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To be exact, it is a 13.68 pound turkey.

Thanksgiving is this week and we are furiously working on the insurance inventory of our house that burned. Turkey has scooted through our minds every now and again but mostly it is spread sheets. It is not quite Christmas when visions of sugar plums dance in our heads. It is more like sugar bowls. And sugar spoons. And sugar in a bag. And flour that sat beside it.

As we plod our way toward recovery from the fire that consumed our home, it can be easy to get caught up in recording the past and not noticing the present or the future. The whole business of living is off kilter. You spend your days in the past and then at night you spend your time in the present sometimes worrying about the future.

When you are on task, documenting what was before the fire, looking up prices, scouring for electronic receipts and generally telling yourself that you have to stay the task, it means that the cookies have to stay in the kitchen without you. The remembering, scouring and recording are hard but the only really hard part is ignoring the cookies. As you struggle to remember the cost of shipping that sofa all you can hear is “Cookie, cookie, cookie.” You find yourself typing 1 Cookie Couch, purchased at the Cookie store, November 2011…..whoops, Broyhill Couch purchased at the Broyhill store, Cookie, 2011. . .

Phooey. Try that again. One Cookie..COUCH purchased at the Broyhill Store, November, 2011. “Cookie, hush, I cannot hear myself think.” OK, next item. One ottoman with nail-head,oatmeal and raisin trim. ACKKKKK. “COOKIES, HUSH!.” One antique mirror, circa 1790. Purchased in Westfield, NH, 1998 for $39.00 and a cookie. I want to lean over the railing of the loft office looking toward the kitchen and give the cookies a mighty yelp to hush.

Cookies aside, we did not really think about cooking Thanksgiving dinner since it is just the two of us. We decided not to do the big family thing this year. We love our family but we would have to travel to them and one thing that the fire has done is make us tired. Everyone understood. We have big family plans for Christmas so we are all looking forward to that. This year we will have a small Thanksgiving dinner attended by a thirteen pound turkey, two people and one very anxious dog who promises to take care of any turkey problems we might have.

Many years ago, for nearly a decade, we had as our guest every other Thanksgiving a friend from Africa. The Thanksgiving visits were organized around a biannual business trip. Each of these Thanksgivings were unique and there are great stories from the times we spent together.The first visit was momentous. Our friend and I had only meet over the Internet and my spouse was not even involved in that. While these sorts of things are no so unusual now days, this was 20 years ago when the Internet was used by only a few. In the ensuring years we have looked back on how we experienced that first visit with the laughter only friends for 20 years can have.

We decided as a cultural event to honor our guest to have a full Thanksgiving dinner. That was when we lived in New England far from our families but our friends came. Being in New England we learned in earnest what Thanksgiving was about. The was a deadly seriousness to the “jellied or whole” cranberry dispute. Yams or sweet potatoes had a similar lethal edge and that was before you got to the discussion of whether or not there should be marshmallows and if yes, should those marshmallows be mini ones sprinkled over the whole or big ones positioned on each potato bit and left to brown on the top and ooze over the sides. Thanksgiving and food marched, lockstep, together.

We belonged to the Dartmouth Food Co-op. It was a great store. There were many locally sourced foods. Freshness reached a whole new level living on the border of one of the original locally sourced food places, Vermont. The ladies who shopped in the Co-op grasped their grocery carts with the same fierceness as brides-to-be targeted wedding dresses at the annual $99 sale at Filenes. I learned you don’t get between a Vermonter with a shopping cart and their turkey. Vermonters were the more laid back of the crowd. Those from New Hampshire, the granite state with a motto of “Live Free or Die,” seem to be made of sterner stuff than the Vermonters with a State motto of “Freedom and Unity.”

At Thanksgiving, in New England, food is serious stuff regardless of the state you hail from.

Our friend told us he wanted pumpkin pie. He had read about it and thought it was most important to experience as part of his visit to “America.” I thought “make pie out of pumpkin (from a can),” he thought, “Make pumpkin pie from a pumpkin.” Like any good Vermonter, we went straight to the source of the pumpkin with no intervening can.

Having never made a pumpkin pie from a pumpkin I had no idea if you needed a little one or a huge one. I could only guess based on having eaten winter squash. Reasoning on the fact that there was a lot of space inside of a winter squash and a lot of space in a couple of pie pans, I got an enormous pumpkin. There we were, standing at my kitchen island staring at this enormous pumpkin. I had to look like I did this every Thanksgiving and he had to look like it did not scare him to see a woman in an apron with a huge knife staring at an enormous pumpkin. I don’t remember how the pies turned out, probably not all that well, but I do remember the roasted pumpkin seeds we made. They were delicious and a wondrous food to our friend. Years later when each of us traveled thousands of miles from our respective points on the globe to attend the same meeting, I took a little bag of pumpkin seeds I roasted for him. It was hard explaining my way through customs but I made it and the seeds were a shared treat.

This Thanksgiving we will skip the pumpkin. My spouse called from the grocery store and asked if we wanted a turkey. Honestly, I had forgotten to think about it. I was not thinking about turkey at all. Just inventories and cookies.

I was glad he thought of it. I said, “Sure, we should have a turkey.” He told me they were all 20 pounds and that was a lot of turkey. I reminded us both that one of the kitchen replacement items we had gotten after the fire was a roaster. What an exciting thought. We had a roaster! That clinched the deal. We had to have a turkey. As it turned out, he found a 13 pound one that will grace our roaster well.

This Thanksgiving we have a lot to be thankful for. We are thankful for our roaster. We are thankful to have a roof over our heads even if it is a temporary home with green shag carpet and harvest gold appliances. We are thankful that all of the people who were in the fire and who fought the fire were safe.  Most of all we have our lives to be thankful for. It remains to be seen how the cranberry debate will turn out.


photo of table set for Thanksgiving dinner

This is a photo of that first Thanksgiving dinner we shared with our friend from Africa. I view it with wistfulness both for the love and laughter shared around that table and for the things on it. The table cloth was over a hundred years old and belonged to my spouses grandmother as did the water goblets. The china and silver originated with us. The wine glasses were special gifts. The antique wooden trencher (bowl) was hand carved of maple and had charring on one side of it where it sat too close to the fire. The chairs were two of 5 that we collected at Bill Smith’s Auction. They were over 100 years old and still had their original rush seats. The little rectangular box to the left of the trencher held clay marbles. The box was a the toy of a child over a century ago.