my signing never could quite match my father's. I didn't possess even a tenth of the culinary skills of my grandmother and my aunts, so the meal would probably be lacking. And we were more than a thousand miles away from cousins to help distract my children from their impatience.

But despite those limits, we managed to muddle through. I did manage a passable dinner and my husband actually raved about the German dressing. The pies were a major hit, all ten of them, and everyone was willing to eat the broccoli for the promise of a second piece of pie. And after cheering the Dallas Cowboys to another victory, most years, we would all tumble outside for a family game of touch-football.

In sifting through all these random memories now, I realize that the memory itself is not what is important. What is, is the fact that we have memories and they don't happen by accident. No matter what we do to 'mark' these important occasions, it is vital that we do 'mark' them. Even if our process doesn't live up to a Martha Stewart image or our own fond remembrances of childhood.

So here's to our memories, no matter how we create them.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Shall we Vote

Don’t you just love elections and campaigns and politicians? Someone must think we do because the media is blasting us with news reports, opinions, and paid advertising that is somehow supposed to help us make a decision come next Tuesday. The problem is there is so much spin in politics these days it’s hard for the average voter to sift through and find the truth. Or anything even resembling the truth.

Here in Texas we have a jokester, a grandma, the incumbent Republican, a Democrat with high hopes, and a Libertarian who hasn’t a snowball’s chance of winning, vying for the top state office. When the campaign first started I decided I would vote for the candidate who refrained from making the election about how bad the other guy is and make it about what the people of Texas need in a state leader.

Oh, but I forgot. Politics is all about power and making sure your party has control of said power. Oops! I guess that leaves the people somewhere out in the cold. Hello. Here we are. Can you hear us?

Partisan politics is so entrenched in government that I don’t even remember all the good reasons the two-party system was developed. I remember I learned that in Civics a hundred years ago, but the last twenty years of campaigns has obscured all the positives and highlighted the negatives.

So here I am less than a week from Election Day, and I have no idea who is going to get a nod from me for governor of this great state of Texas. (Oops, those political ads just imprint on the brain sometimes.)

If I go by my original plan, I’d have to vote for the Libertarian. I don’t think he has said anything nasty about the other candidates. Actually, I don’t know what he has said because the man gets next to zero media coverage. Which is too bad, really. He might actually have something worth hearing.

My husband doesn’t vote. Hasn’t for years from when he got fed up with the status quo of political behavior. It’s awful tempting to follow his lead. Just leave the mess alone. But then I’ll be loosing sight of another lesson I learned in Civics lo those many years ago. We have a responsibility to vote, even when we are disillusioned and think the whole system is in the crapper. What would happen if we all decided not to vote?