As befits the season, I filled the trunk with firewood the other morning and then raced off on some other errands while the firewood warmed in the sun-kissed car. By the time I was back, the old Camaro smelled like a cabin in New Hampshire.
Back home, I unloaded the firewood but left a couple of cedar logs in the trunk for future flavoring.
And so begins another Thanksgiving, a holiday so well-scented it can cover up the most stubborn smells we know: dogs and children.
Posh has already started flavoring the house. A devoted cook, she began the side dishes in August. She does this thing with Brussels sprouts that’s almost sexual – butter, onion and bacon. That dish alone wipes out any little shred of Puritanism this country had left.
Last weekend, she was thumping open this cupboard and that, looking for where she hid the turkey baster. It was like the first faint sounds of an approaching marching band. I like the acoustic sonority of all that. I like Thanksgiving.
To Easterners of a certain age, this time of year will always be associated with the late-November grimness of President John F. Kennedy’s funeral. Things die now: trees, seasons, hope. The pond on the edge of the woods begins to freeze over. Entire portions of the country go numb. People resort to watching dog shows.
Not so much in California, where Thanksgiving is usually bright, though the shards of sunlight blast in from different angles and the shadows are darker and long as a first down. If anything, Californians suffer from too much sun, which overcooks the land and dries our hearts. Not in November. In November, the sun is just right.
“Hey, go fetch some acorns,” I tell the little guy.
“We’ll throw some on the fire,” I say.
What an odd holiday, Thanksgiving. It’s the only party where the guest of honor shows up naked and headless. Each year, like America itself, our turkey gets a few pounds bigger. We can barely get the bird through the door anymore – it takes three grown men with a crane. Our turkey could feed Turkey.
Once inside, the overweight guest will rest on the counter awhile, as if for a viewing or a wake. In late morning, Posh will smear it with butter. Bam ... the oven door closes. Bam ... the marching band has passed.
Over the years, Thanksgiving has become so rich, so social, so feastly that it has even inspired spinoffs.
Ever hear of Friendsgiving? Our daughters celebrate Friendsgiving with their best buddies, an additional feast before or after the traditional family feast.
A Friendsgiving is Thanksgiving with no baggage, no family tensions, no aging relatives you fear might expire right there on the couch. At Friendsgiving, no one sits in judgment over that awful spiced bourbon you love or the pajamas you wear to the table or the ribald nature of the conversation.
“It’s just a way of adding more meals,” one daughter explains, though I suspect Friendsgiving is more than that.
The origin of Friendsgiving is unclear, but some trace it to the sitcom “Friends,” which millennials mistook for a documentary. They liked the show because the cast members hardly ever worked and eventually all slept with one another. From this, we now have Tinder.
At their first Friendsgiving of the season, none of my daughter’s friends knew how to prepare a turkey, so they ordered El Pollo Loco. All I can think is that it’s a good thing her grandmother is already dead, because that alone might have killed her.
Other than takeout chicken, the guests all brought side dishes they’d seen their mothers make. From what I hear, one old family recipe was spiced with that special herb the kids love so much. Call it Oregon oregano. Wonder what Grandma would have thought of that? Giggle, giggle.
I’m not advocating this, of course, nor am I sitting in judgment. On Thanksgiving, every family is its own reality show. I’ve spent too many Thanksgivings when the amount of Scotch consumed could’ve filled Lake Superior and all the adults ended up higher than the Hancock Building. The day wasn’t over till a punch was thrown, often by the hostess. It was so awful we made sure to do it every year.
So go forth, young Filgrims. Enjoy all your Friendsgivings. Fill your bellies. Let these days be full of joy.