Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving in a box

"We are so lazy," Jesse said as we recently watched our parade of neat and tidy prepackaged hunk o' kettle fried turkey, the pre-sliced smoked ham, and the pumpkin cheesecake inch forward on the Costco conveyor belt. 

"Wrong!" I countered. "We are not lazy. We are busy." Or at least, that's what I told myself as the nondescript turkey was loaded into a box. "This is so much more convenient," I thought, "No need be up to my elbows in turkey innards, poking the pale, goose pimply skin and extracting stringy, purple giblets..." The stuff "gives me the shivers," as the main character says in A Prayer for Owen Meany. When we have a house without concrete slabs for a backyard and a table big enough to accommodate our ten kids, then I'll happily get up 24 hours in advance to stuff a turkey and begin the brining process, basting every half hour to achieve the golden perfection of the bird on the cover of the special Thanksgiving issue of Martha Stewart Living. And then, I might even make my own gravy, too, instead of following the instant packet's directions to "just add water!"

All these thoughts wandered through my mind as Jesse swiped the credit card in the checkout line. But later I thought more about it, and decided Jesse was right. We are lazy. We are so busy that laziness has become an inevitable consequence.

1. averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion; indolent.

Yeah, that's us. After a day of staring at a computer screen crunching data for project managers in Boston, then listening to lectures from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. at the U, then enduring the hour-long ride home on Trax trying (without an iPod) to drown out the surrounding conversations of cell phone junkies loudly publicizing epic tales of last night's sexual exploits, or their latest break-up, the last thing Jesse feels like doing is more work. 

My commuting is less thrilling. I drive 40+ miles to get to BYU. Then drive 40+ miles to get home. The end. After teaching 80 students and sitting in seminars listening to discussions of the vices of alcoholism in Victorian England, I feel like doing only one thing: taking a nap. I am disinclined to exert any mental effort whatsoever. This includes cooking. I don't remember the last time I cooked--not reheated a frozen pizza, or bought dinner at the nearest deli, or persuaded Jesse to take me to Cafe Rio. When we were even too lazy to do any of the above, I thought Jesse would get tired of eating cereal and root beer floats for dinner in mid October.

I suppose this is why I'm allowing us to "host" our first Thanksgiving "out of a box," courtesy of Costco. This, and the fact that I have to write about 100 pages before December 14th. I haven't started yet. Now might be a good time...

As usual, I'm missing the point of the whole holiday. It's easy to get caught up in the preparation of trying to get everything just right, even if it's precooked. All that really matters is that you're grateful. And there is so much to be grateful for.

P.S. Our fish died on October 8th. We were too lazy to have a funeral.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Halloween Memories (for lack of a better blog topic)

Now that Halloween has been over for several weeks, I thought I’d write a Halloween post—in classic Sarita fashion, everything is late. Don’t worry, the Christmas post will probably come in February, along with a Christmas card. If I get around to making Christmas cards.

My dream version of Halloween appeared in the pages of Marc Brown’s Arthur’s Halloween where the kids (or, I should say, anteaters and rabbits) walk down sidewalks kicking at big piles of dried, brown oak leaves, and find the little old lady with snow white hair hiding in the upper stories of a decrepit Victorian house with shingles on the roof, waiting for trick-or-treaters to knock on her door so she could give them chocolate donuts and apple cider.

In reality, Halloween was a test of endurance. In northwest Arctic Alaska, we were lucky if it was warmer than -20 for trick-or-treating. But one of the few redeeming qualities of Halloween in Kotzebue was that we could walk wherever we were going, so if we felt the onset of frostbitten fingers and toes, we could be home in a matter of minutes.

Halloween was also very unstylish. In elementary school we had to wear costumes on top of layers of sweaters and snowsuits, fur hats, hoods, scarves, mittens, and bunny boots. That meant our costumes always had to be one or two sizes bigger to stretch over the bulk of the requisite insulation. This was not cool. You could not be a graceful angel/princess/witch/fairy waddling down the street with puffy snow pants and clompy boots exposed beneath the hem of your costume. We also had to stuff hand fulls of Kleenex in our coat pockets so we could stop every five minutes to wipe our noses that dripped incessantly from the cold. Blowing your nose outside was inconvenient. You had to stop, put everything down, and hike up the costume fabric to find your pocket, unzip it, pull out a tissue without the whole clump falling out and blowing away, etc., all before your hand got numb. The whole process of nose blowing wasted so much time that it was easier to just wipe snot trails on the back of your mittens. It was even more fun when you had to go to the bathroom.

But the prospect of being able to gorge on candy that our parents would normally never let us have dispelled all fears about looking dorky while making the rounds through town. Merella and I joyfully knocked on as many doors as we could before we froze, and were careful to avoid the following: 1) dentists, because they’d always give kids toothbrushes--lame; 2) anyone who was a doctor, because they’d only give you apples—Washington Reds—gross, it totally defeated the purpose of trick-or-treating; 3) any houses that belonged to boys who were the subjects of our latest infatuations--for obvious reasons relating to our appearances; 4) the Senior Citizen Center, because their idea of a “treat” was to make an industrial-sized bowl of fat free popcorn and mix in raisins and unshelled peanuts. When you said, “Trick-or-treat!” the staff member in charge of distributing the goods would toss a handful of the disgusting stuff into your bag. Without plastic gloves on their hands.

When we got home, before we’d even taken off our winter clothes, we’d each dump out the contents of our bags and turn the living room floor into a sea of silver and gold candy wrappers. We would barter with each other for our favorites. Nobody liked Tootsie Rolls so those were the first to go. Dad gladly took those off our hands for free. My favorite candies were the finest specimens of cavity-inducing genetically modified sugar: Blow Pops, Dots, Nerds, and anything else with red 40. Once the bartering started, it had to be gotten over quickly, because we were ordered to hand over the loot to Mom, who would then magically make it disappear. The candy would reappear only after dinner, or the completion of chores or homework.

For the rest of the year we would spend hours searching for our hidden treasure. We never found it. But we suspected it was buried in a snowdrift outside, because it was always cold and rock hard when Mom brought it out.

I suppose the benefit of this miserly distribution was that our candy didn't permanently disappear until March.