It is Friday for history lessons; it is Saturday for gratitude.
Traditions, what are they? How do they miss me so? Sunk in my impulsivity, bound with convention, missing a sequence, longing for order, I spend Thanksgiving day paddling pumpkin through a sieve and chopping sage and thyme beautifully. The turkey goes into the oven at 4; I mash potatoes at 8. I cannot pull Everett away from Minecraft, and Monroe sits on the table eating turkey with his fingers. It is not the Thanksgiving dinner I'd envisioned.
The turkey -- a Parisian recipe, greatly modified but true to mode and style, stuffed with pork and liver and cream -- is delicious, enormous, moist. I have achieved a pinnacle here, though who will know? Not these boys, who simply say that it is delicious and have neither frame of reference nor delicacy of discernment to tell. They eat it, if they eat it, and gratefully eat leftovers too. The stuffing, celeriac and sweet onion and mushroom and carefully-crumbed baguette -- it's something else, it's rare and wild, and only I eat it. The gravy is glossy and smooth. The cranberry sauce, spiked with green walnut liqueur, spiced with vanilla and nutmeg, sparked with Palestine sweet limes, shows balance, sweetness, bitter. A masterpiece.
They are biking in circles around the house, through the living room and dining room and kitchen, tight corners and half-circles and screeches and glee, when I stop them to show the map. "This is India," I say, "where Columbus thought he was."
"They had a rough winter," I say, "they didn't have enough to eat."
"Later," I say, "ironically, the Pilgrims took all their land away."
"We wouldn't celebrate it regularly for 200 years."
More than a sentence is what I will leave, then; more like Sarah Josepha Hale, I will doggedly and redundantly issue my speeches, pretty and impassioned too. As they fall asleep, instead of Harry Potter Four I give them gratitude. "For Clio?" I ask Monroe. "Is he what you're thankful for?"
"Yes: I am glad I haven't lost Clio. He's my stuffed animal pet."
It is a beautiful Black Friday and I do not shop. Instead, I wash dishes and make large messy piles of papers into smaller, neater, more necessary ones. I arrange dry leaves and pine boughs into a centerpiece; I clean the kitchen stove. I take deep breaths and when they make me cough I still fold the laundry and tell myself that it is not true that I hate laundry, and I cough and cough until I gag. When I carry the neatly folded clothes and towels and sheets upstairs I am thrilled and thankful for my large-capacity washer and my soft organic towels and my wool socks and my dry basement and my refrigerator full of delicious leftovers. I am grateful for the future, when I will have finished the organizing of papers and had a ceiling put up in the kitchen and sanded and refinished my splintery fir floors and ridded my bedroom of its hoary, choking horsehair insulation and put up new walls and a closet and found a smooth platform bed that does not have little nails sticking out of it to snag my wool socks and pierce the elbows of jumping-then-falling children. I am grateful for what I have and I am grateful in prospect.
That year, when I have finished the bedroom and filed my papers and polished the floors and put in new kitchen cabinets, I will invite everyone over to Thanksgiving dinner, I will put the turkey in the oven before noon, I will have the boys make paper crafts and I will sit with a tired smile on my face at the dining table and we will say, all one at a time and without screaming or bike-riding, what we are grateful for, and it will be something to be thankful for, indeed.