Turkey.


Musicians have a slightly different take on the holidays.
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 We are the not so silent, persistently present color in everybody else’s landscape. We are the string quartet for the Good Friday service, Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, Lenten Sundays; the background Sousa marches for Fireworks on the Bay on the 4th of July, the marching music in the Memorial Day Parade, the Labor Day Telethon; the New Year’s Eve party band. We are the ubiquitous celebrants. And, then we go home.
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 Don’t get me wrong. We love making music; we wouldn’t be there, if we didn’t. And, the 200 bucks we put in our pocket, if we plan it just right, will buy groceries for two, solid weeks.
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 But, there’s one holiday, every year, that puts us all to the test. On this day, we can’t hide behind a music stand. We can’t wear the right costume. We can’t play the right song. We have to face the sum total of our lives.
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 Yeah. It’s the feast in November. Every year, we scramble to do one of two things: 1.) Did we clean off the diningroom table? 2.) Did we reserve a seat at the local buffet?
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 I’ve been riding my merry go round for five decades. I think it’s harder when musicians actually have wonderful memories of this holiday. I’m one of them.
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 Our grandmother spent her adolescence as second maid to a wealthy Jewish family in the Poconos. She learned how to create a feast, alright – Pennsylvania Dutch-style. Stuffed turkey, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, peas, corn, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes. Home made gravy. Rutabega. Wilted lettuce, with bacon drippings (that, from the Danes). Apple pie. Cherry pie. Elderberry pie.
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 The oak table was massive, and round, but had a leaf to make it elliptical. And, we cousins with the aunts and uncles, proletariats all, we knew how to squeeze over 20 people into that room, plus a card table in the sewing room for the teens.
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 The same would be true of Christmas, adding the cousins from Parma. And, for that, the card tables would spread into the livingroom – a linen tablecloth, for each.
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 But, the Thanksgiving feast was the first and, without all the presents to open in the morning, this one was all about the food. We’d eat until our stomachs were distended, and all stay the day, too, making turkey sandwiches later with fresh lettuce and Miracle Whip.
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 I loved all my cousins. Each one was more distinct than the next. Mouths full of teeth, all stops out belly laughs. We were all full of ourselves, and we knew how to sell that fact. The boys were natural comics; the girls, ready audience. And, everybody had their story to tell. I don’t remember anybody listening to mine, but I soaked up everything coming at me. And, as each one got married, there’d be a curiously quiet spouse to add to the mix, usually twinkling with amusement at the whole lot of us.
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 Not sure when it was that I missed the boat. It was probably somewhere between the competitive marching band and mom’s death, followed by the divorce, and the private students, and then Carolyn Dillon’s retirement from fifth grade in the building where I taught music to the children all day. I inherited her after school drama club, and reveled in producing a fully staged, fully costumed, fully underscored musical together with as many as 60 kids and one parent every year thereafter for a decade. To an outsider, this was a fully realized life; to me, it was just what I did.
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 What I didn’t do was have a child. What I didn’t do was raise a family. What I didn’t do was convince any member of the one I already had that attending my concerts and other live performances would enrich their lives and cement a lasting relationship with me. I guess, like my mother before me who ended up always doing all the housework alone, I assumed they would all just naturally see the value in participating in my life. Lord knew, at the end of my day, preparing a complete meal for anybody but myself was out of the question.
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Actually, I did prepare Thanksgiving meal one year. The year mum died. I made dinner for 18 of my family members, all by myself. The 25 lb. turkey; the long grain rice stuffing with dates and mushrooms and walnuts; the sweet potatoes with raisins and pineapple; the squash, in butter, with pepper. The peas, in basil. The tossed salad, with everything. And, baked Gala apples, with drizzled Brie, for everybody. I was never invited by the family after that, until the year my nephew was sick and they needed somebody to sit with the other children. The span of years between those meals was an embarrassing sixteen.
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 That feeling, somewhere between the heart and the thymus, that I get whenever I think about Thanksgiving now is also embarrassing. It’s an ache, similar to the one I used to feel after a break up with a boyfriend. That a fully fledged, reasonably attractive, post menopausal woman who still had all her teeth should have this feeling approaching the day when, ironically, every American is urged to take stock of all blessings and be thankful, is hard to admit. But, I feel lonely. And, I don’t enjoy any part of that realization. Not one bit.
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 Funny. Had I raised a family like most everyone else, there would be grandchildren to hold and cuddle this week. There would be lives to laud and honor, details of accomplishments, and travel itineraries, and photos, and mementos. I might be the matriarch at the head of my own table. I might be the one.
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 But, I wouldn’t have become a cellist and pianist, or even this amateur writer. I wouldn’t have developed the ability, at any given moment, to make – using my hands – something rapturously beautiful out of simple sound. Nor would I have had the energy to teach thousands of children and train several. I would not have brought to the table my gifts, because they would have lain fallow in the service of another purpose.
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 And, so, on Thursday of this week, the windows and doors will be flung open. The autumn sun will stream in. And, I will clean my house. I will have the whole, entire day, uninterrupted by expectation. Maybe even play somebody else’s music on the CD player, and sing along.
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We are all born to something. Eat your turkey. Don’t you worry about me;  I’m an artist. I’ll be just as thankful as anybody else.
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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 11/24/15   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you.
littlebarefeetblog.com
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