"Is that butter?" I asked her. -- City of Thieves, by David Benioff
Not a bad start to the day: there's a slug of whiskey in the cup of coffee to the left of my computer and a glass of champagne within easy reach of my right hand. The heady smells of thyme and rosemary curl up from the corners of the room, apple and pumpkin pies are ready for their baptism of fire, and the whiff of giblets simmering in stock on a corner of the stove wafts to the fold-out table where I am writing – the larger table was moved already to prepare for our hungry crowd. A small fennel frond is stuck to my slipper, and there is a gradual up-swell of activity in the kitchen as we check items off the list and tackle the ambitious menu. I should probably be chopping shallots or peeling poblano peppers.
Except, nothing about this feels like work because, every once in a while, the front door opens and another friend steps out of the Damp Dark, a Pacific Northwest specialty, shakes off their umbrella or gortex, and joins us around the hearth.
When I moved to Seattle in 1998, I fell in with a small group of Connecticans. A shared love of butter helped cement our friendship and this year marks the thirteenth Seattle Thanksgiving. A baker’s dozen – although, given the number of pies we’re making today, we should switch the apostrophe – a bakers’ dozen years.
(And I really do need to get started on the sweet cheese tart with gingered pears. Not to mention the yams.)
There have been rental homes on rivers and vacation homes on Whidbey or Lummi Island. There were dogs for many years, then none. There is one here today, which is a nice addition to the strata of controlled chaos, another player in the concerted effort to bring a feast to the table in a reasonable amount of time. The dog keeps the floor clean, especially nice because, after a decade of child-free debauchery, there are small hands everywhere this year, decorating cookies and sifting flour, feeding morsels to a gentle canine who is scared of the two cats.
Like a very soluble molecule, our Thanksgiving group is not always made from the same elements: I’ve missed a few years, my younger brother is in Quito right now instead of sitting at the table, doggedly peeling apples for pie. But the level of constancy among us continues to astonish me – here we all are, again, and right before dinner, when the warmed plates hit the table and we somehow manage to find room for seventeen different salads on the table or sideboard, we’ll join hands and go around the table to give mention to those things for which we are thankful. Because, in the midst of the relentless changes, losses, and joys that life brings there is the hearth, there is the family made from family-born and family-chosen.
What am I thankful for?