In my ear buds Mariah Carey is whining about all she wants for Christmas and I can’t wipe the smile off of my face as I zip my sweatshirt to keep out the Jerusalem morning chill. It’s Thanksgiving morning and I’ve got a list a mile long and the excitement is just building with each step I take towards Super Deal on Derech Beit Lechem. This year, we were invited out to friends for Thanksgiving dinner but I just get so caught up in the excitement of the holiday that I decided to make a small Thanksgiving Shabbat feast. On Tuesday afternoon, I called Suleman, my butcher at Super Deal, and ordered a Thanksgiving turkey.
Last night, I was so happy when Gaby picked up a chocolate chip pie and a pumpkin pie from Sharsheret’s 10th Annual Pies for Prevention; we’re bringing it for dessert to our Thanksgiving hosts. On Facebook, my friend Victoria posted a video of parade goers streaming down 73rd street in my old neighborhood, towards the Parade starting line on the Upper West Side. The pangs of nostalgia were sharp; I miss New York City this time of year.
As I worked late into the night, I thought about the Thanksgiving I once imagined I would have. Children waking up Thursday morning in excitement, eating a big breakfast of homemade pancakes or waffles and then camping out in front of the TV in their warm footed PJ’s to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Driving from wherever we lived over the Williamsburg bridge to my Aunt Amy’s apartment for the annual Thanksgiving feast, where we’d search through YouTube and Netflix for Godzilla movies and The Blob and alternate between the Game and classic movies.
But I’ve learned this past year to really just roll with the punches and let those fantasies and expectations die. Instead, we’re creating new traditions and memories. This morning, after we roused the kids at 6:00 a.m. and I stood in my PJ’s making their school lunches, I wished the kids a Happy Thanksgiving. Sivan asked us where we were going for dinner while Tani just stared at me over a plate of leftover birthday cake. I figured if I wasn’t going to make pancakes for breakfast, I’d at least let them eat leftover birthday cake for breakfast. It’s really the same ingredients so why not?
Once the girls left for school on the van, I got dressed and compiled my shopping list:
Turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin filling, eggs, craisins, marshmallows, organic vegetable broth, tin foil, tins, string beans, sweet potatoes, wine.
Lots and lots of wine!
Super Deal was pretty empty when I entered around 7:30 a.m.; a couple of students from the school across the street were buying fresh rolls and containers of yogurt and cottage cheese. I switched my music to Rocking Around the Christmas tree and grabbed a cart, heading straight for the dairy aisle to pick up some of the non-Thanksgiving/Shabbat groceries. Cottage cheese, eggs, seaweed for school snack. I head over to the canned goods aisle and was dismayed to find that they were stocked with jellied cranberry sauce, but the two cans of whole berry cranberry sauce were dented. I bought the jellied and remembered a couple of whole berry cranberry sauce cans in my pantry at home. I grabbed two cans of pumpkin puree and went over to the butchers.
Suleman greeted me with a smile and exclaimed: “today is your holiday!”
I love this City.
Yes, I told him, that’s why I’m here to pick up my Thanksgiving turkey. He walked over to the large freezers filled with white bags of 6-7 kilo birds, and pulled one out for me. Hoisting my 7.625 kilo turkey over the counter, he wished me a happy holiday. I placed the turkey at the edge of my cart and headed up the frozen section. I decided to cheat a bit this year and picked up two bags of frozen orange soup mix, for Friday night dinner, and two bags of string beans for our non-dairy version of green bean casserole. Then I stood in front of the wine selection for 20 minutes trying to find a good bottle of white wine to bring to our hostess. Personally, I love a nice bottle of Merlot but you’re supposed to pair white wine with turkey, so Sauvignon Blanc it is! I finally decided on a bottle and added it to my cart.
I picked up three bags of bazooka brand white marshmallows, fresh sweet potatoes, onions and apples, and some cooked chestnuts for the stuffing I’m hoping to make. I don’t cook the turkey with stuffing, I much prefer to cook the stuffing separately and let people pick and choose what sides they want to eat with the turkey. I took three big rolls of foil and threw in a can of cherry pie filling for a rainy day and headed to checkout. I told the cashier that I was doing delivery since I walked to the store from our apartment and he asked me to fill out my information. As I was loading all of my items onto the conveyer belt, he told me that it would take 3-4 hours and they won’t be starting home deliveries until 10:00 a.m.
Well, that really won’t work for me, I thought. The turkey takes the longest to cook and I still need to make side dishes before we head to our friends for Thanksgiving dinner. Fridays are short days and we have our weekly pilates class, so I was really counting on doing all my cooking today. I looked at the green bag I had brought with me to take back the cottage cheese and eggs and asked the guy packing my groceries if he thought the turkey could fit in the bag. With a little maneuvering, we were able to get it into the bag and I left the store with a 7+ kilo turkey slung over my shoulder and an uphill climb towards my apartment.
I switched from Christmas music to DJ Khalid to help get me up that hill with an extra 7+ kilo weight to my already heavy frame. With one foot in front of the other, I made my way across the congested traffic on Derech Chevron and up Ein Gedi street. I made a right turn on Shalom Yehuda, passed the corner construction where hard hatted workers peak out at street traffic from holes below ground and the pavement is streaked with cement. The straps of my bags starts digging into my shoulders so I shift it and continue towards the corner of Dostrovsky.
Almost there…to my Everest.
At the base of Dostrovky, I don’t stop or pause, I continue as my thighs start to burn. All I do is win beats into my ears and cheers me up the hill, a personal marathon of one with the finish line in sight.
One foot in front of the other, I continue my climb as I try to control my breathing. I think about walks up this hill months earlier, when I needed to hold on to my walkers for balance. Today, I’m carrying a 7+ kilo turkey on my back and making my way, unassisted towards my home.
I get to the driveway as Gaby is pulling out the car to take Tani to school. I point to the bag on my back and mouth “turkey!!!” to Gaby and he stops the car. Rolling down the window, I look at him with tears in my eyes.
“I just walked all the way home with a 7+ kilo turkey on my back,” I tell him through gasps of breath.
“Wow, kol hakavod!” he answers, a bit in disbelief.
I wave my goodbye and head towards the apartment, in disbelief myself at how far I’ve come and thankful that G-d gave me a new life and the strength to get up that mountain with my life my Thanksgiving turkey on my back.
For all my family and friends celebrating today, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.
May you revel in the spirit of the day surrounded by your loved ones.