MEMORIES OF MAO

Long ago in a land far away, we had a Siamese cat. Mao — “cat” in Chinese. I don’t know if that’s Mandarin, Cantonese or some other dialect, but it was a good name.

English: A two-year-old seal point "tradi...

We got Mao as a tiny kitten. From day one, he was a feisty, chatty cat.  He was also our first cat, which his name reflected. Mao Ee (Cat 1). There were, of course, many more cats over the decades, in all the houses in I’ve called home (except this one where it has been only dogs). Regardless, there was never another cat like Mao.

When we traveled, friends took care of our house. I was a great grower of plants back then. Feeding the cats was one part of the job … but watering the 200 plus plants was — or should have been — the bigger task. Frank — best friend’s husband — was often tasked with house care in our absence. Mao was a thinking cat. A logical cat. He decided we were gone because Frank had driven us away. If Mao could drive Frank away, we would come home.

Therefore, when Frank came to the house to feed and water cats and plants, Mao attacked him. I don’t mean a little pounce, a playful swat. It was all out warfare. Mao crouched in shadows and attacked, all 20 claws outstretched, going for gore. Poor Frank loved cats and he and Mao had always gotten along fine. He had no idea why Mao was out to get him.

The moment we came back, Mao was back to normal, friend to the world. He had obviously been right. We were back … ergo, it must have been because he drove The Invader (Frank) away. Logical, yes?

After that, Mao attacked everyone who took care of the house in our absence. He was the terror of Our Crowd. It got increasingly difficult to get someone to take care of things while we were gone.

The years moved on and Mao moved with us. There were children, jobs, bigger houses, dogs. Life. We held celebrations … big Thanksgiving dinners. One memorable occasion, we had a full house including a dozen and half people and featuring a huge turkey. When the turkey was roasted, I put it out on the counter to set while I moved food in the dining room and greeted arriving guests.

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I wasn’t gone 10 minutes. When I got back to the kitchen, Mao was on the counter, finishing off a drumstick. Its remains were still attached to the turkey — a ragged, conspicuously gnawed hole. Not the presentation I had in mind.

The husband and I consulted. We agreed and served the bird as it was.

“What happened to the turkey,” asked friends and family.

“Mao got it,” I said.

“Oh,” they said. “Pass the bird.”

It was a good Thanksgiving. Mao was some cat.

SATISFIED

Thanksgiving went well. With all the landmines we could have stepped on, we didn’t. No one did. It was mellow, the food was good. The company was pleasant. And despite dire warnings from the weather people, it didn’t snow. A bit of drizzle, but it stayed warm enough to not become ice.

Garry

Garry

Now, it’s the final lap to Christmas and the New Year. Which is easier for me, especially since what little shopping I do (other than wrapping paper which is always my last purchase), is done. There’s a miniature tree waiting for me in the attic, all dressed up just needing to be uncovered and set in place.

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Just a few pictures from yesterday. Taken before dinner, so everyone was less sated — and sleepy — as they would be after consuming the big ham, the lamb, and all those lovely trimmings.

Dave

Dave

Kaity

Kaity

We left relatively early. The dogs needed feeding and I was much more tired than the amount of effort I had put into the day seemed to warrant. I’m not sure why, not even today. Owen did 95% of the work, so why was I exhausted? I often think the anticipation of events and the emotional effort we put into trying to make sure everything goes well is as tiring — more tiring? — than physical work. Even “good” stress is stress.

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THANKSGIVING IS NOT EVERYONE’S HOLIDAY

For the past few years, there has been an increasing clamor to make everything shut down for Thanksgiving, supposedly so everyone can spend time with their family. Nice, well-meaning sentiment, on the face of it. Except for all the people who don’t have families with whom to celebrate. Or who are estranged from (or just plain don’t like) their family, what about them? Are you making their lives better? Do they want the day off? Did you ask any of them?

And then, there are Native Americans who don’t think celebrating the arrival of armed Europeans who would steal their land, infect them with diseases, and try in every way they could to murder all of them, is something to celebrate. Or the struggling families who count on extra money from working holidays to help them survive.

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Everyone doesn’t celebrate the same way. Or want to. Some folks prefer to work holidays. They would rather work than sit around their empty rooms feeling left out of America’s favorite dinner party and maybe need the extra pay. Or they don’t like Thanksgiving, for whatever reason — and it is their right to feel that way.

I understand the sentiment, where it’s coming from. To me, it’s one more example of how we try to force everyone to march in lock step. As if we are all the same or at the very least, we all should be. Above all, we should want to be.

I would appreciate it if you righteous people would shut up already. This is a diverse country. That’s not just something we say during an election year. It’s a real thing. As a nation, we supposedly treasure diversity as much as any other freedom. So let’s leave a little room for people to express their differences as well as their similarities, shall we?

We do not all need (or want) to eat turkey. With or without gravy.

COME YE FAITHFUL PILGRIMS COME …

Thanksgiving is getting to be less and less of a big day around here. As family fragments and rearranges, and partners change, the bloom is off the rose, so to speak. To be fair, I was never passionate about turkey. A day of gorging has not been a great pleasure for quite a while. It used to be the day to see people I didn’t see the of the rest of the year, but that has fizzled.

Thanksgiving is a huge meal my son is preparing and we are invited to share. And that’s good. I wish it felt like it meant more. I’m trying to dredge up a bit more enthusiasm. My holiday spirit seems to have gone walkabout.

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Keeping this reality in mind, here are Cee’s questions for the week:

What are you grateful for — about:


Your home life?

That I’ve got Garry and he has me. And the dogs. We have a home and I’m grateful for it.

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Your family?

What few remnants of family remain, I’m grateful we are still in touch and on good terms.

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Your blogging community?

So many smart, talented people! Love you all!

Your city or immediate area in which you live?

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Keep the rivers flowing, the flowers growing. May the woods and fields thrive and there be a spring after the long winter is done.

The regional area in which you live?

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New Englanders. Can’t fool them. We knew who was a fraud, who was real. We may have some harsh weather to deal with, but we don’t have a lot of fools.

The country where you live?

Let me put a pin in this one for the moment. I’m terribly disappointed in my country. And sad. We are supposed to be the nation that other nations admire and look up to. Guess not any more, eh? I hope we find our way back to ourselves.

You?

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I’m here. Not dead yet!

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

These days, I’m just glad to have survived last week and made it into this one.

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Grateful for the lovely weather last week. I’ll get back to you on next week. And other things.

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FIRST CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF THE EARLY KIND

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE EARLY KIND

photography BY BOB MIELKE

Garry was very gentle. He barely touched my shoulder. I was sleeping lightly … because I knew we had to get up early this morning.

Already dressed in black, Bonnie is ready to go.

A dawn encounter with a clogged toilet had seen to the light sleep, but also, we have a funeral to attend. A neighbor to see off into the next stop in the cycle … and we needed coffee first.

And had to give the dogs a little love before we go racing out of the house.

For once, it’s not a long journey. Just down the street. Don’t need a GPS or map. Show up looking reasonably put together. Merely a left out of the driveway, and keep going until we cross the rickety bridge into Rhode Island. Then look for the stone church on the right side with the white steeple.

Photo: Bob Mielke - Kaity dressed as ... ? Happy Bird Day!

My real morning encounter is Garry. Gently letting me know it’s time to get myself out of the warm huddle of blankets and dreams and hit the floor.

Garry and Bonnie "have a moment" while the turkey cooks

72-Kitchen-DoggiesGarry does this well. He is a very soft waker-upper. No loud noises, no rousing choruses of anything. So I do not leap from the bed and try to tear his throat out. Because I love him, though early in the morning, I generally do not love anyone until after coffee.

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Not him, not the dogs, not those endless telephone solicitors who seem to believe against all evidence to the contrary that they can actually sell me something before I’ve had my coffee.

Chef Owen, master of turkey

Chef Owen, master of turkey

Hello world. It’s black Friday, the day of the ultimate sales …and I’m done with my Christmas shopping. Except for the wrapping and some tree decorations. We’ve navigated Thanksgiving and the flow of life is rushing us to Christmas.

If we both keep body surfing the wave, I think we’ll make it. Time is rushing towards us and we merely have to stand still while it engulfs us.

A NORMAN ROCKWELL THANKSGIVING

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For those of you who think Norman Rockwell only painted idealized images, he didn’t. His idealized images are the most popular, but he painted many other, hard-edged pictures. If you’re in the neighborhood of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, I recommend the Norman Rockwell Museum.

It’s a particularly American experience. I especially love this Thanksgiving cover for Life Magazine — reminding us that the Pilgrims were a humorless bunch. Not the kind of people I’d like to know.

Indian corn in kitchen window

They wouldn’t approve of our traditional Thanksgiving, not one little bit. I don’t think you’d want them at your table and they would not be thrilled to be there, either.

I enjoy Thanksgiving. The idea of it. It’s good there’s a day dedicated to gratitude. And eating too much, visiting with family and friends. But — you knew there was going to be a “but” didn’t you? — I am frequently reminded there are people who don’t have a family. Others who don’t have much to celebrate. And of course Native Americans, who on the whole, don’t find Thanksgiving a reason to rejoice.

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So, while we are consuming our dinners and enjoying our family, please give a thought to those who aren’t celebrating. Can’t celebrate. Are disinclined to celebrate. We do not all have to celebrate the same way.

Enjoy your holiday. Your way.