Saturday, November 29, 2008

Celebrating Turkey Day

Thanksgiving in Florida is a bit different than other parts of the country. Because the Sunshine State is made up of so many transplants, it tends to be celebrated by de facto groups who gather together as families of choice rather than being linked by blood. While relatives shiver in far-off northern states, we join up with friends to enjoy our turkey dinners amongst the sunshine and palm trees.

Back in Chicago we celebrated Thanksgiving one of two ways. We'd either visit my brother's house, where partaking of the meal was something akin to fighting your way around a Ponderosa salad bar during the dinner rush (he was eight kids, plus there were usually assorted friends and perhaps a grandchild or two) or we'd go on a Disney cruise. Every once in a while hubby would cook up our own private holiday feast, but usually it was either bro's house or the high seas.

Now that we live in Florida, I never even consider flying back to see the family. They're always right at the other end of my cell phone, so I don't feel the need to see them in person (especially not in the cold part of the year). The only thing I miss is the traditional family potato salad and cucumber salad. I come from a family of garlic loves. I kid you not, my mother could actually bite into a raw garlic clove and much it as though she were enjoying a tasty apple or orange. My love of garlic doesn't extent quite that far, but I have an amazing capacity for it that is shared by my brother and his offspring. The family cucumber salad recipe is loaded with enough garlic to drop an elephant. In the early years of our marriage, my husband would stare in amazement as we all packed down copious amounts...he didn't dare touch the stuff. Finally my sister-in-law started making him his own garlic-free batch.

This year, hubby concocted what has become our own holiday tradition: a sweet bean salad that we bring over to our friends' house here in Celebration when we join them for Thanksgiving. We also stocked up on sweet wines from the Plant City winery. We discovered that they're actually cheaper if we buy them at a scary little liquor store near the airport (the only place nearby that carries 'em). Although it's a necessary evil to get our fix of sweet blueberry wine, I'm always glad to have pepper spray when I visit that store. On this trip, a heavy cloud of old cigarette smoke hung heavy in the air in direct defiance of Florida's anti-indoor smoking laws. I imagined that if I'd have dared to point that out, I'd have been tied up in the back and horse-whipped.

As we gathered several bottles of Plant City wines and some of hubby's favorite Sutter Home moscato, I noticed a man come in with two little boys. He plopped them in a shopping cart as though they were buying their weekly groceries from Publix, but instead of milk and cereal and the like he loaded the cart with their holiday supply of booze. The whole scene just seemed surreal: weekly shopping trip at the ol' liquor store. But we made it out with our wine unscathed (well, except for my hacking post-smoke cough) and managed to not be mugged by the deviant characters lurking in the parking lot...I had my pepper spray poised just in case.

On Thanksgiving, we headed out to our friends' house. Our little group was quite an eclectic bunch, linked through Celebration and also through the writers' group. We enjoyed a sumptuous luncheon feast and then settled in for a few rousing rounds of "Apples to Apples" (a game that inevitably disintigrates into amazing depths of depravity). We're probably the only group alive who can link the words "flirtatious" and "amputations." It's hard to describe the hilarity, but let's just say that it brought my husband to tears.

I was feeling a little guilty because I knew that I should be home working. But whenever I was ready to leave, I ended up staying "just a little longer" until finally it was after 8 p.m.

As I reflected on the past year, I realized that I had much to be thankful for. I live in Celebration, right next door to Disney World, so that in itself makes life pretty darned good. My husband and I have wonderful friends with whom to share the holiday, and I scored my first book contract this year. Sure, life has its ups and downs, but those ups are more than enough to smooth out the downsides.

Another Turkey Day is gone and we're heading full tilt into the Christmas season. Hopefully 2009 will bring as much to be thankful for as 2008.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A happy Thangsgiving to you too and congratulations for your book deal. I know how that runs with heavy workload and limited time. But when it's over you can celebrate - and perhaps even update your Disney Cruise blog ( It's very informative and interesting for me, and I was upset, when you stopped updatig. But anyway, keep on working and good luck with your book! All the best, an anonymous fan.