this side up

Turning up the heat on Thanksgiving



The word evoked a mental replay of the turkey coming out of the oven and all that had followed. My niece, her husband and their daughter, Ellie, arrived from Washington by train about noon to be picked up at the Stamford Station. Her sister and her family drove from New York. And we and Ted, with the twins, of course, had driven to be with my father and Marge for Thanksgiving.

A couple more rounded out the table that had been extended with card tables at both ends. Like the iconic Norman Rockwell painting, we were seated and, instead of the father of the household standing, Carol played guitar and sang “Give Thanks With A Thankful Heart.” The kids – all girls – had their own setting at a coffee table in the living room.

Pies are as much of Thanksgiving as turkey, and Marge had a splendid selection. In addition to her renowned pecan pie, she baked lemon meringue, blueberry, peach and pumpkin. Just to broaden the dessert selection, she also made a chocolate cake with the recipe her mother gave her when Marge was 11 years old. She has been making it the same way for 75 years.

The single mishap was one of the pumpkin pies that slipped from her hands and landed upside-down on the kitchen floor. She made no effort to salvage it.

As all this sugar kicked in, Ted rallied the kids outside. While football was surely on the post-turkey agenda of many Americans, whether parked in front of the tube or running around the back yard, Ted and the girls had other plans. The ledge outcroppings in the yard made for lookouts, forts and great places to hide. The rest of us made little effort to leave the table. The scene outside was clearly visible, the trees bare and the yard bathed in the bright afternoon sun.

There was no rush to go anywhere. We traded seats to move around and learn the news, or as everyone did, sampled a forkful or a “thin” slice of one of the pies not initially tried.

I prefer Thanksgiving to Christmas. For starters, it’s a Thursday and like a mid-week weekend, a break in the routine. Despite all our efforts to minimize the gifting and maximize the meaning of Christmas, with rules on the number of gifts and emphasis on the Christmas story, there’s no escaping the materialism of the season. Thanksgiving has become the starting gun but, thankfully, Rhode Island is still a holdout to Thanksgiving Day store sales and the frantic rush for bargains.

As the shadows lengthened, Ted and the kids came in and the family pitched in to clean up. Conversation continued as we fed the dishwasher, removed the leafs from the dining room table and Marge packed bags of leftovers that she handed out as people left.

It was soon thereafter that conditions sizzled.

Ted and the twins, along with my sister and her husband, would be staying the night with me. Carol and Erica drove back to Rhode Island. We tried the TV to catch up on the football, but gave up. It refused to work.

“Let’s play cold, warm and hot,” suggested my brother-in-law, Edward.

The girls were intrigued. They hadn’t played the game. Edward went over the rules. He picked a small silver figurine of a dog from the mantel as the subject of the search. It would have to be “hidden” in plain view while one of us was out of the room. Then the person would be given clues on their proximity to the target like a thermometer reading.

We all got a round “hiding” and finding, and the excitement reached its height with the twins. Quickly, it became a game of us trying to out smart them. Any effort to take turns was abandoned and Sydney and Alex left the room while we placed the figurine in the most obscure of places. Edward even dropped it into his glass of ice water. Sydney was on to him in an instant, spotted it and reached into the glass to retrieve it. She was flush with triumph.

We had to change the rules. The girls were too good.

We took another figurine from the mantel, this one a bronze casting of dog curled up and sleeping. From now on there would be two dogs to find and, as they would be in different locations, the verbal clues would alternate. This prolonged the game, but the girls figured it out.

Ted finally came up with the ultimate “in plain sight” hiding place. The twins quickly found the silver dog, but the sleeping dog eluded them.

“Hotter. Hotter. You’re sizzling,” Ted said as the girls circled his chair. They patted his shirt and got him to uncross his legs.

“No, it’s in plain sight.”

They were baffled. The rest of us loved this. Ted had stumped the twins.

He gave them another clue, “Look in my eyes.”

Alex stood still looking at her father. And then she saw the sleeping dog bedded in Ted’s hair. She squealed with delight.

It beat watching football.


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