Thursday, November 28, 2002

The spirit of thanks


Pass the gravy, hold the politics

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Don't set a place at your Thanksgiving feast for Osama bin Laden.

Or Saddam Hussein.

The same goes for the friends and foes of Cincinnati's boycott and anybody else bearing a political agenda.

Honor that request and you'll make my mom a happy woman.

She has very few hard and fast rules about what goes on at her Thanksgiving table.

But the one at the top of the short list requires her guests to check their politics at the door.

They are welcome to feast on her great cooking. Go back for seconds. Be sure to save room for dessert. Can't beat her pumpkin pie.

But don't breathe a word about the news of the day.

Or give a weather forecast on the looming winds of war.

Instead, count your blessings. Honor the meaning of Thanksgiving.

This is not a day for whining about what you don't have or worrying about what might happen.

On this day, be thankful for what you have and who you love.

Dueling grandpas

My mom's "no politics" rule dates back to when my two grandfathers were alive.

On Thanksgiving, they would grab two corner chairs in the living room and re-hash the latest election.

Both men were retired carpenters.

They had worked outside most of their adult lives. And it showed. The elements had creased their faces. The work roughened their hands. Making a point, they'd poke the air with gnarled fingers.

One grandfather was tall and thin. The other, short and squat.

One was a strict Democrat. The other, a devout Republican.

Their political leanings made for some lively chats.

But they never took them into the dining room.

They knew better.

They had better things to do. Eat. Give thanks.

Feast for the soul

Banning politics from today's table keeps everyone focused on the meal and each other.

My mom uses her special china to showcase, but never overshadow, the food.

Slices of tender turkey nestle in pools of dark-brown giblet gravy. Stuffing radiates the mouth-watering scents of sage and onions. Green beans glisten with cottage ham juice. Sweet potatoes fried in brown sugar and butter become vegetable candy. Cascading down the slope of a steaming volcano of mashed potatoes, a stream of molten butter mimics a flow of golden lava.

On the sidelines, two pumpkin pies offer the tempting promise of desert.

Before that course meets my lips, I always take stock of the faces around the table.

The best time for gazing comes after someone says grace and everyone digs in.

That's when all talk ceases and eating begins.

It's time for the great pause.

Every Thanksgiving, I use this break in the action to savor the flavor of food prepared with love. There's nothing like it.

Then, I look around.

Hold onto these sights, I remind myself. They're memories.

Everybody occupies their usual place. And I hope to see them there forever.

The meal moves on. Conversation resumes. The topics: Important things. Family. Friends. Fun. Praise for the cook.

"Everything is delicious, as usual, mom."

"You really think so?" she says. "Thank you."

Sometimes, these words sound as if they're in a dream. Then I come to my senses and realize they're coming from the people who matter the most.

Cherish the day. And the people you're with. Be thankful.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail: cradel@enquirer.com.




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