Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. This year I'm missing my sister Maureen--she and Olivier went to France, to say bon voyage to his brother and sister-in-law, leaving Bordeaux to open an inn in Indonesia. Missing my nieces, too--Mia will be with her friend, and Molly will be with her husband Alex and his family. We'll all be together in spirit, as well as with Rosemary...sometimes that's the best even a close family can do.
Thinking of Maureen and Olivier in France, I remember having Thanksgivings in Paris. The day would start by reading Art Buchwald's yearly-repeated column in the International Herald Tribune. Then I'd make dinner, including a not-so-easy-to-find dinde, for all my American friends there. There'd always be at least twenty...
I'm very lucky, though; a young friend, Nyasha, is coming down from Massachusetts to spend the holiday with me. I love having visitors from out of town, and I'll enjoy showing her all my favorite NYC places, and having a special dinner.
Growing up always had dinner with my father's sisters and family--Aunt Mary, Uncle Bill, and Billy Keenan, Aunt Jan and Uncle Bud Lee--either at our house in New Britain or the Keenans' in Elmwood. When it was at ours, we had lots to do to prepare. Wednesday was a half-day at school, and my sisters and I would run home to help our mother and grandmother.
We'd go down to the basement to get the good china and crystal glasses, and we'd wash everything till it sparkled. Mim would bake pies, and we'd help: apple, pumpkin, and mince. One of us would make cranberry-orange relish--a recipe via Ocean Spray from the Whitneys, the family across the street for whom I babysat--and another of us would bake cranberry and date-nut breads.
The three of us would help polish the silver, and fill bowls with nuts in their shells. My grandmother had a turkey platter, a green oval with a splendid turkey, its tail spread and preening, displayed on a hutch in the dining room. We would take it down, the only time all year, feeling excited to know the next day it would be laden with turkey.
(Photo below from right: Tom Rice, Bill Keenan, Mary Keenan, me, Billy's elbow, Lucille Rice raising her glass, tiny corner of Maureen's hair.)
After dinner, my father would lead a walk on Shuttle Meadow golf course, across the street. It was always wonderfully bracing and damp, and usually cold, and we'd tromp through the rough toward the brook and ponds, to see if any ice had formed yet. Given my father and Uncle Bill's humor, there'd be lots of laughter.
Dinner at the Keenans's was great, not only because we were guests and had only to bring the pies, but because Billy had these toy horses that I loved and wanted to play with long after it made sense age-wise. When we got older and could drive, "the kids"--my sisters, Bill, and I--would go to the movies. Billy and I were recently reminiscing about seeing Silent Movie at the Elm Theater. Dom Deluise's line, "I need a blueberry pie badly" made a particularly deep impression.
Billy was a football player; if he had a game we'd go see him play at Northwest Catholic. Later, when he went to Amherst College, one of my teenage highlights was to head up there with his parents and my sisters, tailgate in the parking lot, and feel like hot stuff because we knew Billy. (Photo of Rosemary, me, Bill Keenan.)
This year Thanksgiving falls on November 25. That is a bright and shining occurrence. It happened once many years ago. Mrs. Whitney, my "other mother," (and currently bookseller extraordinaire at G. J. Ford ) gave birth to her second daughter, the exceptional and luminous Sam--aka the best midwife in the west in my novel Dream Country. Sam lit up our lives from the minute she was born, and continues to do so while being the best midwife in the west, raising her daughter (my goddaughter) and twins, and telemark skiing in the mountains of Park City, Utah. (Photo of Sam and Sadie)
We all attended Vance School--from my mother to my sisters and me to the Whitney children (aside from Sam, the birthday-Thanksgiving girl, there are Tobin and the twins Sarah and Palmer.)
Every year all the classes filed into the auditorium, and we'd sing We Gather Together and Over the River and Through the Woods. May you all be gathering together with your families and friends, all your loved ones.
Cranberry Orange relish:
1 bag cranberries; 1 seedless orange; 1 cup of sugar. Make in two batches: chop up the orange and put half plus half the cranberries and half the sugar through a Cuisinart, food mill, or grinder. Then do it again. The relish will be delicious and you will be happy.
The photo above is of Maureen and me in the kitchen at Hubbard's Point.
The day was brilliant, and the wedding took place by the sea.
Molly and Alex had written vows that included references to water--they had met in it, the pool at Connecticut College. And it flows and surrounds and falls from the sky and brings everyone and everything together. As they spoke to each other, they held hands, and just behind them the cove glittered in sunlight.
The day was joyful. We were so happy for Molly and Alex, and to be together in such a spirit of love, to be with people so open and positive. People had traveled long distances to be there: from California, Texas, even Wales. The weather was pure September: warm in the sun, cool as the afternoon progressed.
The wedding began with a moment of silence, for beloved friends and family who were not there. Alex's stepmother Deb played cello and Maureen and I noticed an osprey fly overhead. It was a moment, probably not that meaningful or significant, or maybe it was. How hokey, to look up in the sky and see a fish hawk and get choked up thinking of who wasn't with us.
Molly held a bouquet of blue hydrangeas. She'd woven the stems with a bracelet made of sea glass given to me by her mother. I remember the day Molly visited the cottage at Point O'Woods and spotted it on my bureau. She'd gone straight for it, picked it up as if it had called her. I suppose it had. She didn't have to ask--I gave it to her.
Maureen and I sat in the front row. We'd been instructed to by Molly, who wanted us in her line of vision. We are her aunts, her family. Mia, her cousin, was a bridesmaid. Alex's family embraces her as if she was their own. All the toasts and comments and conversations and actions say as much. They have taken her to their hearts. It was moving to see.
Michael, who officiated, spoke about the mysteries of water and of life.
The reception was held under a tent. It was festive and fun, and with Twigg at our table full of laughter and stories. He and Audrey Loggia were also "family of the bride." The food was delicious. The band began to play, and Alex's aunt Penfield came for me and Maureen and told us it was up to the aunties to start the dancing. Which we did, no problem.
P.S. Arleen, I posted the picture of Molly's gold shoes on my Facebook page.
Oh love. I woke up thinking of it. Maybe I'd dreamed... No, I know. I'm thinking of love because my niece is getting married next week. She is radiant and beautiful, a scientist who left the lab with her betrothed to make a better frozen yogurt in Northampton. Go Berry is delicious and causes cravings. This is a brilliant young woman. Not least of all, Molly is known for having debunked the 5-second rule. I mention it here only because if an aunt with a blog can't promote her niece's frozen yogurt, who can?
Alex, her fiance, is also a scientist. They met at Connecticut College. They love the sea, the ocean, the littoral zone, marine life, diving, swimming, many other things, and especially each other. Their kindness is touching beyond words. They once drove miles out of their way when the snow was lovely, dark, and deep, to give me a hug just because I needed one.
Molly goes through life with such courage and grace. I'm late to her life. I didn't know her well as a little girl, but we've been making up for lost time. My sister Maureen and I are watching her and Alex plan their wedding, proud to be her aunts.
I'm writing this because Love is amazing. It is fierce when it has to be. It forgives. It finds people who believe, really believe in it, and takes them into its fold. This has happened with Molly and Alex. There's sorrow here, yes, there is. There are people we love and miss--every day, but especially now.
The wild gift, beyond the casting off, has come in the form of a great coming-together. Families getting to know each other. The joy of having Alex in our lives. Molly and her cousin Mia have gotten close. Today as Mia heads off to grad school (I feel another niece blog coming,) Molly and Alex will be driving her to Vermont, helping her move in. They're together today and will be again next week; Mia will be one of Molly's bridesmaids.
Twigg will be at the wedding, wouldn't miss it for anything. The Loggias love Molly and will attend. I know my mother and Mim, ghosts for many years now, will be there. And so much family in spirit--I love you, we love you, you know that. We'll celebrate at the edge of the sea together. Be there!