Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Tales

Part 3: From Pan to Floor

While we guiltlessly indulged in many pies, even those meant for others, on the other side of the mountain a boy cried inwardly at the ruin of Thanksgiving dinner. His traditional apple pie splattered along the wooden floor.

Eric and spent many long half-hours preparing for the perfect pastry. He peeled the red skins, cored and sliced the Roman apples. He zested with zeal the orange and lemon. He carefully measured their juices and mixed in the flour, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. He even used Kosher salt as directed.

With the apples steeping and the sweet aroma heavy in the air Eric began the crust. In his excitement (or maybe spurned by a comment from Mike) Eric ground the pastry cutter into the mix. The screw gave under pressure and shot across the room, pinging against the window in a failed attempt to escape.

This should have warned of the upcoming disaster. But Eric continued his baking. Parchment paper in place he rolled out the crust, lined the dish with his pastry, and poured in his apple concoction. Then he added a crust top, folded over the edges and sealed them. After an egg wash and detailed cuts he placed the pie on the oven rack and gently shut the door.

The minutes rhythmically ticked filled with running sarcasm between the friends. Anticipation grew and beat the conversation silent. Eric’s mother went to the oven to take the pie out. She grabbed the door and lowered it parallel to the ground. As she pulled on the oven rack for a better angle of the pie the pan slid with momentum and hung suspended in the air. Eric instinctively opened his hands and lunged for the dish. Of all moment to make a wonderful catch this was it—until the intense heat of the glass transferred to his flesh. With blisters bubbling he dropped the pan, the squishy clatter evidence of the sight before him.

Maple-planked apple pie for a thankless Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Tales

Part 2: Girls of Greed with Pie

I only had three pies to choose from. The obvious choices—lemon meringue, cherry, apple baked by Grandma—sat on a white stone-topped kitchen island in Lamar. So I took the pumpkin classic and wandered to the seat of my dinner humiliation. Kellie followed me carrying a slice of chocolate silk pie. Normally I picked off my mother’s plate and she off mine, a twenty-five year tradition. In her absence I turned to Kel and proposed we share our desserts. She agreed.

We both thoughtfully savored our first bites. With my mind on the pumpkin my eyes spied a generous serving of banana cream on a plate touching my own. I assume Kellie had similar thought because she looked from pie to me to pie to me before questioning which family member would leave it unattended.

I scanned the crowded kitchen and saw everyone holding a plate. Clearly the pie lay unclaimed, inviting the stakes of our forks. We snuck a few more cautious glances before pulling the plate in as part of the shared pie platter.

Our forks broke sections off for us to enjoy. I imagine our joy would have been more so had Jessica not walked up just then asking for her banana cream pie. Smiling through mouthfuls of bananas and pudding Kellie and I surrendered the stolen slice.

“You just ate someone’s dessert?!,” Chris cried incredulously. “You didn’t ask whose it was?”

Yes. Guilty. We ate it. In our defense Kellie and I offered to share what was left of our own pies. Jess hates pumpkin.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Tales

Part 1: Embarrassing Family Moments

I hold a firmly rooted belief (undoubtedly founded on Gramps claiming the Halls as the best) of my luck at being born into my family. In return I believe them to feel lucky to have. This Thanksgiving shattered those beliefs and now I'm certain they hope to give me away in marriage.

Sitting around the browned turkey my cousin Chris engaged me in a round of teasing and bantering. He told me about his recent break-up, sharing details not meant for parenting ears but clearly we'd captivated the kid table. Then he posed a seemingly innocent question. When had I last been in a relationship?

Beginning with my aunt at the stove I heard the silence wrap around the room spiraling to me. A mute button so pronounced that I heard the strands of my hair brushing against each other, moved by the wind of my slow exhale. I felt my uncle stop mid-step behind me, balancing a bowl of homemade rolls. Even the chattering babies had quieted in the gathering awe.

Looking up confirmed my fear that 34 eyes peered at me unashamed. I, the quiet and shy one, had become a painted target. As I said they'd like to give me away in marriage. I hung my head in response and waited for the commotion to ensue.

The creeping warmth in my cheeks prompted me to remember other moments of humiliation my family has provided me.

* Phil calling to me from the deck, "Breezey you come up here by me and let Heather work with Kellie. You're too pretty to play catch."

* "I like the dress alright, but it looks a little tight across the chest," says my dad of my junior year Homecoming dress. Apparently I developed at 16 and he just noticed.

* Mickey Mouse ears.

* Gramps urging Grandma to check me out during Christmas dessert shouting, "LuAnne look at her. Doesn't she have a nice figure? I don't know why she's not married."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Apology to My Brothers

Blink back those tears boys, the moon closed the weekend. And the year will end shortly. It pains me to know that I have caused you frustrations. Dominating the March Madness bracket brought cries of outrage in the first round, suspicions in the second round and by the championship game you drank denial. You believed my picks to be the work of some basketball master with insider tips. When I calmed those allegations you turned to straight-up-luck-of-colors-and-names foolishness and called this year a flop.

The witch-hunt accusations reminded me of your refusals to play card games with me. While the blood relatives handle my winnings with more composure than the marriage tie-ins, Sunday dinners heated up in the game playing afterwards. Maybe it’s not fair, but I can’t help that I win. Family of competitors, right?

As the True Blue failure adds to the year’s defeats know that the Crimson sweater I wear on Christmas morning celebrates the holiday. A turn-coat and traitor you think me, but with an unblemished record I know those emotion-spurred labels are code for “You’re the greatest sister.”

To honor these close bonds I played in a flag football game Saturday morning. When I got hit in the head with the football I thought of your teasing. And as my breath rushed through my teeth after being slammed in mid-air and knocked back a few feet, I thought of group hugs. It felt like you three crushing my ribs.

Sorry the year has been a rough one. I guess you can blame Daniel. Your consolation prize—I burnt my tongue while composing this apology. Next time I will try for more sincerity.

(Pictures withheld due to the emotional impact of visual aids. Fresh wounds.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Hunt

The pristine envelope he handed me contained a little more than the expected pay stub. I’ve finally been inducted to the company through an invitation for the upcoming holiday.

I struggle through my days at work, counting the seconds my mind drifts from caissons and piers. Then I remember I hate numbers and their rigid stance, a clear line of multiply and divide, black and white, right and wrong. The daydreams resume interrupted by the comfort of my high heels clacking along the muddy tiles as I walk to the fax machine—a ho-hum day at an office that reminds me of home.

Home with its dust and farm equipment, tractors driving down Memorial, kids wearing Wranglers and Lugs to school talking with that soft drawl and mixed vowels I slip into often. A lack in communication over the work schedule led me to pass on the twelve hour drive to eat bird in Lamar this year. Feeling a little homesick and less than thankful I wondered how to incorporate the Hall Turkey Bowl, rolls and pie into my Thursday. Who would wake me up at 4 a.m. as they stomped through the house in camouflage grabbing guns, ammo and-most importantly-victuals?

The answer lay in my thick envelope, an invitation for a company day-after-Thanksgiving pheasant hunt. As long as I brought a gun and bullets the birds would be paid for. A tradition I believe in, though have never participated in. It seemed like my holiday would be salvaged and I owed thanks to the wonderful co-workers who call me Goth, Emo and artsy-fartsy (those seconds drag tortuously).

Then I reread the invite. Paid birds. Hunting at 10 a.m. A two-hour drive. My Friday wasted. It’s one thing to tell the Boys I’ll go with them at 1 a.m. in Lamar, they don’t remember I agreed four hours later. And I like shooting things, probably even more if I ever hit anything. But this experience needs to be done on hallowed hunting ground at home, not a pheasant farm that releases birds.

I think I avoided the naughty list and if Santa pulls through then it’s guns in the A.M. this Christmas.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Breezey vs. Tin Angel

The Scene: A dark, damp night downtown Salt Lake City.

The Crime: Neglect of a beautiful woman.

The Culprit: An orange frizz-fro haired man, unbecoming in his mustard yellow t-shirt tucked into a dark green apron.

Our story begins as the young woman unassumingly walks through the table-covered patio. She reaches for the door in excitement. For the past five weeks, visions of butternut squash risotto and spinach with poached pears popped effortlessly in work-time daydreams. Memories of bread pudding and hazelnut tugged her mouth muscles upward.

At the appointed hour our heroine asked for a table for two. Here the villain coolly remarked that maintaining prestige requires dismissal of the twat before him. Without a reservation did she really expect to be fed on a gloomy Tuesday night?

Uh…Yes she did. And she’s pissed off that he turned her away. Prestige doesn’t happen when sharing the same street corner as Pioneer Park, a.k.a. resting grounds for the bed-less. Before turning customers away let’s raise those standards on appearance. Even the Brick Oven requires well-groomed attendants. They want blush, lipstick and mascara, but even the basic combed hair and occasional shower helps.

Salt added to the wound when my dinner date called to confirm the booked restaurant. I told her of my suspicions, discrimination of wonderful people, because the sparse bodies failed to fill the available chairs. My friend suspected as well because of the night (Tuesday really?!). Surprisingly her proactive phone call allowed for a table in 30 minutes.

That stung a little more. Discrimination against girls from Southeastern Colorado born in December with dark hair, blue eyes and O-positive blood.

The Verdict: The Tin Arch-Angel Café guilty of depriving guests of my fascinating personality and odd eating habits therefore not providing the best atmosphere.

Unofficial Official Scorecard: Tin Angel Café one point in snootiness, and my city girl status demoted to country bumpkin.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Word From Our Elders

Peanuts. Peanuts. Peanuts, gum? I tried to stay focused. My roommate waited for me at checkout as I hurried down the aisle at Smith’s.
I grabbed Orbit’s sweet mint in my left hand and Planter’s peanuts in my right, turned on my heel, slipped slightly and rushed back to Stacey M.

Two-thirds of the way down the red-flannel-shirted geriatric exclaimed loudly, “She’ll kill me if I don’t get the right one.”

I blinked and glanced to my right, wrong move. He took that as a sign of my commitment to the conversation and proceeded, “I never know which is the right one. But this light ranch looks good.”

Stunned and wanting to respect my elders I smiled brightly and humored him by saying, “Seems like a fine pick.” Again wrong move.

He turned and now stood face to face with me, probably better for his neck but now I was trapped.

“Can I ask you something?” he says. My smile stays put. “How do you feel about the outcome of our election?”

Obviously he had not read about my feelings—I guess my internet stalkers only recently developed. I summed it up by saying I’m ok with it all.

“Let me tell you how I chose,” he continued, his bright blue eyes sparkling. “I’m not Republican or Democrat so I wanted to pick the one who’d be best. Intelligence. I looked at their IQ scores. Obama was top of his class at Harvard. John was bottom of his class at Annapolis. And Sarah, well she lives on Mars. That’s why I voted for Obama. We need someone in there with intelligence to fix the mess.”

So the red flannel did not correspond to political party affiliation, but it did blend nicely with the red I Voted sticker. My civically minded friend pulled a rolled stack of papers from his pocket. He offered me one sheet, prepping me by explaining that he drew a cartoon the night of the election. Copyrighted I’m sure so I can’t reproduce it here, but John’s blood pressure declined and Sarah looked forward to a career in comedy. (Insert laugh) Still smiling I said goodbye and thanked him silently for the imparted wisdom. Too bad the advice came four days late.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rocked the Vote: Failed to Care

Leaving the elementary school and its geometric design emphasized with color-wheel selected paint, I felt the sting of failure. The bright red sticker placed over my heart screamed I VOTED and instinctively I raised my right hand to cover it.

I remember watching Clinton’s first election as a fourth-grader. Granted I didn’t pay attention but we had one intimidating teacher who shared her political passions. She emphasized the importance of keeping up with current events (she harped on that again and again the following year while preparing me for the state geography bee), understanding crisis and plotting a course of action. And after we did that choose the candidate that followed our idea.

Clearly that is not how it works. I didn’t do my homework, didn’t prepare for the test. I voted with limited knowledge and poor options. But consistent with the apathy of my generation the guilt of civic duty paralleled my conscious allowing me to believe that my actions ceased to matter. Until I hit the 24-hour mark.

Monday night the anxiety plowed over me and the exhaustion of it led me to retire early. So much for my night of cramming before the big test. Driving to voice my convictions I realized I had none. At the booth my index finger hovered over two boxes. My toe tapped in frustration, my left fingers drumming on the privacy slab, my ears ringing with the incessant chatter from the poll workers beside me. Unless they wanted to vote for me I really needed them to stop talking. And when I began to wish that for the quiet comfort of the BYU Testing Center I knew the election had ruined me.

Touch and done.

I rushed through the remaining pages and watched the print out roll by with more blank votes than checked. In part I gratefully acknowledged the Republican dominance of my state. But then I cursed my luck of leaving Colorado, a swing-state, where the excitement of a counting vote might have spurred my political activity. I guess I have fours years to transfer back.