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True Tales From Everyday Living

Real Life

November 19, 2006|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Sun Reporter

The following mother-son phone conversation occurred earlier this year. Subject: Thanksgiving.

"Hi, dear. I thought this would be you." (Mother in Florida claims to predict calls from son in Maryland. Spooky accuracy.)

"How's it going?" he asked, meaning it.

"Oh, good. Just waiting for the man to come about the roof." (Mother often waiting for men to come and fix things.)

"I wanted to let you know we're thinking of going to New York for Thanksgiving."

For the past four years, Thanksgiving dinner has inexplicably been held at son's house in Maryland. Mother, sisters, cousins, arriving via airport shuttle. No one has satisfactorily explained how and why this accidental tradition began. Now, firm plans for New York.

Phone silence can be so noisy. Makes a son throw in legitimate reasons for going to New York and not inviting family to Thanksgiving dinner. Superior Bus Tours! Broadway. Central Park. Food. Walking. New York, New York.

"Oh. Well, that sounds fine, dear," she said, not sounding altogether fine, dear.

Then, small talk about the roofing business, the newspaper business, the grandchildren business, then the phone wind-up and hang-up.

A poet once wrote: guilt is magic. A newspaper guy once wrote, I'm a grown-up. If I want to take my crew to New York for Thanksgiving and drive a rusty nail into the four chambers of my mother's aging heart, then it's my decision.

There had been no argument. Just that opening "Oh." Just "that sounds fine, dear." Oh, maybe she is fine with it, but that's beside the point.

Guilty son called his wife.

"How's it going?"

"Good," she said. "I'm not sure we should go to New York this Thanksgiving. Maybe we could have the Florida gang over again."

"OK." (Wife predicts these calls. Spooky accuracy.)

And the thing was done. No New York. Home for the holidays with the partial gang from that other life. Partial because, you know. Then, someone else was at the head of the table, carving (expertly) the turkey. The kids scrunched at a card table that threatened to fold up at the hinged elbows. Did someone say the annual grace? And the rolls were very good, seriously.

Who were those people at the table? Who liked the pecan pie but not the pumpkin pie? Who did say the grace? It's all in the family photo albums, but who has the time and guts to look back?

Four years ago, something must have happened to relocate Thanksgiving dinner from Florida to Maryland. Maybe it was a rare burst of generosity from the son who left Florida in '93 thinking he might not ever see Thanksgiving dinner again with those folks. He had his own family now, his own traditions - those stubborn declarations of independence. But the invitation was extended.

Odd to be together again for the holidays. Suddenly, the son was responsible for their shelter, as if others had done the same for him years ago (hadn't he always lived alone, foraging for food?). And these people expected to be fed! What was next - a trip to the National Aquarium, an Oregon Ridge walk, conversation?! Conversation in the a.m.?

But after three years, it started to feel right to have them come to Maryland. New traditions have been hatched. This Thanksgiving, for example, the son has finally offered to shuttle his family from and to BWI. Apparently, that 37-minute drive had been too taxing the past three holidays. He even bought a couple of 6-pounder Duraflame fire logs as the traditional petro back-up. While foraging alone in his youth, the son had never mastered the craft of fire-starting. Fireplaces, good. Duraflame, better.

For entertainment, plans are under way to take the crew to see Christopher Guest's new movie, For Your Consideration. Last year, the entire Guest anthology was made available to the extended family. You're either a Guest fan or not. Must be an acquired family taste.

The son will carve the turkey, a scene not unlike watching a drunken hunter gut a deer. If the butchery proves too unappetizing and he's relieved of the festive task, he will then pour (expertly) the water and get out the rolls. A card table for the kids will wobble because over the decades there have been no technological advances in card table manufacturing.

Someone will eat the pecan pie but not the pumpkin. Someone might toast someone no longer here. But the rest of the gang will be together.

The son might even say grace this year.


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