AN ELEGANT SUFFICIENCY
29 November 2002
Many years ago, we had a friend who told us that when he was growing up, his mother would not allow him to leave the dinner table until he said "thank you, Mother, I've had an elegant sufficiency."
That's how I'm feeling at the moment. I've had an elegant sufficiency.
Not only that, but I did the stereotypical "Thanksgiving thing." I stuffed myself and then passed out in front of the television--though not watching football; watching "Jeopardy."
It's been a different sort of Thanksgiving, but I have to admit, a pleasant one.
I wasn't sure if it was starting out all right. Before Walt left for Tahoe on Tuesday, he took the Honda to the Honda dealer to be serviced. It's been flashing an electrical light for months, but it was like a little kid when you take her to the doctor--as soon as you get inside a medical building, all signs of illness disappear. (I remember once rushing Jeri off to emergency when she spiked a fever of 106. We had to wait so long to see the doctor that all of my home grown remedies--aspirin and alcohol baths--kicked in and by the time she was finally seen, her fever had dropped to normal and she was bouncing happily around the exam room. I was sitting there saying, "Honestly, Doctor, her fever was 106!")
So it was with the car. Every time he'd get it in to have the problem checked, the light would go off and they couldn't find anything. Finally, after months of driving like this, the light stayed on this time and they have diagnosed a severe electrical problem. For "severe" read "expensive." They also told him it would be dangerous to drive.
So he went off to Tahoe, the car stayed in the shop, and I was faced with several unpleasant choices: stay home and have my mother drive to Davis instead of me driving to her house; bike to San Rafael (in which case I was leaving 3 days too late); or drive David's old 1973 clunker Toyota, which won't go over 40 mph and which makes me VERY NERVOUS in town, much less on the freeway. Not only does the Toyota make me very nervous on the freeway, but it has no radio --and of course that was the worst part!
I kind of pondered these options for a day and then a light went on. Rent a car. Sure it would be more expensive than driving Dave's car, but you can't put a price on safety or comfort, and so I called my local Enterprise rent-a-car, because they were the guys who would come and pick me up (though I was prepared to ride my bike across the freeway to get a car, if necessary).
I had arranged for "the cheapest car you have" and was charged those rates, but they did not, in fact, have a cheap compact car on the lot, so I'm driving an SUV and feeling very comfortable indeed (in fact, it's big enough that I think I can fit my bike in it and when I return it tomorrow, will bike home to work off some of my dinner, instead of waiting for them to drive me back into town). Best of all, it has a radio and a CD player, so I was still able to have Steve and Jimmy warble tunes from The Big Voice as a sailed down the freeway.
Traffic going west was very light, though it was bumper to bumper in spots heading into the mountains. I felt I had made the right decision.
I was at my mother's before noon, which gave us several hours to sit and visit, solve the problems of the world, and gossip about other family members. It was a deliciously naughty feeling, being by ourselves, with the family scattered all across the U.S. on this, the most "family" of family holidays.
She had made reservations at a fancy restaurant, Georgio's, in a nearby town and at 5 p.m., we presented ourselves to the maitre'd. We were taken to a lovely table overlooking the sun setting on Mount Tamalpais.
"We're going to take our time and enjoy ourselves," she told me, and we ordered drinks. I don't remember the last time I had something alcoholic, but I enjoyed my glass of chardonnay, while she sipped her vodka tonic and we looked at the other diners around us.
In time, we made our way to the buffet table, and what a spread awaited us. A full Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings: turkey, home made cranberry sauce, stuffing, candied yams, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, green beans almondine, two different salads, and rolls with butter. This was no time to think "points." Eat, drink, and be merry and tomorrow we'll diet.
It was wonderful. I wondered how I'd feel sitting in a restaurant eating someone else's cooking, but I loved it. We savored every delicious bite and when our plates were empty, we took a turn at the dessert table. "Don't stint yourself; do it well."
I may not have pumpkin cheesecake again for years, but I enjoyed every bite. I'm sure that alone was two days worth of points.
When it was all over, my mother whipped out her credit card and treated me. She had recently won some money in a raffle, so she used that to pay for the meal. We could not have asked for a more delightful evening.
We came home as stuffed as the turkey and plopped ourselves on the couch to wait until CSI came on, but I was passed out long before that happened. I woke fleetingly when I felt my mother cover me with a blanket, and then slept peacefully until about 1 a.m., by which time I'd had my usual 5 hours of sleep.
So here I am sitting in a dark house, recording my novel Thanksgiving experiences, and then I may go back to the couch and the quilt and see if I have a few more hours of sleep in me.
It wasn't exactly sitting around the family table with five kids and two grandmas and then playing charades while the sister-in-law did the dishes in the kitchen. And there was none of Tom's baked Alaska or my pumpkin pie, but I'm also not now sneaking out to the kitchen hoping nobody will hear me having another couple of bowls of stuffing or notice that missing extra piece of pie.
As I said a couple of days ago, things change over time. This was a change. I don't know that it is a permanent change, but I have to admit that it was decidedly pleasant. And I have definitely had an elegant sufficiency.