I have decided that I like the American thanksgiving holiday. Actually, I like it a lot.
We finally set off en route to Dana Point at about 8:15 last Wednesday evening, a bit later than Omead had intended but it meant we missed the main bulk of the traffic. Although he complained occasionally on the way, to me it seemed like nothing more than a normal day on the A127, so I didn’t mind at all. We reached his parents’ place around 9:15ish, and his mother had some food and tea ready for us, which we gratefully accepted since we had both been bitten by the fact the canteens had all shut at 1:30. It took me a while to nail down the dynamic of the room, and who was related to whom, but eventually I detected that one of the guys was Omead’s uncle, which made the friendly white woman, whose four children were sleeping, his aunt. The other chaps must be the brothers he was telling me about. We stayed for about an hour, and I happily joined in playing the games “Imagine if…” and “Boggle” as I tried to get know them. His parents were a bit quieter and didn’t join in with us. After a while though, I sensed he wanted to make a move, so I slipped out of the game and we made our way to his Aunt Roya’s home, about 5 minutes around the corner on a gated neighbourhood estate. Once ensconced there he was visibly happier, and I was happy too as his aunt is a very kind and knowledgeable hostess. Roya is about 42, 5ft nothing, divorced, very thin, and very smiley. As they talked I began to pick up the reasons why Omead and his parents have such a frosty relationship, and I thought how fortunate he is to have his aunt to look out for him. After talking for a long time about this and that, we hit the hay at around 12:30, myself in one of her nice comfortable spare beds.
I was up at around 8:30 on the day itself, and after showering and everything was down not long after 9am. Roya had woken up at 4am, when she had put the turkey in, and had stayed up as it needed glazing every half hour. Suddenly it really dawned on me what a palaver thanksgiving dinner is! Once I told them of my ignorance about bagels, they insisted I have a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. It was good, although to really complete the deal it needed a little bit of smoked salmon in my opinion. Me and Omead had to make a quick trip to Ralphs afterwards to pick up a few more last minute supplies, such as a red cabbage for the salad, and it was jam packed full of people in the store. Once back at 11:30, having cleaned the chairs from the garage, I kept offering my services to help in any other way, and when the doorbell rung Roya grudgingly gave me the macaroni and cheese to do. I say grudgingly because all the time she had been saying “Omead, he won’t want to come back again as he is being put to work!” and all the time I had answered along the lines of “but I want to help since you’ve been so kind to let me join you all today” etc. I did my thing with the cheese grating and soon I had pretty much done all I could, so I went to get to know his relatives that had just arrived, his uncle, his aunt and their two girls. I liked his uncle, he was a cool chap who looked very typically Persian, while his wife looked very stereotypically Orange County American, and she was very nice too. We made some comments about the cold, I always saying that “no, it was lovely today!” as the thermometer was touching 68F. Just before one the rest of the clan arrived. Omead’s parents, his uncle and aunt, their 4 children, his grandparents, two of his older cousins (one of whom I gather from everyone else’s comments is not a particularly kind, considerate chap – he once grabbed Omead by the collar). There were a lot of new faces to get to know, and we all sat down in the lounge area, eating raw vegetables and chips while Roya put the finishing touches to her turkey. The all seemed nice enough, and I smiled consistently and tried to join in as best I could.
Not soon after 1:30 it was time for the food though. It all looked very impressive sitting on the table, and I was quiet unprepared for so much. I kept planning a course of campaign to attract the table, but I kept spotting another dish that looked interesting. In the end I took some of the sweet mashed potato (with marshmallows in), some rice (that had sour cherries in, and I didn’t like the flavour of them too much – I thought they were raisons), some corn and peas, a few slices of turkey, some very tasty stuffing and some mashed potato. There may have been more, I forget. I do remember going back to get a plate of salad and Omead’s American 2-kid-aunt’s lovely pasta salad. All in all, the food was delicious, and I could have eaten more if I hadn’t wanted to save plenty of room for desert.
By about 2:45, with the food table in a state of disarray, it was partially cleared and the deserts were brought out. There was the delicious pumpkin and apple pies, cookies, plenty of grapes and cupcakes. Since I took a slice of both pies, and a cookie, I can’t comment on the cupcakes, by they looked terrific, much like everything else. I was deep in conversation with the 4-kid-aunt at this point, and it crossed my mind more than once how strict parents are here in America. Mairead and Sarah would not get on well! One of the children (aged 12) said ‘poop’ at one stage, which got them a little talk from their father on not using that word because other children’s parents might not let them. They were only allowed the smallest slice of pie or a cookie, and no more, which I felt to be very unfair as we were all stuffing our faces and leaving it attractively on show for the children. Of course they’d want it, and once a year it isn’t going to hurt them! There was finally a discussion on the censoring of television, and how they have to watch everything their children watch first to check there is nothing remotely suggestive in and to remove the adverts. I didn’t want to say I grew up with Morecombe and Wise, Hancock’s Half Hour, or enjoying/laughing at the car and drink adverts during the Formula 1 – it’s a totally different upbringing, and I can’t say I completely agree with their ideas, but it is no matter since they are entitled to do exactly what they consider best. Everyone started to feel slightly dopey by this stage, and after the grandparents and two older cousins had made their way on home, about 5 of us and the children went for a walk around the neighbourhood. I’ve never been in a gated community before, having just seen it on Diagnosis Murder once when they have a murderer locked in, but they are very quite and devoid of people. As safe as I suppose it is for you and your children, to me it isn’t really living life to the full. Not that you do it anywhere in America, but you don’t bump into people on the street, or really see anyone, or much other life in general! It was nice and quiet though… until Omead gave his 4-kid-uncle his guitar!
We all felt rather lethargic on our return, and after the 2-kid-aunt and Omead’s younger brother had played on Omead’s older brothers iPad games a few more times, it was time for everyone to leave. At 6pm, a wave of peace and silence came over the house, and Roya sat down, and didn’t really want to get up again! We offered many times to help her clean up, but she declined every one of them, which I could understand as at the end of the day, if you want a job done properly you have to do it yourself. After some debating about that to see, we eventually plumped to go and see RED at the Kaleidoscope theatre, and after Omead had reasoned with his mother, his brother was allowed to come with us. The movie theatre was about 20 minutes away down the 5, but we made good time and got there before it started at 7:30. The tickets cost $11.50 though, very steep for the cinema! The film was good, we all enjoyed it. It starred Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren, (yes the lady from Southend!), as former secret agents that were in the process of being bumped off by the CIA. It was a bit of a comedy, and funnily enough ended with them trying to knock off the vice president who was trying to cover up former war crimes on his part. It was not too dissimilar from the last film I saw in the theatres, ‘Salt’, when they tried to kill the president. I also thought it was funny how this vice president was running for office in Chicago, Il, which happens to be Obama’s state. Just saying… The film was very good though, and the sight of Helen Mirren as a former agent firing a gun assault rifle was an amusing experience. When we dropped Omead’s brother off, we stopped at his house for a while as another of his aunts who he likes was there. Or maybe it was his grandmother, I wasn’t entirely sure to be honest. Either way, we stopped for a cup of tea for about half an hour, and they had the American version of The Apprentice on TV. As a side note, within 2 minutes I decided that Donald Trump is nowhere near as intimidating and daunting a boss as Alan Sugar appears to be. Erelong, we departed back to Aunt Roya’s, and tucked into the Mac and cheese that we had made earlier. This was legit mac and cheese, and not a Kraft effort or anything, and so it tasted very good indeed! After watching a bit of not so good late night TV we headed up for bed, ready to do what we had threatened to do all afternoon and sleep off the turkey!