I’m sitting at my desk looking out the window at the lake next to our cabin. The rising sun fills the tops of the trees, chasing away the darkness. The sky is clear-blue with not a cloud in sight. And there is no wind to speak of. A clear, calm, cool morning in northeast Mississippi. A little while ago I drove down the half-mile gravel road to make sure the gate is closed. I passed two pickup trucks, signifying that several deer hunters have gotten an early start. The property teems with wildfire—turkeys, beavers, squirrels, rabbits, but especially deer. The hunters say there are several hundred on the property, but we rarely see them except during this season. Meanwhile Dudley is outside running through the woods, well, sauntering would be more like it, with Little Gary, the basset hound jointly owned by Nick and his housemates at Samford University. Nick brought Little Gary with him on Tuesday. It’s quite a sight to behold as the two basset hounds go exploring together, their long ears touching the ground. Sometimes they stop to play in the leaves.
Marlene is about to get up and start her Thanksgiving routine. Lots to be done because we’re expecting nine people today. Marlene, me, Nick, Josh, Leah, my brother Alan, my niece Kathleen, Alan’s friend Linda Hale and her mother. It will be crowded in the cabin and noisy and of course we have food for twenty people. Alan and his friend BJ have been up for a while, deep-frying five turkeys. For those who don’t know, fried turkey is the best way in the world to prepare a turkey. It definitely beats roasting it in the oven, and it even beats smoking it. You fill a container with peanut oil and heat it to 350 degrees. Then you put the turkey on a skewer and dip it in the boiling peanut oil. In about 55 minutes, the turkey emerges deep brown, with crisp skin and incredibly moist on the inside. Alan and BJ are deep-frying five turkeys—two for the crew at the Emergency Room at the hospital, one for us (a nineteen-pound bird), one for BJ’s daughter, and one for someone else. Our Thanksgiving meal features all the usual dishes, including the all-important cornbread dressing, which once you’ve had it, you never want any other kind of dressing.
Nick is staying with us in the cabin, and Josh and Leah are in the guesthouse. Later this morning we will enjoy Leah’s pumpkin coffee cake. Kathleen will be driving over from Florence, Alabama. She’s coming for Thanksgiving because Andy and Betty are in France visiting their oldest daughter Megan. Linda and her mom will be here around noon. Alan is on call today so that means he could be called in to the hospital at any time. The current plan calls for us to have Thanksgiving dinner around 1 PM, which is early by some people’s standards but we usually have dinner earlier rather than later. That gives us time to watch football today, just like the Pilgrims did at Plymouth Rock.
Tonight at 8 PM we’ll be at Alan’s home in Tupelo where we will attempt to do a live video hookup using Skype technology with Mark in Beijing. There is a fourteen-hour time difference so that means it will be 10 AM in China. Several days ago Alan bought a webcam, which he and BJ installed. We know that it works because we called Mark in China at 1:15 AM his time and woke him up. He was groggy but reasonably cheerful and said the picture looked fine. So we’ll talk to Mark and his friend Vanessa in Beijing.
Dudley and Little Gary just wandered by the window without seeing me. The sun has come up some more, bathing the leafless trees in a bright brownish light. Things are quiet and peaceful in our little corner of the world. In the distance I can see the water broken by an animal swimming toward the far end of the lake. A beaver, probably.
To be surrounded by family and friends is a rare and precious gift. My heart is filled with gratitude early on this Thanksgiving morning.