The road from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to the New Year is always a crowded, treacherous one -- full of potholes, loaded with speeders jockeying for position, with far too few stop signs. And in this, the year of our Lording it over Iraq, the journey is an anxious one.
All I can say is thank goodness for the media, dedicated to bringing us levity no matter how dark our days, no matter how great the threat of war, no matter how hopeless our president's efforts to appear serious while pronouncing the word "nucular" before an international audience who are all watching.
Consider these media moments from the past few days:
Tom Ridge, director of the newly approved government boondoggle Department of Homeland Security, hams it up on Jay Leno's Tonight Show. Whoever said protecting the country from terrorists and all other matter of foreign invader has to be serious business?
With a straight face, the Associated Press reports that Mattel, Inc. has released My Scene Barbie, with hip-huggers, more makeup and an exposed navel, to compete with Bratz, a line of big-headed, multiethnic, slutty dolls with attitude. Barbie, it appears, is too babyish for the target market of 8- to 12-year-olds, also known as "tweens," the age group responsible for $5 billion worth of the $25-billion toy industry.
The Canadian press secretary calls the president of the United States a moron and the media immediately begin scrambling to deconstruct the event. Radio commentators muse over the president's and the Canadian Prime Minister's brash communication styles and lament the absence of nuance in current leadership. The BBC World correspondent asks if this qualifies as an "international incident." The prime minister defends the president: "He's not a moron at all. He's my friend."
In the not-funny-but-tragically-absurd category, a newspaper article in a Nigerian newspaper suggests that the prophet Muhammad might have wanted a wife picked from the contestants in the Miss World pageant, setting off riots that lead to murder and mayhem in Lagos, where the pageant is being held. More than 200 die, hundreds are severely injured, four churches are burned, and the pageant is moved to London.
In a world gone mad, the rush to spend, the madness of holiday merchandising and the Nov. 29 "biggest shopping day of the year" all seem more comforting and familiar than ever, even though the economy's in the toilet, the national debt is multiplying like rabbits, and mortgage foreclosures and layoffs are rampant.
As always, I am comforted by the familiar. Family members will fly to Colorado for Thanksgiving in spite of the Salon article on the threat of handheld missile launchers to the nation's air fleet. We'll play Backgammon and Scrabble and drink wine and eat turkey and go to the movies and wallow in each other's company for a few days, then look forward to the next occasion, a month from now, to do the same even more excessively.
For days, I have daydreamed about standing at the kitchen counter, chopping onions, celery, apples, beets, peeling potatoes, sweet potatoes and oranges while the noise of my three sons and their cousin fills the house. At night I dream of the dressing preparation -- stale bread cubes, crumbled cornbread, celery and onion sweated to limp translucence in butter, ladles of turkey broth from the back burner, dried sage from the garden, crumbled between my fingers, all of it mixed and left to sit, salted, peppered, tasted again, seasoned again and finally baked.
My daughter will come home and enchant us with her beauty, her dancer's body, her grace. My son will let her cut his hair. Another son will tell us stories of his days at the Army base, training for the promise of war. We will listen and pray. Listen and pray.
The stereo will beat out competing musical tastes -- metal, hip-hop, country, Motown. Our days will be marked by the passing of meals and the loading of the dishwasher. Late afternoons, stuffed, we'll nap and read, nap and read, wrapped in blankets and comforters against the chill of late November and our leaky old house.
Outside, cold days will become colder nights, brittle and silver. Inside, the light and the kitchen stove will glow warm and golden. The world will grow less absurd as we embrace once again, recalling each other's faces like blind travelers, running our fingers over each other's eyelids, remembering ... I am here. We are together.
In a world grown cold, there is no greater gift and no greater cause for thanks.