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Thanksgiving at our little Plymouth Rock

November 21, 2009|Chris Erskine

My wife, Posh, is part Pilgrim. She's got all these funny ideas about religion and sex and is even pretty puritanical when it comes to what to stuff the turkey with.

"No oysters!" she's always shouting.

"Why not?"

"No oysters!" she shouts again, like the zealot she is.

Immediately, she goes back to stirring sauces and thwopping big metal pans with wooden spoons, which is what Pilgrim wives

do for kicks.

"Loosen up, woman," I say.

"Yeah, loosen up, woman," say her sons, which always goes over very well.

It's really nice to have your own personal Pilgrim. Even in L.A., the land of personal chefs and personal drivers, it's pretty rare to find a personal Pilgrim -- though folks with dour expressions and an aversion to commonplace pleasures are amazingly common here.

I was talking to my personal Pilgrim the other day, having a nice conversation about pumpkin soup on a perfect autumn afternoon, with the sun slicing in at hard angles, as it does in mid-November -- sun so focused you could almost fry onions with it.

After 30 years, we don't need much discussion, Posh and I. Our love exists in a Latin of hard stares and grimaces. Besides, I usually prefer to get my point across to her through Jedi mind tricks and sweet rolls, which work better than you might imagine. She says she never eats breakfast, but when I surprise her with sweet rolls she's been known to actually jump on my back and yodel.

But, sure, every once in a while we will talk. The subject this time is Thanksgiving Day itself. Like most Pilgrims, she prefers to have guests over, and it doesn't really matter whom, as long as they smile a lot and compliment her excellent cooking.

"No, the turkey isn't dry at all" is her favorite compliment. But she's also a sucker for "This pie crust is, like, soooooooo buttery."

So I was telling her how maybe it should just be us this year -- the core tribe -- rather than the granfalloon of acquaintances we usually assemble for Thanksgiving. Our friends Bill and Nancy, who usually join us, are headed for Maui anyway, and our friends the Greens, who usually decline, are maybe coming over, maybe not -- Posh has to talk to Debbie, after which things will still not be completely resolved. It's all very confusing and makes table settings a total pain.

I remind Posh how I'm not particularly good with guests anyway. I don't offer them chairs and forget to give them drinks. Arriving at our house is sort of like a visit to the pitcher's mound. After a minute, everyone is kicking at the dirt, not knowing what to say.

"I never noticed that," she says.

"He's bad, Mom, trust me," says the little guy, who has seen only the last six Thanksgivings. I've had worse.

Here's what it's like when I make idle chitchat with guests.

"Nice day," I say.

"Sure is," they answer, after which I just stand rigid for about five minutes, arms at my sides, till Posh brings me a glass of wine, at which point I launch into: "How about those Lakers?" and the entire process starts all over again -- rigid silence, broken by a little booze.

Often, our Thanksgiving guests flee before dinner, which is odd on a holiday that revolves around the feast itself. But it leaves way more dark meat for me. We usually manage to have the very same turkey again for Christmas.

So yeah, I wish every day were Thanksgiving -- who doesn't? Despite my awkwardness, my hesitation, my lack of social graces, I like that our little villa in the hills is a rallying point around the holidays. I like the way the kitchen windows steam up. I like the thump-boom of the oven door.

Mostly, I like how we often take in stragglers. This year's most-honored guest is likely to be the little girl herself, who arrives home from college today.

When she lived here for 18 years, nobody paid much attention to her, but now that she is away at school, our youngest daughter has attained an other-worldly status usually reserved for baby angels or reality show stars.

Of course, most likely she'll walk in, dump her bags, say, "Bye, Mom!" then bolt out the door to go have coffee with her beautiful and chatty friends.

Sometimes that's enough, though. My Pilgrim will glow like a candle to have her baby angels all home.

For that -- and for packed houses everywhere -- we give thanks.

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