Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving accomplished. We won.

The slump is history. Now we shall slink into December with all its shimmering promises of a celestial wintertime beauty. Okay, it's Southern California. Let's not overstate things. I'm dreaming of a brown Christmas.

But we're feeling good, now. Nothing like piling on the relatives in close quarters and jamming food and wine down their throats to upturn recent melancholies and kickstart the prevailing mood. Seriously now, pull all the big tables together and throw a large sheet over it. Light some candles. Make the kids sit somewhere else. It's Thanksgiving.

One of my nephews, who is eight, announced that he would like to start a family Thanksgiving tradition. Hooray! we all said, and the new tradition was that we should go around and each state what we were thankful for. Brilliant! So we did. But everyone said essentially the same thing: that we were thankful for each other, that we were thankful for family, and that we were thankful that my mom was there and feeling better and looking good. (Also, it was mentioned, immense spontaneous gratitude for not having any homework this weekend. Praise be.)

I would have thanked my mom for having six kids so that we could all have so much family to enjoy and be grateful for, but then I realized that that might put a certain undue pressure on my wife and I -a pressure we could never withstand. And then it made me want to thank my mom all the more.

There were the usual two turkeys cooked by the usual two turkeys, my brothers-in-law. One bird was fried, one roasted, and the two turkeys cooking them remained mostly sober. They were, all of them, excellent company, and the tasty meat was just left out on two platters where, like some sort of strange, holiday vultures, we picked at it until midnight and then again this morning over coffee.

The women are out shopping now, and the men are down at the park playing ball. I am here alone with the baby, who sleeps, which is a good and necessary thing, though it is a sickly kind of sleep. I have a laptop out on the patio, and I am sipping a "Bud Lime" before noon, trying to think up a clever retort when someone calls me on it. Hey, I'm relaxing -let's all try it! Anyway, Mrs. Ditchman (and I, by extension) were up all night with that sick crying kid. It feels like 5PM on a Saturday, so a Bud Lime is in order. Why Bud Lime? Don't know. It was here, in a cooler, a few feet from me. Why not?

The clan held the annual ornament exchange last night, and it was the usual Black Friday Eve riot. It must be seen to be believed, but if you haven't heard the story, my family goes all out on this event. Everyone buys and wraps an ornament -some fantastically ornate, some gaudy and obnoxious- and we put them all on a table and draw numbers out of hat. Number 1 goes first, and all successive numbers retain the option to steal any previously-opened ornament, or choose a fresh one. Sounds fun, until you realize that families work deviously together, teaming up to purloin the good ones, retreating into dimly lit corners to plan out a strategy to obtain that Tiffany icicle or that dangling seahorse -the one blown from European glass by Bavarian artisans. It gets way out of hand, which is the entire point, and everyone is a good sport about it. Ornaments are only allowed to be stolen three times before they are considered "dead", so there is a lot of horse-trading and illicit wrangling to get the good items off the market. (You should know that exceptions are made for the innocent ones. The Little Ditchman got her hands on a blinking, singing set of waxy, hanging polar bears and she held it in such high regard, with a steady gaze of such adoration, that no one would dare think to steal it. She won.)

I have left the game with good ornaments in years past, but was fully shut out this year, having had one after another stolen and killed. It was I who ended the event last night by opening the last gift. I still maintain a change in the constitutional rule, that after the last person goes the first gets a chance to steal, but none will have it. I'm not sure why no one will go for it, but I guess if you start changing the rules one year, Thanksgiving will degenerate into desultory shin-kicking within a decade, and who wants that?

There were five pies. There was A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which always feels a bit forced. There was some more wine and a lively discussion about iTunes and the fate of "the album". There was a failed attempt to Skype. Then we all fell asleep watching Elf, which is danged funny, but we'd all seen a hundred times. It was a good day.

And in that distant past of yesterday morning, a hundred miles away, I ran the Oceanside Turkey Trot 5K and came in 5th in my division! Number of runners in my division? Hmmm, I think 5. Gotta go. Bud Lime's getting warm.

Enjoy life, eat out less often!