24 November 2011

The Nutcracker Ballet: Arrival of Drosselmeyer

The mincemeat pie went in the oven at 6:45 am. The pumpkin pie followed at 7:15 am. That was the flow of my day.

By 10 am, the turkey had been wrangled, stuffed, into the waiting oven. The cat sat on the bar stool nearest and kept careful watch on the bird. Just in case it should jump up on its trussed legs and try to run away.

The grandparents, bearing gifts and appetizers, arrived a little after noon.

The son peeled potatoes and mixed green bean casserole. The daughter formed and set the cloverleaf rolls to rise.

The gravy boiled and boiled and boiled.

Talk and football ebbed and flowed from the family room. The usual fuss was made that I was working too hard. A bigger fuss was made about my back. I waved them off.

By 2 pm, both ovens were hard at work, filled with casseroles and bread and turkey. The gravy boiled.

I mashed potatoes, and gave plates from my wedding china to the daughter to put on dining room table. The crystal sparkled. The gravy boiled.

Wine was poured and blessings were said as I bustled to and from the kitchen with hot dishes. Finally, everything was on the table, and I sat. Toasts were made and bread was passed and broken. The grandparents opined that they were very fortunate that they had our calm and quiet little house to visit for the meal (they were also invited to a larger and far less intimate gathering but chose us instead). I watched as everyone ate the meal I'd spent the day working on, trading the salt for the butter, asking for refills of gravy, or another turkey leg, celebrating the daughter's rolls and the son's green beans.

Food is nourishment, but a meal, thoughtfully prepared, is an act of love. I am not patting myself on the back; this is a communal effort and this year, putting dinner together was also an act of will, but I feel the press of time. Every year, I am faced with the realization there may not be another meal like this; next year, the son is likely to be elsewhere, and my in-laws are octogenarians. But every year that I cook Thanksgiving dinner is a fixed point in time, immutable, a point where we are all together, making the same silly jokes ("clink the glasses!" my mother-in-law always says gleefully), eating the same basic meal, a moment when neither the past nor the future figures, no matter our ages or whether the gravy was thick or thin.

And I watched the assembled company raising glasses filled with the wine my father-in-law brought or sparkling apple cider, and I was conscious of that moment, of what I'd created, of what we'd all created together as a family, and I was thankful.

Go listen to some good music: "The Nutcracker Ballet: Arrival of Drosselmeyer" from the album Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker performed by Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker. For those unfamiliar with the ballet, Drosselmeyer is a magician.

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