Friday, November 24, 2006

most of all, when snowflakes fall

November was filled with such angst, such crises regarding how difficult it is to be known, or to be connected, or simply just to be. But yesterday was a day to get centered, bask in warmth, swim in wine, and just be.

On Wednesday night, I sliced apples while listening to Feist, letting my mind do the one thing it rarely does- organize. By the end of the evening, I had mapped out an entire game plan for Thursday, because I had committed to making three different desserts for Thanksgiving dinner. I squeezed a lemon into the apples, coated them with cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and flour, and slept peacefully.

Yesterday, like many Thanksgivings I have spent in San Francisco, had a strange dichotomy. My place is really far too small for a Thanksgiving dinner (and also I'm deathly fearful of preparing a turkey on my own), so I'm always ingratiating myself to a friend who hosts. But as a result, I always spend the morning of Thanksgiving very much in solitude preparing whatever I am supposed to bring. Yesterday, it was regimented. Normally, I really thrive in chaos. I like taking two hours to make what should take twenty minutes. But yesterday, I was following a schedule.

Each dessert baked yesterday had segments. For example, the Gingered Pumpkin Pie had a topping that was made first and set aside. Then I made the dough for the Pecan Tassies (which are kind of like miniature pecan pies). And so on and so forth, until all kinds of components were assembled. The Pecan Tassies were packed away, while the apples were taken out of the refrigerator to add a little dulce de leche (I highly recommend this for anyone interested in kicking up an apple pie a notch, as long as you don't put too much sugar on the apples, and have used sour grannysmiths). While the pumpkin pie cooled, I took a shower to clean off all the flour and butter and eggs. And then I took a deep breath, packed up the car, and headed up to Bernal Heights.

But then I got to the party, and it was the exact opposite. It was all hugs and warmth and people. People everywhere. Two Japanese visitors and three Italians turned up to the dinner uninvited. For the record, I would say Thanksgiving may be the only times Brazilians arch a bit at party crashers. Of course, one of the Italians was a winemaker, who brought tasty wines and cheeses, so all was quickly forgiven.

Everything about dinner was wonderful, and made me realize all the more acutely all the things I will miss the most about San Francisco when I have to leave it. More than that, it made me realize how thankful I am for the people I've stumbled upon throughout the years. I really can't even explain very well how I came to be friends with the Brazilians that invited me to dinner last night, but they reveal this entirely different reality of San Francisco, separate from the one that my more straight-laced coworkers know.

The thing is, I am one of those straight-laced bores myself, so I am so thankful to be included in something so refreshingly different. We had a very traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but that was a first for so many of the dinner guests. We had a 1:1 ratio of wine bottles to dinner guests, which is another reflection of a fabulous Thanksgiving. We sat around the table for hours. We ate dinner, sat back for extra helpings of wine until we were ready for dessert, and then a bottle of tequila mysteriously found its way to the table. We talked nonsense and we talked about microeconomics and we talked about persimmons (which are apparently big in Japan).

I want to call the dinner party diverse, but diverse sounds like such a pretentious word in this case. Yes, the party was a little United Colors of Benetton, but it was not about appearances. Everyone was very much themselves, and yet no one minded each other. Everyone had opinions, but no one was opinionated. And for all of it, I felt grateful.

When I got home, I could not stop thinking about gratitude. Maybe I do not write it so often, but I feel a wave of gratitude every day. Every time I laugh or smile, every time my heart swells, (every time someone comments on this blog!) I am thankful in a way that I hold dear. It's so important to me, to be dazzled by the resilience of the heart despite its extreme vulnerability, to be moved by the kindness of family, friends, strangers. To be grateful for every last minute of it.

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