It’s turned a little chilly here, and we’ve even had some rain. Early for Northern California, rain in October. Overnight I’ve lost my fondness for tomatoes. I feel like, “Well, now that’s done. Time for the holidays.” Not that summer is a chore, but when it’s gone it’s gone.
This year everyone comes to me for Thanksgiving. 16 including kids. Erk. I’m thrilled to pieces, if also a little nervous. I love to cram everyone into my small house, muster up extra tables, pull together a hodgepodge of tablecloths, china, glasses, silverware. Buy Brazil nuts, once a year.
But I did use to be a better cook than I am now. My short term memory stumbles. It’s harder to look through a recipe and remember it exactly, so I now have a Lucite cookbook stander-upper which allows me to read, do 3 cooking steps, read again, do 3 more.
I’m pretty sure it will be fine in the end. My daughter will be here. My sisters will rally round. My son and his uncle will bake pumpkin pie. My mother will put together her exceptional gravy.
I found myself wondering this morning, as I watched one blue jay peck away at the last green tomatoes, and another perch at the top of my garden stakes, are family holidays held in winter all over the world? And if so, why?
Asia has the Lunar New Year around February, the Autumn Festival in, well, Autumn. I don’t know the Muslim and Hindu holiday dates, nor any from Africa.
But here in the US, and in the Northern European countries from which the founders first came, families gather when the weather gets cold. There are practical reasons for this, needless to say. If we all still lived together in an agricultural community, we’d want to get the harvest in, preserve produce, prepare for winter. We’d also get pretty sick of each other, during the months of short days, so a festivity or two is always warranted. I know why the Swedes have Santa Lucia, when the littlest girl wears a candle wreath on her head. Any excuse for light is welcome.
There’s another consequence, unintended I suppose, the simple result of being creatures who live and die. We transfer knowledge and traditions at family gatherings. Winter in the background. We notice our offspring, the children of our sisters, our parents, thinking, “Well, look at this.” If we can’t stir gravy and mash garlic potatoes at the same time, we get a kid to take on tasks. And, should we start to feel too sentimental, too aware of passing seasons, someone will break a fluted pie pan, show up annoyingly late, or pester their parents for yet another helping of ice cream, anchoring us firmly in the day.