Chef Dance

Feast Day will be a well-choreographed dance in the kitchen, with some rugrats running through legs.

by Fran LoBiondo

Fran LoBiondoTomorrow is Thanksgiving, as I write this, and I am the family host. Normally that would send me into crisis cleaning mode, but not this year. We’ve had the house decorated for the holiday since November 1st, courtesy of our son, Greg. As soon as the calendar page turned, he swept the Halloween decorations into a box and decreed, “Decorate the Thanksgiving!”

It took me aback that first morning, because I tend to be late for everything and I didn’t even know the month had changed. I quickly checked the birthday calendar and saw our daughter, Therese, was turning 21 that week! It’s hard for me to keep up with dates, but she had waited a long time to be considered an adult and able to drink legally.

I tried to gently prepare my girl for this special day, because it’s the last birthday she’ll have something to anticipate besides another year of life. No longer will she have to get by on Shirley Temples with maraschino cherries while her older cousins are sampling wine and beer. Twenty-two will be comparatively, well, blah.

I don’t mean to sound like a Grinch, but there it is. And speaking of grumps, here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.

Why don’t movie theaters and show venues have handrails to help the balance-challenged of their customers maneuver their stairs without falling?

I have recently become sensitive to— unguarded stairs, uneven sidewalks, loose stone medians, cobblestone streets and doorway steps with no rails to hang onto.

Escalators are scary, too, if I don’t have both hands free to clutch onto the moving handrail as I step on to the moving stair.

It was not always this way. Just recently (since my last birthday), I’ve been unsteady on my feet so that I have to step over curbs with extreme care lest I lose my balance and hit the ground.

But don’t worry about me, I’m getting help. I’m on the list for a cerebellum donor—the part of the brain that controls balance, movement, posture and coordination. I figure if the radiation oncologists can fry my brain, it’s only fair that they replace the important bits.

Speaking of help, I anticipate that everyone in my house will be busy as happy honeybees in a comb when preparing the turkey (and honey-baked ham) dinner. Since every family will be bringing a dish, we need to keep the oven free after one o’clock so others can heat up their delicacies. It will be a well-choreographed chef dance, with some rugrats running through our legs. What larks!

Back in the day, my parents got up early to put the turkey in the oven and do the sides and most of us kids put on our costumes and went to the traditional football game with our rival high school. It was usually deadly cold at the field, and my color guard uniform was a garnet-and-gold confection with epaulets, too-short skirt and white go-go boots from the 1960s with rather fetching pom-poms attached thereto.

In turns, I was a gun twirler, a flag bearer and a frozen marcher. During half-time, we had to abandon our school jackets and face the cold, marching to the band’s playlist of fight songs, and hoping they’d have mercy and cut the show short. My brother, Joe, was in the band, and he wore long pants, a jacket over a shirt with gold buttons, and a white fluffy hat that British Bobbies once wore. In a stiff wind, it was tall enough to escape its chinstrap and go sliding down your face, obscuring your music sheet and your path on the field. What was meant to be a crisp autumn march to the drumbeats while you tooted your flute ended up looking like a drunken flock of unshorn sheep without a shepherd.

The music teacher, Mr. L, was charged with leading the band into several formations and could be heard mumbling through clenched jaws: “Alright, let’s get this charade over with.”

I don’t recall the scores of any of the games, just the relief of losing the white plastic boots for my sturdy Converse sneakers.

We arrived home to the aromas of stuffed turkey roasting in the oven, mashed potatoes, gravy and pumpkin pie.

I did not pitch in with the cooking, but you can bet we kids had to clean up. Piles of greasy dishes, pots and pans, and no automatic dishwasher, just us kitchen swabbies fighting over who did not do enough work.

Ah, memories.

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Life Sentences