Laeti Congregamur

by Nancy

No, that’s not gibberish in the title. It’s how the first line of the hymn “We Gather Together,” my Thanksgiving favorite, translates into Latin. My high school Latin teacher provided translations of that hymn along with “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Ruldolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I no longer remember the rest of it, but there’s a full Latin translation of the lyrics here.

This is all a lead-in, of course, to the fact that it’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a time when many Americans “gather together” with family and friends to commemorate the things and people for which we’re grateful. Our blog community gathers daily, and I hope some of you will pop in today to join me and the gladiators and the cabana boys and maybe take the rooster home for a visit. Sometimes we’re thoughtful, sometimes we have fun, and sometimes we mix our moods. No matter what feeling rules a particular day, I’m grateful for the Lair and its denizens, actual and virtual (because, really, there’s power in imagination), and for all our buddies.

Just FYI, Sven and Demetrius are currently squabbling over who gets to carve the turkey, with Demetrius maintaining that his sword will do much better than that “dinky little knife” Sven is holding (it’s a carving knife, actually, “dinky” only in relation to a sword). I’m just keeping my head down, trying to be invisible. They’re the last two I want to referee between, and asking the rooster to help would be like throwing thermite on a fire.

When I was growing up, my mom worked at the college I later attended. Her secretarial position in the registrar’s office let her get to know a lot of students. Those who lived too far away to go home for Thanksgiving often wound up at our dining room table. While I didn’t always appreciate that at the time, I’m now thankful for the way those guests broadened my perspective on holidays and taught me to look beyond my immediate circle on such occasions.

Some of the students Mom befriended became friends of our family, too. I recently saw a couple of them at a gathering of the women in my college class. We go to the beach for a weekend every year, whoever can turn up. Even though there were comparatively few women in our class, I didn’t know most of them well. I transferred in as a sophomore and so missed the orientation that would’ve brought me into contact with them.

I’m pleased to have made, after all these years, friends among the women I missed getting to know the first time around. So I’m grateful to Sue M. and Ann “Wicked” for pushing me to go the first time and for all the women who’ve participated during the years for weekends of camaraderie and memory. And to Van for posing with me and the Silver Surfer in the photo at the bottom of the blog (with only minimal wine involved).

My high school friends have started a community on Facebook to connect those of us who used to live near each other but have since scattered. I appreciate the ability to keep in touch with old friends and our collective past even though the level of activity on Facebook sometimes makes my mind go “tilt.”

Reading comic books ignited my imagination. If a couple of guys from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, hadn’t invented Superman, the superhero from whom all others flowed, I wouldn’t have had that stimulus. So I give thanks for the creators of the many imaginary worlds I love and for the friends I’ve made through fandom and writing.

I’m grateful for the education that made me an insatiable history geek and for scholars and hobbyists who feed that interest. And for the dh’s willingness to carry home suitcases full of books. As we had brunch on our honeymoon in San Francisco, on the first full day of our married life, we looked down from the glass-sided restaurant atop a hotel and were jointly thrilled to discover a bookstore a few blocks over. We went there immediately afterward and added to the total weight of our luggage. We spent our first New Year’s together with him building and staining bookshelves in our living room because our joint book collection kept growing.

A few years later, as we walked through Gatwick Airport to catch our flight home, he had to stop every few feet and renew his grip on the suitcase. The woman behind him said, in a friendly voice, “What are you carrying–bricks?” He said, “No. Books.” And sort of forced a smile. If he wishes the customs agent hadn’t shared the news that books were duty free (at least then–except for dealers, I think–but that may have changed), he sweetly keeps that to himself.

And of course I’m grateful to have the dh and the boy (who once replied to a question about what he wanted to do when he grew up by thinking a moment and then saying, “I’d like to be someone who doesn’t get arrested,” a goal his father and I heartily support and for which we are thankful). The boy is taller than I am now and never loses an opportunity to remind me.

Our lives are enriched by our friends and extended families, who’re also celebrating at their homes today. And, foolish as this may sound to some of you, by our yellow lab, the latest in the string of dogs who discovered they could be bosses of us.

We’re having dinner with friends, who are contributing fabulous brownies for dessert. Since I’m utterly incapable of creating such a thing “from scratch,” I’m grateful for people who can and for the warmth this family’s presence will add to our table.

What are you doing today? Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory? A holiday that seemed bound for disaster but turned out well after all, or vice-versa? Have you made a friend later in life that you missed out on the first time around?

Do you love the Silver Surfer? Do you remember the name of his girlfriend, whom he never stopped missing? Do you have a friend who’d be willing to join you and the Surfer in a photo?


I have SFF samplers from DragonCon for two commenters today. To kick off the holiday season, I’m also including below the recipe for the dh’s holiday favorite. Every year, his late mother made her Aunt Lillian’s [Cringe-Proof] Fruitcake (as adapted, so it doesn’t feed a battalion, by the dh’s sister and brother-in-law).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Aunt Lillian’s Fruit Cake (Cringe-Proof, according to Nancy’s dh)
T
his makes a spice cake with candied fruit and nuts in it.

Be sure to check ingredient list and adapt for any allergies. We use one large loaf pan and two small ones, filling them a couple of inches each, per batch. This cake does not rise.

Warning: Requires very large bowl to mix

Overnight, soak the following in inexpensive brandy:
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 and 1/2 cups candied fruit (often sold as fruit cake mixture)
1/4 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 tsp. grated orange peel

Mix the following and cream well:
1/2 cup shortening (butter)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar

Add:
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 and 1/3 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Mix well, then drain the brandy-soaked fruit and add it;

Mix well, then put into greased and paper-lined pans (use either parchment paper or brown paper);
Bake for about 3 hours at 275 degrees (Fahrenheit);
Test doneness with a toothpick–cake should not be doughy;
When cool, remove from pan and wrap in brandy-soaked dish towel (optional). Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until serving, sprinkling brandy on the cake every few days if desired.

 

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