There's been a fair amount of activity in our home these past few days.
My sister came with her three children. Of course I must sound partial as an auntie, but they are truly amazing kids. Incredibly smart, incredibly sweet, incredibly cute.
Way to go, Katrina.
Of the greatest blessings in life, one is surely the gift of children. If not your own, then someone else's...just the pleasure of their company, watching them grow, seeing the world through their eyes.
This one is named Jack and he melts my heart. He has always been a little shy around me but with this visit we became fast friends. He's only 2 1/2 yet speaks very clearly and has for the past year or so. One afternoon he came looking for me and when he found me I said, "What do you need, Jack?"
And he said, simply, "YOU."
Then he climbed on my lap and talked to me for about an hour until he fell asleep.
You cannot measure my happiness in having him around. That goes for all my nieces and nephews...and of course my own girls, too.
They each have such distinct personalities, yet I see in them some glimpse of my siblings--a strange, familiar connection to old memories, some distant, wild rumpus which came down from the northland and still echoes through the trees.
One morning Jack got up and went outside. When he came back in the house my husband asked, "Is it cold out there?"
His response: "Not the air I was breathing, but underneath my feet it was."
Thanksgiving Day was lovely. This is the first Thanksgiving I've hosted...well, that's not entirely true. This is the first American Thanksgiving I've hosted. Eighteen people, with the ratio of children to adults seeming to escalate as the night wore on.
Did it make me reconsider my religious abstinence of booze?
For one fleeting moment, perhaps. But don't worry. I'm pretty good at teetotaling and feeling the room spin anyway.
It turns out there's a few logistics to laying out a feast properly. It starts with realizing you're the mom and if you don't make it happen, no one else will. Holy cow. Will someone please help me uncurl from my fetal position??
That news came as a bit of a shock to my system.
But I nailed the trifecta, namely: a pretty table, an exotic dish no one but me, my sister, and sister-in-law enjoyed, and, of course, addictive gravy.
The table: an homage to the woodland creatures of my childhood. Who better to share one's feast with than some darling, feral varmints?
The exotic dish? Why, cranberry chutney, of course. A concoction requiring me to crush ten whole cloves with the flat of my blade (I believe they said knife, but I'm saying blade).
When I read that step in the recipe, I practically shouted eureka! I knew it was the dish for me.
But don't forget what I told you about cloves, dear reader. Don't think you can use them without them using you back. Don't think you can go to sleep at night and not expect a knock on the door, and that a lone clove won't be standing there with a baseball bat, calling in a favor.
Oh, and it's never a lone clove. There's always more in the bushes.
A word about my gravy. Some people deal habit forming drugs. I deal habit forming gravy. What can I tell you? I've been brewing it since I was three. It makes the wild caribou I bring down with my bare hands just that much more palatable.
My sister-in-law went to bed that night dreaming about my gravy. The next morning she texted me to ensure there was enough for leftovers and to provide her with a straw when she returned for lunch. For the next few days, everything she ate was drizzled in gravy, including the pie.
Last night, my brother called me in a panic, asking how to make gravy.
I was all: Tim, that's like me asking you how to perform surgery. I cannot distill in one moment wisdom which took me a lifetime to glean.
But then I distilled it because I remembered the wild look in Maddi's eyes.
Don't worry, Maddi. One of these days I'm going to build a factory and in it there will be a river which churns gravy. Piping hot, savory gravy of the perfect taste and consistency which goes to the very pleasure core of one's brain. And I will give you a super long straw so you don't have to lean over to drink because I've already reviewed the worst case scenario of that situation and trust me, it's not pretty.
The weekend wore on and there was a surprise appearance by my brother, Matt. This is the brother we rarely see because he's always off in India doing something much too brilliant for me to try and explain.
There was one darling girl and her many darling outfits.
There were easy moments of laying around, watching movies, visiting, and napping.
There was one essential run in the desert wherein nothing could have kept up with me or my thoughts.
There was a trip to a store my sister rarely has a chance to visit. It was filled with Christmasy things, with exotic candies and objects from around the world.
Cousins kept track of cousins, each thrilled with his/her part of the bargain.
And it went on like this: hanging around, enjoying one another's company, occasionally telling the kids not to put jelly beans in the hot tub, wondering if they'd smuggled an elephant upstairs.
Baking cookies just because Jack's eyes lit up when I suggested it, making me feel like the most brilliant auntie in the whole wide world.
Tell me you wouldn't make a zillion cookies for this face. I bet you're mixing the butter and sugar as we speak.
And this morning, suddenly, everyone is gone. The house is quiet, but in a way it still feels full. I haven't been out to survey the hot tub yet...would it surprise you to know I'll be disappointed if it's not a fine, Eastery egg shade of purple?