Thanksgiving in the Desert 2011

the author and his Nephew in a Pie off, a contest where there are no losers.

For over twenty years our family has gathered in the desert community of Carefree, Arizona to celebrate thanksgiving.  Our version of the great American holiday has a distinctive Sonoran twist, with desert critters and Saguaro cacti. For many most of us, its badly needed excuse for some sweet sunshine in gloomy November. But its also become one of our favorite family traditions.

I’ve been asked on many occasions by my Irish friends, something to the affect of: what’s the big deal about Thanksgiving? Never mind for a minute its dubious origin story, how those noble savages fed the puritanical founding fathers, allowing them to survive that first cold winter. Thanksgiving is a holiday of immense appeal. Its holiday resonates around the simple act of gathering, feasting, and giving thanks. Thanksgiving in its modern form is a long weekend of sanctioned gluttony. In that regard it remains untainted by the heavy hand of commercialism, unlike its December cousin.  No surprise that it should be a favorite among the Parker family.

Since 1989 we’ve forged a tradition thats remained remarkably intact. From its sleepy early morning of sipping coffee and glancing at the Macy’s parade, through sipping beer and downing shrimp as we watch the Lions lose yet again. Onward to the main feast, The plates are never big enough to hold the bounty, easily a week’s worth of food in one sitting. And if we’re lucky we’ll finish in time to play a couple holes of golf, straining to see the ball, the sun long past set. Along the way we’ll likely throw a football. Such modest physical exertion provides allows one to even consider eating pie. At this point if we haven’t dozed off on the couch, we reconvene outside around the “truth fire”, where old stories are resurrected and new stories are born, or badgered out.

Holidays like thanksgiving provide a touchstone in our lives. Here we are once more, around the sun and back again. We missed a year last year, so this year’s gathering was all the more special.  We’ve welcomed new faces and speak with great fondness for those who aren’t present .  This year’s new edition was JoHanna, cousin CR’s significant other. For me personally her presence meant, on top of the apple and pumpkin, an extra serving of humble pie, as i conceded a longstanding bet as to who would be first to bring someone to the table. Well played, dear cousin, well played.

As the world spins at a dizzying pace, we take shelter in our traditions. The road may be rocky and the economy faltering. But how lucky are we to be sharing another thanksgiving together, in such a fabulous setting. Late at night, underneath a starry sky, as the coyotes yelp in celebration of another kill, I wander to the edge of the desert and count my good fortunes. Suburbia may be on our doorstep, but the call of the wild can still be heard. And that’s more than enough to stir a man’s soul.



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