The violet of an overcast sunset afternoon has just this instant given way to orange skies over the mouth of the Columbia River. Freshly baked pies on this vacation rental kitchen table look like bowls of jewels, sapphire and garnet wrapped in golden flaky dough. The usual hum of cars passing through nearby downtown Astoria is a little quieter tonight.
In a few hours the bars will be packing up with impromptu high school reunions, young mothers will be making last minute preparations for their first year hosting the season and televisions will be warming up for a long tomorrow’s worth of parades and football games.
Tomorrow friends will arrive from afar, mountain men and traveling nurses, the type who climb Mt. Fuji on a whim and know a woodpecker species by its sound. They’ll mingle over cans of beer and stuffing while two small boys play with pots and pans and matchbox cars around their feet. Our oldest son will count the minutes he has to hang around it all before determining if its safe to ask permission to do all of this at his friends’ house. Ladies may cook and men drink, dogs will beg while nanny sips wine and assures everyone they are welcome, if not obligated, to eat more than their fill.
For me, at least, it will be a first Thanksgiving where we’re the adults, the generation in charge, with kids and worrying about whether or not the dinner is a successful affair.
But most importantly, I believe this to be the greatest holiday in the American ensemble of annual celebrations. Halloween is great fun, but has largely been transformed from a simple deal: give me candy or get toilet papered, into too many store bought costumes and binge candy devouring. Christmas is the almighty materialistic display of everything wrong with our capitalist society. The Fourth of July and Veterans Day and Memorial Day all ask us to celebrate war, and instead of past commemorations honoring troops I can’t help but feel a little guilty grilling burgers as a way to honor troops who are sent into so many corrupt wars for reasons cloaked in freedom but far from anything of the sort.
Thanksgiving, however, is a simple holiday based around everyone bringing a dish to share with loved ones while we remember that we, as Americans, even at our most downtrodden, have so much to be thankful for. The poorest among us live like kings compared to much of the world.
I am thankful for it all: friends, travel, family and food. But most of all, for being among the fortunate few in this nation who’ve figured a way to live outside of our Walmart white picket two new cars in every driveway every two years dream. To have a family willing to follow along, and good friends from days long gone and still around, to share it all with.