Thursday morning on our way to Thanksgiving, we stopped by Parkville, Missouri, where I am fond of the nature trail. The mid-afternoon balm, unseasonably warm, permitted a plesant hike. We saw three deer, two hawks, and a number of woodpeckers. I liked the tall brown faded splendor of departed prairie grass and cat-tails.
My wife's sister and her husband live on a lake, in a home where Harry Trumann apparently attended a weekly poker game. When we first arrived, my wife's sister's husband's father (a phrase at least as much a mouthful to think as to say) loaded up myself, my wife's other sister and her husband, and my ten year old niece and I for a sail in a small sailboat, helmed by an eleven year old helmsman. I did not grow up sailing, having lived in a place in which all lakes were created by flooding water over timber, making boating a cautious, dead-tree-ish experience. I did at length figure out that when the young man who handled the rudder said "JIB!" he really meant "Duck!",and eventually, I did. I loved skimming along at a pleasant clip in the small boat, wearing, as did everyone, funny hats to make some kind of holiday statement.
As the family began to gather for the holiday meal, I spent much of my time playing with my thirteen month old niece, who is shaping up to be a bright and curious little person. She proved particularly enamoured of a small plastic automotive device, which, though she is not yet fully walking, permitted her to stand and push the device. I found delightful the times when she would pause to work the horn or turn on the "radio".
We had a very traditional Thanksgiving meal, with turkey, a non-southern non-cornbread stuffing,
green beans, rolls, and a slice of pumpkin pie. The sister-in-law in charge of the meal, preparing her first family Thanksgiving (she is in her late 30s), ensured that the menu was filled with healthy versions of the various Thanksgiving delights. The turkey in particular turned out very well, due, apparently, to a strategic decision to remove it from the oven ten degrees before it was ready, whereupon it was placed in aluminum foil to "cook in its own juices" until it hit the target temperature, a good while later. Various in-laws held forth on railroad yard sizes, which is actually a fairly interesting topic, notwithstanding its having little to do with pilgrims, things for which we are all thankful or the wholesale purchasing trends as to tea in the Peoples' Republic of China. I enjoyed telephoning my father after the meal, to hear about his efforts in restoring the 1930s Austin automobile which has become his latest project.
On Friday my father-in-law and his wife, my wife and I, and the retired physician who duck hunts with my father-in-law, drove to the company at which my brother-in-law works. This company does salvage work, and had on offer the Harris shredder, a huge machine a couple of stories high which can pulverize an automobile into rather artistic little bits of metal in a matter of moments. We did not see any cars pulped, but we did see masses of meal rolling up the conveyer belt and coming out as metal puree. The sights and sounds were energizing and exciting, from the crane with the giant magnet and the crane with the spider grip to the huge piles of metal stacked like so much brown sugar off the conveyer belt. I took pictures and video which I hope will prove of use. This trip was far better than the planetarium show I originally had planned.
We all repaired for lunch to a soul food restaurant called the Peach Tree Buffet, where the turnip greens and seasoned boiled okra flowed like water. Properly cooked turnip greens are a tremendously satisfying delicacy. I felt a secret inner pride that I had kept my Thanksgiving intake so reasonable as to permit appropriate consumption of the baked catfish and southern vegetables on offer at this clean and unexpected accompaniment to the rather industrial district in which we found ourselves.
I spent my late afternoon Friday alternating between watching my Arkansas Razorbacks nobly go down in narrow defeat to the state university located in Louisiana and taking long walks around the Mission Hills neighborhood in which my in-laws live. I enjoyed window-shopping at the little Prairie Village center, although I could not resist purchasing the inexpensive gyroscope,and I would shout that to the heavens if I am ever prosecuted for consumerism.
Friday night we gathered with relatives at an Italian restaurant in the Kansas City Plaza. Kansas City is an unexpectedly delightful city, filled with plazas, parks, statues, and fountains. The Plaza is a huge shopping district, made to resemble a Mediterranean area. It is festooned with zillions of Christmas lights each year, and becomes a popular gathering place. My wife's step-mother's family maintains a traditon of gathering after shopping for a huge meal each Friday after Thanksgiving. We all sat until quite late talking. One person we like to see is the thirty-six-ish Manhattan magazine writer whose actual relationship to my wife is something like step-cousin by marriage, but who is basically treated as a kind of second cousin. This year he brought with him his romantic lead, an attractive Frenchwoman perfume-maker of thirty whose name is Kristal (or Cristal or Chrystelle or Cristol or Crystal or Krs-tl), only she does not pronounce it in the way my Arkansas peers would have in childhood, with a nasal accented first syllable and a kind of "rhymes with Jethro Tull" thing, but instead she pronounced it rather like a holiday bottle of a fine hard alcohol, with a "kree" sound in the first syllable and heavy accent on the second, "rhymes with tall". I enjoyed listening to the discussion.
I put on my Arkansas accent to explain how in my childhood, the menu would have featured Caro-nut Pie, a pecan pie created from a recipe on the back of a Caro syrup bottle, as well as casseroles featuring marshmallows used in unnatural ways and other casseroles featuring multiple species of bean drowned in vinegar, not to mention lovingly burned parkerhouse rolls my cool late aunt always arrived one half an hour late with, not because she was half an hour late, but because my father always commenced the meal prior to her arrival each year.
Saturday we flew back to Dallas, during which flight I read of the problems and accusations swirling around the class action law firm Milberg Weiss. Then I went and picked up our dogs, who proved happy to be released from prison. I meant to get in more exercise Saturday, but I found myself rather tired, so I rested.
We had a very good Thanksgiving this year, filled with family and fun. It's a shame that it's over, but I could not ask for better.