Sunday, November 24, 2019


Driving to the Brooklyn Wildlife Area, we listen to an NPR program where various people -- writers, ordinary folk, young, old -- share their favorite Thanksgiving memory. In case you're a little panicked about the meal you'll be cooking this Thursday, take some comfort in the fact that flops, fiascos, testy conversations -- this is the stuff that makes us laugh out loud years later.

On the radio, one person notes that on Thanksgiving, you invite the people you have to invite, whereas on the day after, with plenty of leftovers, you invite the people with whom you really want to share a meal. That surely isn't the case for me. Is it for you?

What's striking, of course, is that despite the somewhat fictionalized story behind this holiday, many elements are very real. The theme is so genuine and we embrace it, loving this day of secular traditions that all of us, no matter what our background and religion, can share. [One person on the radio told of staying with the turkey, but stuffing it with a Palestinian themed stuffing. Adam Gopnik, the writer, recalled sharing "the day after" every year with fellow writer Philip Roth, who loved to tell somewhat racy old Jewish jokes that shocked the kids and made the grownups laugh.] And we do all this over a turkey, of all things!

There was a time when I would pack up pots and pans and travel to wherever grownup daughters were on Thanksgiving: one year it was D.C., another -- Chicago. These days, I cook the big meal at home. In the years that they are away, visiting other family members, Ed and I eat sushi. It's not a sad day. But it's absolutely the case that to me, Thanksgiving only makes sense when at least a part of the younger brood is here.

This year, the stars are aligned my way and both young families will be in Madison on Thursday. And so the preparations must begin. Now, right?!

Not so fast. We are still putting things in order here, at the farmette, following Ed's three and a half week absence.

In the morning, he is once again working on my car. Walmart saves him by supplying the needed part. By late morning he is done. (In the mean time, I do animal care and fix us our same old breakfast.)

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The day is lovely for November. Not exactly warm, but not cold either.

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Ed asks -- do you want to go out for a hike to Brooklyn?

This seems to be a splendid idea until we pull up to the little parking area and notice the presence of a handful of hunters. We have our blaze orange stuff: a cap for Ed, a vest for me. Still, all those hunters (it is the beginning of the official deer hunting week in Wisconsin)... I ask one: you think it's safe for us to take a short hike, keeping to the trail?
He retorts (with some bravado, possibly for the benefit of his younger son) -- I wouldn't! It's a public hunting ground. I sure wouldn't!

Ed and I talk this over. I mean, isn't he going out into the forest himself? With his kid? Why are we different? Because we can't shoot back? Aren't you supposed to shoot at deer rather than people? Do you just fire away at anything that moves?

We have been hiking this trail for years. Dozens of times. We have never seen a deer here. Without question, there are perhaps twenty times as many hunters in the forest as there are deer and even that may be a low estimate.

We set out. Cautiously, I admit.

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And we talk loudly (possibly to the irritation of all the men in orange with rifles at the ready).  It's not a long forest walk and soon we reach our destination: the bench with the view we love so much.

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It's worth it. For many, many reasons. Perhaps for this selfie alone...

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(Later in the day, we read that in fact, three people have been shot by deerhunters so far in Wisconsin this weekend, though I suppose two of them don't count: they accidentally shot themselves. The third was mildly injured.)

In the evening, the young family is here for supper.

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Rituals, traditions, family habits and routines. They're so important!

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So very important!