A November to remember

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I went to school with a guy who had big ideas about Thanksgiving turkey; canned cranberries are his thing. He likes the jelly consistency and the flavor, preferring it to the real thing, but most of all he likes the intact can-shape it keeps in the serving dish and with a dumb smile on his face he savors the sucking sound it makes on its way out. He eats canned cranberries whenever they show up on the grocery store shelves.

His idea was to bring the novelty of canned cranberries to the turkey. If somehow he could puree a whole turkey into a squeeze tube he could bring the juicy flavors of Thanksgiving to dinner tables across America year round in an inexpensive, convenient, and storable fashion. He scrapped his plans over the stuffing. “You’d have to keep the stuffing and the turkey in separate tubes,” he said. “The stuffing holds the essence of Thanksgiving, and nobody’s going to buy stuffing in a tube.”

This year my wife and I had a lot to be thankful for; we had a baby, which, clichés aside, is a life-changing event and alters your ways of thinking. Giving thanks around the cornucopia is usually something I mumble into a cup while I wait to get the green light on the dark meat. But this year I’m thankful for the little guy on my lap who weighs as much as a stuffed turkey. And the entire Pico family — brothers with wives, sisters with husbands, and a whole busload of short children — that came from every corner of the map to see our new addition. They pass him around and rub his fine hair. He’s kissed more often than the Blarney Stone. Then they shrug and look up at our Colorado sky and ask themselves why they ever left.

We have all grown up now. Things are different. I don’t see my siblings but once a year or two, and I have to dig deep into memories to find them as they once were.

Thanksgiving at the Pico house was something I wish you could have pressed your faces to our windows and looked upon. I wish I could invite you in, or at least have you sit back in a comfortable chair now and watch the grainy VHS home video versions of Novembers past.

There were football games in the yard, where we ran dad up the middle for the winning score. He’d trudge over the goal line, dragging small boys on each leg and two on his back. There were chess tournaments in the living room, ending in a tossed chessboard, flying bishops and knights, when one player announced check-mate. And there was mom’s secret gravy with unidentified chunks swimming around and we had real cranberries, no can-opener necessary. The chairs were always pushed too close together, and people bumping elbows as they passed the food — one dish always seemed to go counter-clockwise, against the grain.

These days, sitting on the couch afterward, with a dead leg and an irregular heartbeat, I realize those days haven’t disappeared. They’ve just changed, and more people are involved now.

The family table has been outgrown and there’s a murmur of revolt from the kid’s table. Mom and dad’s house is noisier now and you have to shout over the top and wave your arms. Children run underfoot and adults must stop on a dime to avoid stomping the slower ones — there’s a flow of traffic you have to merge into to get from room to room.

My wife and I have added to it, and our son has a train of cousins to grab ahold of and learn from. The football games are a little sillier and we don’t keep score anymore. I don’t know if there’s even a football being carried. The children sit too close to the television and different moms stand in front of the screen and re-explain the TV rules. My brothers and sisters are all together again, if only for a day, and mom and dad smile proudly as we crowd around for an updated, wide-angle family photo.

I’m thankful for that.

Pico spent his childhood years in the Springs. Now, as a father, he's seeing the city (and life) in a different light. Follow him on twitter at @DavidXPico.

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