Sunday, November 25, 2018

Giving the Peace Sign

The things you have to do at Thanksgiving.

When asked to fill out a foil "leaf" with what I was thankful for and hang it on a small brass tree, I reduced my gratitude to its simplest level: I am grateful for all the people who love me. And I am.

While I've always been thankful for devoted parents, siblings who can finish my childhood stories and friends who choose to spend time with me, this year's list got longer with the addition of Mr. Wright, a partner who not only braved the gauntlet of meeting my family, but talked me down after the madness ended.

Part of how he accomplished this, it should be noted, was by ensuring that the three mornings after Turkey Day all involved waking up on the water. Those who know me know that this is a sure-fire way to get me to my happy place.

Now that I think about it, I didn't get my usual pre-sisters stress zit, either, so maybe his presence in my life is working in myriad ways.

To prepare for the psychological demands of spending the day with family, I'd made a point to do my usual Thanksgiving Eve blowout with Holmes and Beloved.

Beginning at Acacia, where the vibe was low-key and quiet but the crab fritters, grilled mahi mahi and beet/feta salad (the latter so good it won over the beet-hating Holmes) and chocolate cremeux were stellar, and then at Holmes' man-cave, where we listened to countless records - Elvis Costello to the Zombies - our evening was devoted to toasting the ghosts of Thanksgivings past with Graham Beck Brut Rose.

It's a tradition that goes back to 2010 for the three of us and shows no signs of letting up, no matter where any of us wind up having our turkey.

Come Thanksgiving Day, we motored to the house of Sister #6, a true hostess with the mostess and it's not only because her celebrations involve her husband shucking Old Saltes for anyone who will slurp them, although I'll be honest, that is my favorite part of it all. I'd stand there chatting with him, slurping 3 or 4 oysters and then taking 3 shucked beauties up to my Dad before returning to do it all over again. And again.

Because the 30 family members in attendance were seated at four tables over three rooms, my sister had come up with a plan for FFF - that's forced family fun, a phrase I first learned on a bev nap - to shake things up. Someone would get up, plate and glass in hand, and tap someone else on the shoulder, thereby usurping their chair and changing the make-up of that table.

The purpose, she claimed, was for everyone to get a chance to sit at the table with my parents, but I'm not sure she ran that plan by them first. I know that by the time I got to the fourth table, everyone was either in a food coma or tired of talking, which is saying a lot for this group.

All I'm saying is, it can be exhausting to eat and drink for seven hours with family.

But Black Friday dawned in Deale, Maryland, a little town on the Chesapeake Bay that offered up a big marina and, after a drive through its nearly empty waterfront streets, a cozy lunch (because they'd stopped serving breakfast five minutes before we'd arrived) at the South Country Cafe, a place where the cashier calls you "hon" and a stack of housemade pies sat on a ledge near the door.

Carter's Creek provided the wake-up water-views come the weekend, along with the usual pleasures of small-town life in Irvington. A walk to the Local Cafe for a bagel meant seeing lots of visitors to the Tides Inn and Hope and Glory Inn out and about on inn bicycles, a holiday market going on at the Steamboat Museum and, promptly at noon, a steady rain that ensured a snug, indoor afternoon.

Best of all, I'd brought along one of my recent  library book sale finds, a petite blue edition of "The Playboy Interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono" from 1981, a book guaranteed to occupy me for as long as it took for Mr. Wright to gather reference materials for an upcoming course he's teaching.

From the executive editor's foreword to the interviewer's introduction, I was immediately taken with these extensive conversations between John, Yoko and the Playboy writer because Lennon was willing to talk about everything. In fact, that had been the starting point for the book because the magazine interview couldn't include a fraction of what the couple had shared over multiple interviews and it was such good stuff.

That said, after reading for less than two hours, I pulled that chenille blanket over me and took a rainy day nap the likes of which can only be explained as sleeping out the final vestiges of Thanksgiving Day stress.

Post-rain, we headed to the Quays, an upscale Irish pub, meaning the fried fish fillets were mahi mahi and served over rice/quinoa instead of with chips, but also the sort of place where an appetizer of Dublin rolls (corned beef and cabbage in eggroll wrappers) arrived long after our entrees and not that far ahead of some pretty tasty butterscotch bread pudding.

Northern Neck charm or clueless management? You make the call.

From there, we only had to cross the hall to Walkabout Creek, where a DJ was onstage, lights were flashing and the locals were just getting cranked up for some serious Saturday night dancing, first to country, then to pop and hip-hop, and fortunately, with enough classic soul thrown in to get us up there, too.

Everybody dance now.

Today dawned so warm and sunny that all indoor activity was suspended so we could make the most of such late-November splendor. My walk took me across the grounds of the Dog and Oyster Winery and through their back 40, depositing me on the main drag which, as I quickly leaned, meant waving to every Sunday driver that passed.

While Mr. Wright assures me that in my short, pink athletic skirt, no one was going to take me for a local, I am nonetheless working on getting just the right Northern Neck wave mastered.

That and 79 cents will get me a copy of the Rappahannock Record at the gas station.

Down at the dock, the creek was muddy from yesterday's rain and the tide so high that it felt like we were on a boat. While checking the oyster garden float, we found it full of pine needles but no bivalves because apparently a storm had broken the frame and released the bottom.

Mr. Wright was the brilliant one who suggested that maybe a new oyster reef will form with the escapees, perhaps just beside the dock for easy shucking and slurping. If so, it'll give me one more thing to be thankful for next year.

Not that I need anything more given how good I have it these days. Like Reba McEntire said, "I have a lot to be thankful for. I am healthy, happy and I am loved."

Finally, the trifecta. Now if I could just nail how to wave to passing trucks, I wouldn't ask for anything more.

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