Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Best Thanksgiving Ever

My daughter has a sign in her kitchen that reads as follows:

Hours of Operation

Tuesday...........Self Service
Wednesday......Half Day
Thursday..........Out Shopping (Shoes)
Friday...............Eating Out
Saturday...........Day Off
Sunday.............Day of Rest

This sign would be hilariously funny except that in Jessi's case, it is absolutely true.  Which is why when she called to tell me she was planning to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year, I readily volunteered to help.

"I'll come over early," I told her.  "Is Monday too early?" She told me it wasn't.

"By the way," I asked a little too late.  "How many people are you expecting?"

"Twenty-seven," she answered.  Twenty-seven? I thought, isn't that beyond the legal limit?  She assured me there was enough room for everyone and that everyone she had invited was family.

I hung up the phone wondering when our family had become so large and remembering a Thanksgiving not that many years earlier when I was home alone.  It must have been in the early 1990's when my son was living abroad and my daughters, both recently married, were spending Thanksgiving with their in-laws.  Although the thought of spending the day alone was daunting, there was something appealing about not having to spend the entire day in the kitchen.

I was waitressing at a deli that year and when I was asked to work breakfast, I agreed.  Because there were no other restaurants open in the area, the restaurant was mobbed, but the customers were generous with their tips.  While I worked, I thought about Thanksgivings past.

As a child, my father always took my mother, my four sisters and me to the fresh poultry shop on Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia to select our turkey from the dozens that roamed freely throughout the store, doing their business on the sawdust-strewn floor.  Just like the Emperor Nero condemning the Christians, my father would point his finger at the biggest one.  Then bird and butcher would disappear through a swinging door through which another, usually bigger, bird would emerge gobbling hysterically. Through the plate glass window, my sisters and I could see feathers flying in every direction.

We were a large family and there was always plenty of company invited to dinner - although I can't remember ever seeing twenty-seven people at our table.

As I continued working, wondering what I was going to do with myself for the rest of the day, I suddenly remembered a television show I had watched earlier that week.

The show was either Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue.  I can't remember which, although
I am sure the word "blue" was in the title, probably because it mirrored the way I felt exactly.  I had caught only the very end of the show, but from what I did see, I could tell that the story line had been intense.  As the detectives left the precinct at the end of their shift,  they called out "Happy Thanksgiving" to one another and the room darkened.

The camera followed one of the detectives home to an empty apartment.  With the words "Happy Thanksgiving" still echoing in the background, he turned on the light in his kitchen, removed a turkey TV dinner from his freezer and popped it into the oven.  Or was it a microwave?  Did they even have microwaves in the early Nineties?  Anyway when it was done, he removed it and ate it with gusto.

I can do that, I thought as I cleaned up my station.  I can do that and maybe a little bit more.  Before I left the restaurant, I stopped at the deli counter and asked for a slice of turkey cut a quarter of an inch thick.  I also picked up a jar of gravy and a small can of cranberry sauce.  At home I added stuffing and fresh vegetables to the menu.  Then I prepared and ate it slowly.

Exhausted from a breakfast that had lasted until well after two, I picked up a book and fell onto the sofa, pulling an afghan on top of myself.  Within minutes, I fell into a deep, satisfying sleep.  By the time I woke up, it was after seven and any thoughts I had about what I should have been doing on Thanksgiving Day were dissipated and I was content.

This year I will not be home alone, however with twenty-six other people to feed, I have the feeling I may be wishing I were.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Whether you are alone or with a crowd of people, I wish you the best Thanksgiving ever.   

Friday, November 8, 2013

Chloe and the List Poem

My five-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, came into my room last week for one of her brief, impromptu visits and to see what I was doing.  As it happened, I was channel surfing.  Chloe asked if she could watch Nick Jr, but I wanted to watch Discovery ID.  We compromised by watching Home Alone.    

We sat down together, Chloe beside me, watching the movie until the little boy in the movie, Kevin, slaps himself in the face and screams.  As soon as she saw it, Chloe started laughing.  She laughed so merrily I re-played the scene and then played it again just to hear her laughter.

A few minutes later, however, she grew bored again and ran out of the room to find and hit base with her mother. I continued watching the movie until Kevin used the lines from an old movie to scare away the burglars and the pizza delivery boy. 

It was no wonder then that when Kristina told us in poetry class that our assignment was to write a list poem, I thought of the movie I was watching the night before.  Kristina explained that a list poem is one created from a list, which could be a list of anything – groceries, things to do, or even a list of book titles.  It didn’t matter.  The point was to take the list and create a poem with it.  So, with the movie still fresh in my head, I decided to write a poem using some of the best movie lines ever written and called it -. 

If I Only Had a Brain
Words and Music not
by Toni McCloe

I have always been a sucker for old movies,
great actors, and the lines they speak -
since way back when my sisters took me
to watch Abbott kibitz with Costello.
cried when Brandon called,
“Shane, Shane, come back.”
Although I was dubious when Brando said
he “coulda been somebody,”
I got Denzel’s
"Explain it to me like I'm a two-year-old." 
And never once doubted that
Gable didn’t give a damn.

I felt the slap when Loretta Castorini told
Nick Cage to snap out of it.  
But nothing prepared me for the shivers I felt when 
Haley Joel said he saw dead people. 
I marveled when Marilyn spoke not a word
as she hung onto the side of that pool,
and how Meg needed only one word to show 
how delighted she was when Harry met Sally. 

But all this thinkin is gittin me plumb tuckered out –
That was a line in a movie once, wasn’t it?
Well, maybe not.
Anyway, that’s all folks,
but I’ll be back – after all
tomorrow is another day
and until then,
may the force be with you.