November 21, 2012

A Canuck in Kantuck: One of the best holidays of all

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers. I hope right about now you’re getting ready to go to the kitchen to get a nice turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce on some thick-sliced bread. And leftover mashed potatoes with gravy. And some pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Then you can take a nap on the couch or maybe drowsily watch a little football. Because eating and sleeping are the only things you really need to accomplish today, and that makes me feel so good it makes me want to yawn and stretch a little.

I love this four-day holiday, in part because I’m thankful, but also because I love any holiday centered primarily around food. At my in-laws’ house, everyone has a job in the kitchen. My mother-in-law makes the turkey, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes; Teresa the stuffing, giblet gravy and pumpkin pie; Leah the green bean casserole and corn pudding. I’m in charge of cranberry sauce and bread.

Then, when dinner is ready, the adults informally gather around the dining room table, the kids perch at the kitchen island, and we start eating, spreading I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter on our rolls and spooning cranberry sauce on our plates.

However, while the meal is the thing that takes the most effort, the real meat of Thanksgiving comes afterward when everyone is stuffed. That’s when the board games get pulled out.

I can say with utter certainty that the song of Thanksgiving in the Baker household is sung when my sister-in-law Teresa reads the game instructions using her loud, teacher voice. It rumbles with the roll of the dice, dings with the buzz of the timer. It crescendos when my husband cracks a joke, then follows it by another and another until we’re all holding our stomachs and begging him to stop. And it gains applause when my brother-in-law Art wins the game — again.

It’s in this cacophony that the magic of the holiday really comes to life — when no one is paying attention, but everyone is having a good time.

The lore of Thanksgiving in the States reached me up in Manitoba when the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” came out. Some of the best lines of all time — “Those aren’t pillows!” — all reside in that movie, don’t you think? But more than the laughter, the idea of an entire country of people packing and moving, flinging themselves onto the mercy of airlines and bus schedules, to reach family absolutely captivated me. In Canada, Thanksgiving is generally not much more than a meal featuring a turkey, but in the States, it’s an event, almost like a countrywide blizzard where people are rushing to get home before it starts snowing. I love the bigness of it.

I also love how long it is. At the Baker household Thanksgiving is resurrected at least two more times after the big meal. Sure, during the evening snack, but also during the next night and even perhaps the following when my husband, Gabrielle and I show up at the doorstep like orphans begging to be fed leftovers. Then, when it’s done, I take home the turkey carcass and make broth and, hello, it’s on to Christmas.

I’m not sure how many of you feel about decorating for Christmas during the weekend following Thanksgiving — that might be sacrilegious to some — but I’m all for it. I used to wait until the beginning of December until I saw that our house was the only one in the subdivision that wasn’t decorated yet. The great thing is you have four days to get it done, so you can take your time and bask in the holiday season.

Anyway, enough writing, I’m starving and need a sandwich. And from the looks of it, you need one too.


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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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