Friday, November 24, 2006

Table of Contents: The Thanksgiving Way

So Thanksgiving Day 2006 is now history, but Black Friday 2006 has just started. But that will be the subject of another blog.

Here and now, I want to just simply recount the main event of Thanksgiving Day 2006: having a traditional turkey meal. The place: Bill and Ling’s home at Temple Terrace (Ling, left, is shown in the first image here with my wife). The time: 2pm. The company (in addition to Bill and Ling): Our family and another family from China.

For our contribution, my wife cooked her favorite dish: vegetable with taufoo, shrimps, and mushroom, and we added a fruit cake bought from SweetBay. We arrived at the door just before 2pm with our younger pair of children (read here).

Bill looked the same as ever, genteel and warm while Ling looked slightly on the emaciated side, having gone through some rough patch this year. The two cats were nowhere to be seen, probably prowling their territory outside the house.

And the Chinese family numbers four but spanning three generations. Straddling the generation divide is the couple, Luh and Ning. Then there is the grandma, Mdm. Chen, and the granddaughter, Shan, in her 7th grade.

After placing our food contribution on the well laid out table complete with ten chairs around it, we hitched up a conversion with the Chinese family, me and Luh, and my wife with Mdm. Chen, while Ling, Bill, Ning and Shan were busy setting out the table with food items, alternating between crowding the kitchen and arranging the dishes on the table and shuffling in between.

On the table, the centerpiece was of course the roasted turkey, the splendid handiwork of the gracious hostess, Ling. And I got myself a drumstick that wound up in my stomach in no time as it was after 2pm, way past my normal lunch hour at noon (however, in the giddy moment of partaking of the sumptious roasted turkey, I forgot to snap a shot of the bird prepared to a golden skin tone).

Bill (seen left in the image here, with Luh handing over Bill's cup (the larger one) and Mrs. Chen looking on), on the other hand, was pacing himself, taking his time with his food sampling pursuit. Good for him as I soon found myself stuffed beyond further intake.

To add variety to the food ingesting routine, Ling wanted each of us to say what we were thankful for. Nothing earth-shattering really, just the normal fare of great family, nice company, and good food all round while my list is already available for public scrutiny here.

There was warm camaraderie around the table, like old friends getting together after all those years of not keeping in touch due to a variety of reasons. Each of us took turn to share our experiences, the generation gap sidestepped, the family hierarchy suspended. With food aplenty, this was indeed a table of contents, an apt description of those that both filled out hearts metaphorically, and stomach literally.

After the hearty meal, we sauntered en masse to the boardwalk by the Hillsborough River, retracing the steps we took two years ago on exactly the same day and same time, but in expanded company.

The route was a tree-lined one, and Bill was kind enough to share his arboreal knowledge to the uninitiated like me. He pointed out to me the Ear Tree, because it sheds seeds that resemble human ears, the Rain Tree, because when the pink seeds at the tip of branches drop, it’s like a rain. Then there is the Silk Floss Tree that has thorn-line side growths on its trunk to ward off predator. Several Oak trees are dying because of beetle attack, the beetles having bored into the trunk and consumed the sap, leaving behind a wilting trunk with pieces of bark on the verge of flaking off. It was a sorry sight, a majestic oak succumbing to little critters. But such is the natural selection in accordance with the law of the jungle: the survival of the fittest.

The water stage at the Hillsborough River was lower than normal, revealing much of the tree stumps that line the river bank. According to Bill, these are the roots of the Cypress trees which are found further away from the bank, and are a means for the trees to “breathe” under waterlogged conditions.

One ubiquitous sight is the cascading Spanish Moss from the tree branches. However, unlike Mistletoe (you know, the ornamental plant as part of the Christmas decoration where two persons standing under it by happenstance are supposed to kiss each other), which is a parasitic plant that attaches itself to a tree and draws nutrients from the host, Spanish Moss uses the tree branches only as physical support but otherwise generates its own intake requirements from the air and the rain for sustenance.

According to Bill, the Spanish Moss came aboard ships in the Spanish armada when they came to the New World. In fact, right at this very spot there is a piece of history as shown on a signage post that displays that account. I was only close enough to get the year, about 250 years ago, but Bill filled me in on the details.

Apparently, the mast of a Spanish ship broke (Bill suspected it was due to the laden weight of the Spanish Moss) in the vicinity and it had to stop for repair. From then on the Spanish Moss flourished.

The “trek” ended at the end of a timber boat landing pier, and we had the photos to prove it. Segregated into an all-girls and all-boys shot in turn, we were all beaming into the camera in our own best postures. For some reasons, the girls stayed close to the ground by either sitting or squatting while the boys (some old but perhaps still young at heart) stood erect, preferring to stand in attention to the serenity, the mirror-like river surface, the clumps of trees in the middle of the river, the birds roosting near the river bank, their long pink beaks poking the shallow depth, and to the thin line of people strolling along.

Back to the house, the promenading having shaved off some of the “stuffy feel” of the stomach, we attacked the desserts with renewed vigor. There were fruit cake, apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cut pineapples, and sugar cookies prepared by Shan. To go with that, Ling brewed a pot of Jasmine tea, its characteristic aroma arousing the olfactory sense.

As far as food feast goes, it can’t get any better than that. So is the company, we all exchanging tales. No pretenses. No judgment. Just humans interacting at the basic level: listening and be listened to.

Soon it was time to part company. Contact information was exchanged, and vows to keeping in touch and meeting again in similar circumstances made. Then we all drove off into the sunset, Bill and Ling bidding us goodbye in front of the woody arch formed from Bougainvillea, casting two lone figures in the shadow of the bamboo trees because of the fading light brought forth early by the impending Winter.


CY said...

Ah, yes, although Thanksgiving originally started as something else (pilgrims taking over Indian land), it is nice that it's evolved into a holiday for giving thanks. Although we didn't go around the table and say what we were thankful for, it was nice just to be in the company of people who cared about each other. The food was good, too.

Say Lee said...

Try it next time, telling others what you are thankful for and listening to others'.

It's fun and therapeutic in a way.