Happy Thanksgiving Meal

My mother brines and dresses the turkey, cramming the cranberry and celery stuffing into the rinsed cavity, and then trussing the legs before placing the bird in the black and white speckled enamel roasting pan.

Percolating coffee on the stove draws me near, and I perch on the kitchen stool next to the stove, watching as the hot water browns more with each eruption into the glass top of the percolator.  I wish my mother would let me drink coffee, but she makes me a weak ‘tea’ out of cinnamon, and sugar in warmed water, with a splash of milk.  She calls it Cambric Tea, although she substitutes cinnamon for tea.

One of my older brothers is washing a mound of potatoes, carrots, and turnips, while my next oldest brother is on peeling duty. Never a turnip lover, I hate that she mixes them with the carrots, but at least she keeps the potatoes on their own.  My sisters will do the mashing later, while my little brother and I squirm in our impatience, and our pleas of when dinner will be ready, is met with ‘every time you ask me that, it will take longer’, by my mother.

Around 1 p.m., relatives begin arriving into the now steamy house.  Most of my cousins are older and don’t pay my little brother and I much attention, but we always eavesdrop on their conversations until told to go away by our older siblings.  Sometimes we get to play Monopoly, or, Life, with my cousins, although, Mouse Trap, is my favorite.  My older brothers consider Mouse Trap a baby game, so usually my little brother and I play that on our own, or with my next oldest sister, but it turns out that, Mouse Trap, is the only game we have they don’t, so we play it several times.

My aunts keep council with my mother in the kitchen, placing the desserts and sides they brought up on the refrigerator – and out of the reach of any hungry marauders, and then they set the main table, while enlisting me and my brother who made the mistake of coming into the kitchen, to set the card tables.  My father and uncles arrange the card tables and the folding chairs they brought, and then retreat to the den for cocktails, while they smoke and watch football.

There is nothing better to me than sitting on the kitchen stool and listening to the laughter and chatter of my mother and aunts.  They fill an otherwise stressful and dreary house with fun and good cheer.  Even my father is approachable as the relatives take his mind off of everyday life too.

Once everything is ready and platters fill out the tables, my father comes in and carves up the turkey.  Then the assembly line of passed plates circles the room until everyone has their dinner in front of them.  My father intones the Thanks-giving prayer over our bowed heads, and then the happy moment of digging in begins.

Dark meat is my favorite, drizzled with the turkey dripping gravy, a pool of which floats in the center of my mashed potatoes.  I manage to feed our dog the carrot and turnip mash, even though she will throw most of it up later from so many helpings of rich food greedily chowed down.

My mother’s cranberry relish is one of my favorite dishes. Most of the cranberries are ground up well, but an unmixed half a cranberry made it through the mixer, so tart I need a mouthful of potato, or a sip of milk to swallow it.  Hot, buttered, rolls steam on the white cloth napkin in their straw basket, and we know that later on, after the adults have retired in the den for talk and more coffee, and we children have finished the dishes, dessert would finally be served.

Pumpkin, Pecan, and Minced Meat pies, cinnamon rolls, and bread pudding with homemade whipped cream.  Even though we are stuffed from dinner, we’ll find room for dessert!

All too soon the relatives begin saying their goodbyes, and proceed out: our uncles and aunts, laden with the card tables, chairs, and extra dishes, followed by our cousins, start down the cement path, the chilled air swirling into the front hall, as my little brother and I call out tearful goodbyes, knowing a bath and bed are soon to follow.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Hospitality – Writing 101, Death To Adverbs Assignment

As for most of us, hospitals evoke a mix of feelings, and my hometown hospital memories reach back to the 1980’s, before it merged with a larger state hospital system, to today, where I’m sipping coffee in the beige-walled, wood-paneled cafeteria, while waiting for my mother’s testing to finish.

The rectangular fluorescent ceiling lighting casts unflattering shadows across the sitting area, while the laminate wood flooring bolsters whatever warmth this institutional setting offers. The square, white, cork board ceiling tiles absorbs some noise, but the clanging of pots and pans from the stainless steel inner kitchen area is still jarring.

A dozen wood-trimmed tables with aqua and tan faux stone tops – looking more like oxidized copper, or some strange chemical spills – block most of the sitting area, with three or four tables offsetting the conformity.

Four dark-grey enameled metal chairs with greenish-blue vinyl seats square each table, with white and black ridged plastic salt and pepper shakers centering each table.

Six greyish-blue column supports divide the room by a third, with local art hung a foot or so apart down each wall – all for sale – while you ponder the cost of your hospital stay.  What’s another four hundred dollars for a nice still-life to remind of you of your ruptured appendix for the rest of your life?

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Red Sweater – Writing 101 – Point Of View

Divorce.  It’s just a word, until it’s happening to you.  Oh, you’ve felt it. You’ve known it since junior high when your best friend’s parents got divorced.  It was like someone getting cancer but not dying. You didn’t know what to say except ‘sorry’, the lamest of words when your friend’s world is falling apart.

Marcia stopped loving me.  It was little things all gathering at the dam, and then it broke, and she didn’t want me anymore.

It felt like she dropped a fucking anvil on my heart off the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building.  Right there, on 5th Avenue, I had my first heart attack – but nothing was wrong with me.  We had been holding hands, and the last thing I remember is an old lady sitting there on one of those wooden camping chairs with the canvas seat, holding out a red sweater. Marcia let go of my hand and I don’t know how I knew, but my heart started pounding like that time we were walking near North Slope and that douche-bag crack-addict pulled out a knife, and I dropped him.  How the hell I did it still awes me, but we got through it – and it was like a war medal. I protected my wife from an attacker – without even really trying.  It almost felt too easy – like whenever we brought it up at parties, I was somehow lying – but I just got lucky.

As lucky as it felt to be Marcia’s husband.  Except I’m not anymore. That old lady must have thought I was some kinda freak after Marcia said she wanted a divorce right there on the street.  On the fucking street!  I’m not a crier, but I did that day, because I knew.  There was no going back.  No reconciliation.  How a crater didn’t open up and swallow me whole is mind-blowing.  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t speak.  I was a fucking gusher right there for the world to see.

The old woman actually told me to move along – something like I was hampering business.

And I did.

My legs carried me into the Empire State Building lobby and I considered buying a ticket and just staying up there to rot, but I somehow got a cab to our friend, Tim Malory’s, down on West Houston.

It’s been a year today.  Some days are better than others, but I’m still here.  It’s true what they say – life goes on.

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Last year, I finally broke away from my go nowhere life.  Jack and I hadn’t been fighting, but life wasn’t happy.  I wasn’t happy.  Life is neutral.  It’s just a thing, ya know?  You gotta make it be what you want or it’s never gonna go anywhere.  Jack and I went out for brunch at the Martinique, and everything was fine.  We were going along.  He always liked holding hands, and I did, even though it wasn’t really me – but it was sweet, right?  He loved me, and I really wanted to love him.

We were walking down 33rd after eating and I had to tell him.  I couldn’t live with myself anymore. I needed more – or different.  I don’t know, ya know?  I just had to tell him.  I let go of his hand  –  a hawker was holding out this horrid red sweater – but I told him right then and there.  I’m awful, I know, I’m awful.  I’m a horrible, terrible person, but I feel so much better – so sue me.

I make it sound easier than it was, because I did love Jack.  I loved his kind heart and his – simplicity.  He reminded me of the country, but I’m a city girl.  City girls don’t do well in the country.

I hope Jack found someone really great.  I do.

I don’t care if I’m single the rest of my life.  I’m happy.  I mean, really happy.  Not everyone belongs with someone, I guess. I hope he’s good.  I really do.  I hope he’s happy too.

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Mavis Staples.  That’s my name, and if you ask me again, I’ll tell you the same.  Oh, hooowee – you know she’s a singer?  Well, good for you, sugar.  It’s still my name.

I’ve been an in-de-pen-dent con-tract-tor for plenty of years now.  I’ve seen plenty.  I know what it’s like to live here for real.  I make my money though, maybe mostly pity funds, but I take it.  I knit, and I find bargains, and sometimes I get a boost in inventory from some of the other in-de-pen-dent con-tract-tors you see here on our street.  We don’t let just anybody sell here.  No, missy.  We’re a family and we look out for each other – mostly.

We’re watchers.  We know who might bite and who probably won’t, but we’re equal opp-or-tun-ity sellers, so we call everybody to look at our inventory.  Yes, missy, we do.

We’ve seen good days, bad days, and all in between.  Once I saw a lover’s quarrel that didn’t let out more than a squeak, but I saw the bottom drop out of that man.  Yes, I did!  I saw his heart dangle there while his woman’s eyes remained dry.  Dry!  I wish my red sweater could have held his poor heart – or stopped hers – oh, yes!, I mean that sin-cere-ly.  I had to tell him to move on by.  He needed direction, and I gave it to him straight!  “I’m doing business here, you move on down the street.”

He looked just like a little lost puppy.  Yes, missy, he did.  I felt bad for him, but I gotta make a living, and I knew he’d be okay.  Not that day, but he would.  He just needed some direction.  But her, she brought that cool breeze in, and it buffeted him all the way to the Empire State!  I wouldn’t let her sell on our street.  No, missy, I would not.

Now, are you going to buy something, or do I have to move you along too?

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Writing 101 – Give & Take – Contrasted Dialogue

“I twinkle, and sparkle, and rarely run out of light.”

“Unless someone un-plugs you, whereas, I, keep burning into the night, and my glow varies from soft and low, to high and flickering.”

“Until you run out of wick!.  I don’t have a wick, and all someone has to do is replace a bulb every once in a while, while you have to be replaced entirely.  It’s clear that I’m superior.”

“Superior?  How many people replace the bulb – if they can even find the culprit?  A person sees my remains clearly, and I’m so popular that more of my kind are bought every day than your ilk could ever hope to attain!  Not only that, but I’ve been used since people discovered that fat can burn – what’s your heritage?”

“We come from more distinguished minds than ‘fat-burners’ – ha, you’re more like drool-wipers.  If you call that sophistication, then you’re clearly deluded – and speaking of clear, my lineage includes colors, blinking brights, steady, reliable illumination that replaced your kind pretty soon after the knuckle-walkers left caves.”

“Maybe you high-tech air-sniffers with all your fancy gadgetry wow some, but we still dominate at the heart, where love, and poetry, and art – the very seat of the soul – lives!”

“Oh ho! Seat of the soul?  We inspire too!  We are used more often, in more places than…”

“Heh, heh, I guess you just got shut down, los…”

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“Goodnight honey.”

“Goodnight dear.”

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.