November 24, 2006

Photos, frisbee, and pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving is a low-key holiday in my family. Most of the out-of-town members of the family wait and come in for a long visit at Christmas, so yesterday was not the full extended family, but fifteen of us gathered at my mother's house. I love a holiday that involves no work on my part; my mother does all the cooking, and I just get in the car and drive to her house, which is only a few miles away. The house always smells so good when we walk in the door that we end up gathering in the small kitchen, crowding each other, and getting in my mother's way while she is trying to cook. Seven or eight of us can fit around the kitchen table, while the rest of the group eats around the folding tables set up in the living room. My mother cooks the traditional turkey dinner, but she makes so many side dishes that the vegetarians in the family are plenty satisfied.

Often when my family is together, we look at photo albums or slides or some of the videotapes the grandchildren have made; this holiday, we gathered around my parents' computer to look at digital photos. Red-haired Niece's boyfriend, Outdoor Boy, had just returned from forty days spent hiking in the Highest Mountains on the Planet, part of his training to be a wilderness guide. He showed us photos of his adventure, which included carrying an eighty-pound pack, wading through snow past his knees, crossing fragile-looking bridges, and camping on steep slopes night after night. He had seen eagles dropping their prey onto rocks to kill them, and he described monkeys that were absolute pests, trying always to steal food. Most exciting, he had seen a creature that few people ever get to encounter in the wild: a snow leopard.

On either side of the long trek, he spent a few days immersed in the culture of Asian Peninsula Country. He showed us photos of women carrying heavy loads on their backs, children in bright-colored clothing, shops where you could drink cups of chai, and of long low shacks that he said were places you could stay for about ten cents per night. He showed us photos of Famous Marble Building with its recognizable domes.

Red-haired Niece, who is going to grad school in Big City Like No Other, has been working on a degree in early childhood education and is simultaneously working a full-time job at Progressive School for Rich Kids. Some of the parents in the school are not merely rich; they are celebrities. (You know an actor is famous if even I've heard of him.) The kids in her photos looked like normal kids, though, all playing together on the rooftop playground or in the classroom, and she talked about them with great enthusiasm and affection.

It was great to see Schoolteacher Niece and Red-haired Niece, both full of their usual energy despite their demanding grad school schedules; life in the Big City Like No Other seems to agree with them both. After eating the big meal, some of the family went out in the backyard to play Ultimate Frisbee while others walked out to see my father's garden. The cold outside air smelled like mud and dead leaves. Soon we were all back in for another round of eating – pumpkin pie, apple pie, and some kind of pumpkin bread with chocolate chips in it. The holiday ended the way a holiday at my mother's always does, everyone crowded into the small living room, with five or six people jammed onto the couch, my father in the rocking chair, and other people sitting on the floor or on kitchen chairs, everyone talking all at once.


PPB said...

I love how close you are to your nieces. I don't think my aunts would recognize me in a lineup. I don't want to be that kind of aunt. I want to be your kind of aunt.

mc said...

I love that a low-key gathering for your family is 15 people! My family is similar... which is why yesterday's meal, with just my inlaws and us, simply didn't feel like a holiday.

Chip said...

Sounds nice. We spent today at my parents, we went for a nice long walk on the Ditch Dug by the Governor with the Last President's Name, from the new end up to the first main road. It was a beautiful day, and some milkweed pods still had their seeds bursting out, very fluffy and white, soft as fur. Our low key day after t'giving had only twelve people.

BeachMama said...

Sounds like the perfect holiday to me. Glad you had a great time.

luolin said...

Thanksgiving worked well for me when I was a vegetarian-I could fill up on all the side dishes and pie without completely overstuffing myself. Of course that meant that when everyone else was saying they never wanted to eat again, I was looking for something to have for dinner.

Teri said...

I believe I'm utterly entranced by your family! It sounds so idyllic!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

I too wanted to comment about a 'low key' family gathering that includes 'only' 15 people. My whole family, including cousins, doesn't tally up to 15!

I have to tell you, reading about your extended family's closeness and traditions and adventures is one of the things that made me want more than just two kids. We may have started with a small family, but that doesn't mean we can't keep expanding it!