Wednesday, November 25, 2020

on my brother's couch

I do not know when it first began.

But my brother's couch has long been a comfort place for me. Decades ago when I would tire during a heat-infused Central Oregon summer day, that couch was my invitation to spend an hour or so wandering the fringes of Morpheus's realm. These days, it serves as a secondary place for me to alight while wandering around my brother's house when I am unable to sleep.

I suspect it is more than that. There is usually a sad tale to tell when someone says: "I am sleeping on my brother's couch these days." And it is usually not a tale devoid of woe. Think of Niles being relegated to Frasier's couch.

For some reason, I have considered "On My Brother's Couch" to be a great title for a short story. And I may actually write it one day.

Today was Thanksgiving in the Cotton household. Even though Thanksgiving was not the primary reason for me to be in Oregon this week, it has turned out to be a pleasant confluence.

Being who we are, our family chose to celebrate Thanksgiving today -- one day early. We brought Mom over to Prineville from her apartment in Bend, combining three households for our celebration. That sounds far more grandiose than it is in reality. Those three households end up totaling only four people. Mom, Darrel, Christy, and me. Time and space has whittled our clan.

But it does not take a lot of people to a pleasant Thanksgiving make. And this was a good one.

We have a long tradition of trying new concepts for our holiday meals. Today was no exception. Instead, of popping a turkey into the oven with little ceremony, Darrel and Christy decided to spatchcock the bird, soak it overnight in a citrus and apple cider brine, and then slip butter and orange slices under the skin. Only then was it ready for its oven experience.

The bird was accompanied by ham, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and a turkey gravy that I improvised this afternoon. Plus a heaping bushel of things for which we are thankful during this past year. The fact that the four of us were here to celebrate with one another was our primary prayer of thanks.

While Darrel, Christy, and I were preparing the meal, Mom rested on the couch reading a book. She was bundled up to ward off the day's chill. Watching her, I thought back about 35 years ago to a Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt Naomi's house.

In those days, our dinners were truly a gathering of the clan. There must have been almost 25 people there that Thursday afternoon -- almost everyone with an assigned task. My maternal grandmother had recently moved from Powers to the Portland area. She would have been 84 years old at the time.

She sat on the couch near the kitchen, warmed by an afghan, and watching the dinner take shape. At one point, she had been in command of the family meals. She was now an honored guest. To her, it must have seemed that her functional place in the family had been usurped.

When I looked over at Mom today, I realized that must be exactly what she feels. For Darrel, Christy, and me, it was our way to return the favor of all the meals she has cooked for us -- and for which we are thankful.

But, to her, it must feel strange to be sitting in the same position her mother sat 35 years ago.

We are not the first generation of this family to go through these Thanksgiving family cycles. In Mom's case, they stretch back to her Mayflower ancestors. One generation after another giving thanks for the blessings they had received in the previous years.

And those cycles will continue for future generations of our family. And we can be thankful for that, as well.

For me, I am thankful for my brother's couch and its part in stitching together my own memories.

For those of you of a more traditional American bent, I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving.

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