Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Never Too Much Of A Good Thing

Richard Shindell--"Hazel's House" (mp3)

Thanksgiving is one of those funny holidays. You have to accomplish it. You have no choice. Take me, for example. I'm going to Rome to see my daughter, but I had to have a Thanksgiving meal before I left, so we had one last night. We even had the nearly-as-essential Thanksgiving leftovers meal tonight.

When I first knew we would be in Italy over Thanksgiving, I started googling around to see if there was a place in Rome that would put on a respectable Thanksgiving spread. I got a couple of good leads and was feeling pretty good about it until I got whacked in the side of the head by someone who posted a response to the question. He said, "You're in Italy. They don't really cook turkey there. Do yourself a favor and celebrate Thanksgiving by finding a nice restaurant and having a delicious Italian meal." He was right, of course.

What is it all about? Why do we have to have that meal? And how many times do we have to have it?

Tomorrow, my wife's firm has their traditional Thanksgiving meal. Last Wednesday, my school had theirs. What is it?

I was talking to a student the other day and asking him about Thanksgiving break, especially what he would be doing.

"Nothing much," he said. "Mostly just staying here."

"Well, at least you'll get a good meal, right?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "You know," he said, "I don't really like Thanksgiving food all that much. I don't know what the big deal is. I mean, my mom cooks it okay. But Thanksgiving food just isn't that good. It's alright. It's more about getting together with your family."

I never eat turkey at any other time of the year, except in its deli form. I don't really like cranberries. Not a huge fan of sweet potatoes. And yet, here I am once again loading up a plate, and if someone told me that I had to load a similar plate of the same offerings at someone else's table tomorrow, I'd probably do it. Because there is something about Thanksgiving, its overwhelming sense of nostalgia and comfort, that is difficult to put into words.

Unless you are Richard Shindell. There isn't a whole lot of Thanksgiving music out there. Maybe none at all. Maybe there doesn't need to be, because this song captures the essence of it:

There’s a two-lane county road in northern Jersey
Winding up a hill beside a lake
Just before the road winds to an end
Is Hazel’s house

Long white picket fence around the front yard
A wagon wheel someone made into a gate
Flagstone steps will lead you to the front door
Of Hazel’s house

And Hazel will have seen you from the window
She’s waiting for you as you climb the steps
She says, “Thank God, we were starting to get worried.
Come on in.”

It’s New Year’s and the place is overflowing
Cousins, aunts and uncles gather round
“How long has it been? It’s great to see you.
How you’ve grown.”

And the uncles all have one eye on the Rose Bowl
One by one they slink back to the den
Everybody else heads for the kitchen
You go with them

She always has the crumbcake at the ready
Today is no exception - there it is
The order of the universe intact
At Hazel’s house

And no one seems to know that this is heaven
They say we only know it by and by
That one day all will be revealed
Well, here it is:

There’s a two-lane county road in northern Jersey
Winding up a hill beside a lake
Just before the road winds to an end
Hazel’s house

Yeah, yeah, I know the song is about New Year's Day, but I don't care. To me, it captures everything there is to say about Thanksgiving. I'd drive there tomorrow. If this one doesn't move you, I don't know what will.


Anonymous said...

Great song and spot on take on the holidays, Bob. I'm in the rainy Pacific Northwest in my folks' new house and though they only moved in a week ago and I'd never seen it til Sunday, it feels as much like home as anyplace they've ever lived. Hug your three women for me and bring back tales of your time in Rome as a bon vivant.

jed said...

Bob, listen to Ray Davies' "Thanksgiving Day." It's of the album "Other People's Lives." I love Ray Davies and I don't like cranberries or sweet potatoes either. That's no crime. Happy Thanksgiving BOTG!

Goofytakemyhand said...

Nice post, Bob.

Ray Davies' "Thanksgiving Day" immediately came to mind for me too. Great closing track on Other People's Lives

There's a High Quality YouTube video of it with Ray explaining why he wrote the song.

troutking said...

Hmm...why do I think this is a great post? 1. I actually like Thanksgiving food. 2. I love Ray Davies. 3. I spent Thanksgiving on a two lane road in north Jersey.

Only wish I'd read it Wednesday instead of today. Might have appreciated my holiday even more. Bob, please post this again next year. I will probably forget where I save it on my computer...

Billy Bob said...

I hadn't heard the Ray Davies song. Thanks.