Thanksgiving is over, but the feelings of gratitude linger. We drove to California’s central valley to visit Thoughtful Husband’s sister and her family for the holiday. It takes almost five hours to get there, and we had a caravan this year — two cars — one driven by me, and one by Thoughtful Husband. We took our sons, Tom and Huck, and our dog, Molly. We also took my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law’s father, aunt and uncle. These last four people are in their 80s and can’t do the long drive themselves anymore. Since they all live near us, Thoughtful Husband and I offered to drive them to the celebration.
My sister-in-law and her family live in a farming community. There are a lot of homes there, but one can own a home — with land –inexpensively, especially when one’s view is in the context of crowded and extravagant Bay Area standards. Here’s a picture of the scenery, taken from the car window on the main highway:
I love to visit here for Thanksgiving. The trees turn colors, farm animals dot the landscape, and it is truly Keats’ “season of mists and yellow frutifulness” in the autumn. It’s a long drive to get there, but when I arrive, I am in Thanksgiving-land, far from the traffic and multitudes of the Bay Area.
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, cooked up by my sister-in-law and her husband. Things are pretty traditional in our family — turkey, sweet potatoes, fresh bread, salad, green beans, and pumpkin pie — but there’s one additional twist. My husand’s family is of Italian descent, and we always have raviolis with homemade “gravy” with our dinner. (I’m not Italian, so I call the gravy “sauce” — heresy. Lucky for me, I am still allowed to dine with the rest of the family.) Try as I might, I am genetically incapable of creating such a delectable treat, so I look forward to those delicious dumplings with all of their tomato-basil flavoring almost more than I look forward to the turkey. It was a meal to be thankful for indeed.
My brother-in-law surprised us Friday night by taking the entire family to a concert to kick off the Christmas season. The group that performed is called Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I might as well live under a rock when it comes to pop culture, because I had never heard of them. Well, this concert was unlike anything I ever saw. As my nephew says, “Think Spinal Tap meets Beethoven.” Familiar Christmas songs and classical music are all reset to the sounds of heavy metal rock guitars (four), electric violin (one), keyboards (two), a string section (about eight musicians), back-up singers (about six), and a huge drum kit.
The show itself must be seen to be believed. It involves backlit guitar gods rising from the stage on hydraulic platforms in a shroud of fog, their long, heavy-metal-hair blown to its full glory by wind machines, plumes of colored flame shooting into the air behind them. There’s a drummer who juggles his drumsticks in between beats. There are laser lights (think Pink Floyd), flames, pyrotechnics, and, yes, even snow. There’s even a narrator. There’s also Beethoven, Liszt, and Pachelbel. “Rock opera” is the only term I can use to describe this theatrical presentation. Words really can’t do it justice. If you are so inclined (and I realize you may not be), click on the photo below to see a video of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra performance. It’s really very different from any Christmas performance I’ve ever seen. If you’re a guitar afficionado, be sure to watch the last two minutes of the song. If you’re in a hurry, skip the first three minutes of narration and just listen to the song.
Still with me? Tom and Huck were transfixed by the spectacle of the concert and have decided that in addition to becoming scientists and professional skateboarders, they want to be rock stars. Looks like I have my parenting work cut out for me. 😉 The octogenarians in the family declared, “I’ve never seen anything like it!” and “It was so loud.” Me? I’m left wondering how a bookseller could borrow some of the showmanship of Trans-Siberian Orchestra and use it at a book fair. Perhaps I could be raised above my booth on a hydraulic platform with dramatic amounts of fog swirling at my feet, wind machines gently turning the pages of an ancient and rare tome while heavy metal guitar riffs punctuate every phrase of my poetic description?
Tomorrow, it’s back to the books, the laundry, and the groceries. Today, I am thankful to have family with whom to celebrate Thanksgiving and who I can always count on to show me something new and different!
(Please forgive any typos/grammar errors. It’s late and I didn’t have the energy to proofread.)
Tomorrow: Planning for an upcoming book fair