Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Well-Set Table

...the beneficiary had no other way of showing his gratitude than proffering the commonplace words thank you, which are as often sincere as they are not, and the surprise of a little bow of the head not at all in keeping with the social class to which he belongs, which just goes to show that we would know far more about life’s complexities if we applied ourselves to the close study of its contradictions instead of wasting so much time on similarities and connections, which should, anyway, be self-explanatory.The Cave, by José Saramago

Somehow, in the past fifteen minutes or so, we've arrived again at the dusk-darkened door to late November in Seattle. Somehow, the 364 days since I last wrote about Thanksgiving have slipped behind me, taking with them the innumerable tasks required to keep the boat afloat, leaving behind another precious clutch of memories, lessons, adventures, and musings.

The past year was a good one for me. I contrived to see every member of my immediate family in the last six months, which took some doing as we've become a far-flung handful. The rewards for finding the time, money, and head-space for Family Travel are so much more than a pocketful of miles and a spent roll of film (film? what's that?). The opportunity to tell stories, to relive some of the more hilarious moments in our shared histories, the chance to connect to my past, my people…so important. We all betray similar mannerisms, and as much as the similarities occasionally blur the outline of Self, I hope I have finally grown up enough to be glad there’re a few people out there who automatically get my jokes, whether they like them or not.
In last year’s buttery Thanksgiving note I mentioned “family-born and family-chosen” – which in hindsight sounds a bit like a cryptic prophecy carved into a cave wall, found by an eleven-year-old heroine who stumbled into a Strange New World. And in some ways my time in Seattle feels sort of like an ongoing adventure in a world I am not from and do not always understand, which makes me all the more grateful for my chosen family of friends, and for my siblings, who are themselves stumbling upon cryptic prophecies about weddings or babies or successful careers.

And then there is my other family, or tribe, or People: the vibrant troupe of Restaurant Folk. While the work occasionally feels not unlike a Day in the Salt Mines, I will always – ALWAYS – be grateful to work hard with such great company. The moments of recognition that occur while traveling and seeing a young woman  refill the potatoes in the hotel buffet, her dreadlocks held back with a green bandanna,  or glimpsing cooks smoking in alleys, or overhearing bartenders and servers talk about their days – these moments are grounding, they remind me that I work within a world overlaid with a million different connections. The closeness of the connections in our Seattle Food World are sometimes a little too heavy on coincidence and timing – sometimes they're flat out weird – but with a group as varied as we are I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. As Saramago says, the connections and similarities are self-explanatory.

Late last month I also changed my own little family. Turns out that when you bring in a betta fish as charming as Lewis, you start to feel as though it may be possible to find a little more room in your life, your heart, and your schedule. Lewis was a gateway pet. So, eight years after we said goodbye to Rye, I adopted a dog. His name is Banksy and he is a good boy. The close-knit family of Seattle’s squirrels has never been more apparent or more annoying.

So….what am I grateful for this year?

Looking around the metaphorical Thanksgiving table and finding a kind of peace in the continuing presence of family and friends. 

And, finding that there is room at the table for one more, and one more after that, if everyone just skootches down a bit.