Happy Fall & Thanksgiving

This year’s pumpkin cream cheese bundt cake, which has been Keaton approved.

Happy Thanksgiving! Here in Canada, it’s Thanksgiving weekend. Yesterday, we celebrated with Kong-Ma, and it was a big success. While it wasn’t my first time clumsily patting down and cooking a big bird, it was my first time celebrating Thanksgiving and hosting it myself. (My first exposure to turkey, and naturally, to panic itself, was a few years ago, when we hosted a traditional turkey supper for the meeting of my parents and in-laws on New Year’s Eve.) I’m quite proud of myself. I spent a whopping day in the kitchen — thank you to my husband who took Keaton outside so that I could cook — and even spared some time to clean the floors before Kong-Ma’s arrival. Everything was cooked and prepared on time — and just as Keaton-ai was starting to get hungry for supper after having played and laughed so much with his grandparents.

And there they were on our rustic wooden table, reminiscent of past celebrations: a juicy turkey fresh out of the oven, buttery mashed potatoes and carrots, broccoli, some gravy and cranberry sauce, and soulful red wine. Plus my all-time favourite autumn bake: pumpkin cream cheese bundt cake. (Between you and me, I completely skipped out on all the traditional pumpkin spices both out of pragmatism and laziness, and instead just used a generous heap of cinnamon and extra pumpkin puree.) It turned out so heavenly and delicious! The texture, the moisture, the shape, the taste. I think it was my best bake so far. It looked like autumn, and felt even more like one of my husband and I’s early dates. “Did you forget the flour?” my husband joked. Keaton had some of the pumpkin cake earlier that afternoon, and he loved it. When he arrived home from his walk with daddy, he kept pointing at it and asking for some. (He has an eye for the good things in life.) I broke off a chunk from the back of the cake for him, and next thing I knew, my little guy was getting first dibs on Thanksgiving dessert. (Shhh, no one knew that that part of the cake was broken or could see the back, anyway.)

Kong-Ma had a good time. Mama especially enjoyed her red wine and rum and coke, as well as all her turkey bones and innards. When you come from a family like ours, you’re aware that if it’s part of an animal, it’s fair game. All is edible and delectable. We know Mama had a good time when her eyelids were beginning to retire down yonder, her cheeks were becoming rosy, and she was laughing more than usual. (I’m laughing as I write this, because we all know how serious and militant my mom is.) Keaton also enjoyed his Thanksgiving meal and had a good time. It’s as if he was aware that it was a special meal and occasion that we were celebrating. I also appreciate that Thanksgiving supper always means leftovers to share with loved ones, and to enjoy ourselves the following day. Today, hearing my husband express just how scrumptious the meal is, brought me all the joy in the world.

While Thanksgiving was already plentiful and joyous, the cherry on top of the day was a surprise visit from my brother and his family. After one and a half years, I finally had the chance to see my nieces again. It felt surreal. The last time I hugged them was the night that we brought Keaton home from the hospital. So much time was lost. I didn’t get to watch them grow — kids, and especially pre-teens, grow and change a lot in a year — and they didn’t get to witness or hold their baby cousin, Keaton, either. I felt grateful and elated to see them, even if it was a short visit of a few minutes. It was also heartbreaking that Keaton cried — both for him and for them. Of course he cried. It had been over a year since he was born, and he didn’t recognize them, who, to him, were masked strangers. It was an unfamiliar sight. Yet there was peace in having my son and my beloved nieces finally meet. And for me, I felt like a proud aunt. I could see that my nieces were growing to be intelligent, mindful, and loving ladies.

Thanksgiving was one of the most heartwarming days I’ve had in a long time. There’s a boiling volcano within me, to be sure, and life is filled with challenges for us — and more so than ever — but we have each other and we’re surrounded by love, support, and abundance. I’ve always appreciated the little fleeting moments in life, and it’s still true for me today as a grown woman with a family of my own. This is why moments like these — eating food for which I’m grateful, spending time with my family and in nature, and loving and being loved — are enough to sustain me. I’d even argue that these, as well as purpose, really are the only pillars that we need as a human species to survive and thrive.

Serene foggy morning, and an eye candy at that.

These days, I feel my soul longing to reconnect with nature. In a way, I’m glad we’ve been experiencing constant mind-numbing construction noise and explosives next to us, even if they’ve made life for us unbearable, especially with a toddler. Our mental health has also taken a deep dive. Life is bizarre these days, to say the least. It’s as if we have a home and don’t at the same time. Yet there’s beauty in adversity. While it feels as though we’re escaping our home every day — and there’s pain in that, because it’s supposed to be our safe haven — it’s also, in essence, a blessing. We get to go out and breathe in the morning fresh air and feel the crisp autumn breeze against our cheeks, all before the streets are filled with the scurry of morning traffic. We were lucky one morning. When we exited our abode, we were greeted by fog — the most beautiful I’d ever seen, and it was even more sightly by the lake. Just the sight of it was enough to make me feel some calm and healing in my heavy heart. It felt good to be alive, healthy, and able.

The fog continued along our morning walk, or, shall I say, we accompanied the fog on its morning delight.

Have autumn leaves been tickling your feet where you are? Where we live, it’s taken quite some time for the leaves to transform into their majestic reds, oranges, and yellows. I’m unsure if it’s just me, or if this year autumn really is taking its time. It’s only recently, right at Thanksgiving, that we’ve really begun to see the true spirit of autumn. And what a sight. I can’t wait for more, and to splash around with leaves like a kid all over again. The first time I had this much fun with leaves under a tree — almost like an excited teacup puppy, if you will — was on my husband and I’s first wedding anniversary, which was a few days before Thanksgiving. My son studied me curiously and then joined in on the fun, and in his spirit of support, dropped a leaf in my hair. In retrospect, rather than celebrate our special day, we simply acknowledged and honoured it. With a demanding toddler and fits of tantrums, our only goal that day was to survive. Funnily, life for us has become so raw and unedited, that, what’s become romance to us, is equipping ourselves with shields and armours against our son, our most beloved arch-nemesis, and resuscitating each other back to life in the battlefield. (That’s about as much lip action as we’ll get. That’s also love, commitment, and unity.) We’ve learned that we’re not entitled to special days — life doesn’t work that way — but it’s up to us to choose the road of least resistance, which, in essence, is presence itself and gratitude.

Our Halloween gingerbread house! Featuring Keaton-ai’s stickers. Always gotta have stickers with me.

Now, we’re looking forward to Halloween. We already have our stash of chocolates and candies ready for the 31st, and have even begun our nightly marathons of horror films that my husband chose for us. I can’t wait for us to all dress up as the “Bat Family” in honour of Batman. Keaton will be “Baby Bat,” of course. He looks so stinkin’ cute in his costume — all those baby muscles! Hopefully, my husband and I will also have some downtime to ourselves. If our wedding anniversary wasn’t on our side, hopefully Halloween will be. It’s us, after all.

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