Thanksgiving 2008 arrived in the thick of the economic maelstrom now gripping US. But this did not dampen the celebratory mood usually associated with this festive season marked by family get-together over a turkey dinner, reminiscing about the cherished past. This year we were invited by Linda and Victor to spend Thanksgiving with their family and friends.
Having underestimated the driving time to their home, we arrived ten minutes ahead of the schedule. Being the gracious hosts they have always been, they were unruffled by our premature appearance, their two sons, Kevin and Aaron, standing in attention welcoming us into their home. Linda was still fussing over her culinary preparation, leaving her two sons to engage us in a game of table tennis. Actually it was Wify against her two sons in a double formation while I sat watching the play unfolding before my watchful eyes, watchful because I assumed the self-appointed role as the coach, dishing out warnings and pointers such as service in a doubles game is made diagonally across the table and the players alternate in receiving the return shots. Meanwhile, WT was ensconced in a seat reading a Dilbert comic book while CE, well she was around somewhere in the house.
Then I heard Wify greeted Victor as he descended the stairs into the kitchen. Soon I left the game and joined Victor while he was skillfully cutting out the ham as the machine cutting had left a big chuck untouched. I could see that he is an old hand at the operation, both hands deftly working over the nicely cooked meat chunk, a fork in one and a knife in another. Next he worked on the oven-cooked turkey, a 20 pounder that seemed too big too fit into the over-matched container. He explained the need to feel out the grain alignment of the turkey meat so that each slice is cleanly cut. Otherwise, the cut piece would just crumble into a mess of dishevelled concoction.
Brain and Connie were then ushered in, bearing gifts Connie had bought from Hawaii (I knew that she had just recently returned from the Pacific island and the gift cover belied the provenance). We helped out in laying the scrumptious array of food on the table. Last to arrive was Madam Layko and her two children, Darren and Dream (no kidding here). Madam Layko is Linda's teacher of Japanese.
With the full complement of the host and guests in place, the food treat began in earnest. The young and restless adjourned to another table so that they would not be bored by all the adult talk that was about to circulate (just kidding! They are all extremely well-behaved kids, including our own, or are they just reticent?).
Wify leading off the serving line, while Kevin (left) and Aaron conferring on what dishes to partake. Can you see the huge turkey drumstick on the nearest plate?
The line grew, showing WT's and CE's backs and Brian to the right and Darren to the left (I believe he was sharing tips with her sis, Dream (not in pic) and hence the rather strange pose). Victor's outline can be seen on the window's reflection.
The young and restless bunch, with a clear shot of Dream seated next to her brother.
The food was great, so was the company. And inevitably, nostalgic recollections began to ensue. Since Mdm. Layko is from Japan, Japan the country and her people logically became the topic of discourse, based on personal experience.
I have visited Japan way back in the mid-1980 on a two-month stint as part of a counterpart training for government officers under the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) program. I did some extensive training as part of the course, visiting various water resources projects (mainly dams, river training works, and flood mitigation measures) both on the islands of Honshu and Shikoku. I think it's about the same time or perhaps earlier, Brian and Connie had live in Okinawa for six years. Much later, Linda and Victor have visited Japan on several occasions this decade. So those are our credentials, and those of Mdm. Layko, being a Japanese herself, is beyond scrutiny.
I asked her whether she knows Akira Kobayashi, my childhood idol of a Japanese movie star who captured the audience with his maverick heroics, fighting the bad guys and singing his way into hearts, a guitar slung across his body. His genre of films then was based on the character nicked name the Black Whirlwind. And I think I watched everyone of his movies. She did and even related to me the recent happenings involving his run-in with the law. Then there were the samurai movies with Toshiro Mifune and drama movies of Sayuri Yoshinaga. We also studied the Meiji Restoration Era in Asian History while in Middle school, which marked the first step Japan was opening out to the world from her insular past. Also names like General Tokugawa were imprinted into our mind through Hollywood movies such as The Last Samura starring Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe.
Time passed seemingly in a snap of the finger when in congenial company with a common topic of conversation. In between Wify had another table tennis game with Brian, while I declined to partake because of an over-stuffed stomach.
We left just before 9pm, at my urging as my eyes became dazed with sleepiness. Later in the car, Wify told me that the four ladies was actually planning to have a karoake session later in the night. But my untimely retreat put paid to that plan, all because I woke up too early in the morning and also over-indulged during the dinner treat. Well, there will be a next time, I assured Wify since I know here to be a karoake fan, having bought a portable karoake machine for her just the other night.
And that's the end of Thanksgiving of 2008 for us, giving way to the Black Friday that'll be the subject of my next blog.