Remember November

Deda and Nina, Thanksgiving 2005, Fairview Park, Ohio

Every single year, I make a pledge to approach the month of November prepared, ready to tackle every challenge it issues, armed with experience and predicting the ensuing chaos. But this time, again, it took me by surprise. It ambushed me. November skulked at a safe distance behind a harvest moon, hung meaninglessly from the silhouetted palms like a demented piñata. It laid low, hiding behind the Halloween costumes and lying pumpkins completely out of their comfort zone under the cerulean skies of Southern California. It leapt at me with a shout of “BOO!” as soon as we sorted the candy. And being needy November, it demanded instant attention.

We barely had a moment of respite after putting together the award-winning Gypsy costume for the younger Beastie, and making a non-winning, but truly terrifying Hannibal Lecter mask for the older Beastie, when the birthday party preparations came into focus. I know, I know, I dig myself into a hole every year, trying to make something memorable for my girls, stretching every penny, and pulling every ounce of creative energy I possess.

Some time in September, when November was just a distant thought, Zoe and I decided on a fancy cocktail party with a bartender, pretty hors d’oeuvres, and chocolate cupcakes instead of a cake. No, the inspiration did not come from an episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County, and you might think that we are shacking up in one of the mansions in Coto de Caza. That is obviously what my delusional youngest child envisioned when she showed me the list of about twenty friends she wanted to invite to her long-anticipated birthday fête. I had to make her choose and apply the red marker aggressively, until the number dwindled to ten, still too many to sit at the dinner table, and way too many for our small two-bedroom apartment. But, the invitations went out, hand-delivered to the lucky few by the party girl herself.

That Saturday afternoon, everything in our home was black, white, and silver. The freshly ironed crisp white tablecloth was a perfect background for black platters filled with tiny stacked sandwiches, deviled eggs, bites of hot dogs wrapped in puff pastry, colorful vegetables with a dip, hummus, fruit kabobs, shrimp cocktail, and cheese with crackers.  The guests started trickling in, dressed for the black-tie affair, their eyes twinkling with excitement. Our twelve year old was behind the kitchen counter, dressed in a mandatory white shirt and black skirt as any self-respecting bartender, surrounded by bottles of juices, nectars, sodas, straws, and cut-up fruit for garnish. In twenty minutes she mastered the skill of mixing a proper Shirley Temple and a booze free Bellini, and we had a room full of starlets attending their first Hollywood gala, balancing the cocktails in one hand and a small plate of nibbles in the other, with the appropriate pop standards unobtrusively completing the atmosphere. By pop, I mean Dino, Frank, Sammie, etc.

After this first, successfully accomplished November task, we were ready to finally embark on a long, luxurious scuba-diving vacation in the Philippines. Oh, I forgot: it was my sister and her husband on that sail boat cutting through the turquoise waves. Silly me! But I had no time for petty jealousies. We had to prepare for Father’s yearly visit, coordinate the arrival and organize the departure of the College Kritter, tackle Thanksgiving, and properly celebrate another birthday: that of the aforementioned alien from Academia.

Deda, Zoe, and Anya, Thanksgiving, 2005, Fairview Park, Ohio

I took a day off work on Monday, and spent the whole morning twirling around and singing (I would have whistled if I had ever managed to master the skill), ecstatic that I did not have to come close to the odious location of my employment. Father’s flight arrived on time, the suitcases following him, piled on another wheelchair (he is a very agile man, but for his complete and utter ignorance of any other language beside Serbian, we convinced him to ask for land transportation when he travels). It was the first sunny day after several gloomy and rainy ones. TSA did not subject him to the dreaded groping routine, LAX was not the usual nightmare, and the I-5 took us home in less than an hour. Feeling exhilarated, I stuck my tongue out at November.

We sipped Courvoisier as is our ritual for welcoming Dr. Popovic (Father to me, “Meeko” to Husband, “Deda” to the Beasties and the Kritter) to our home, as he slowly unpacked and I put away the goodies he brought from home. Everything survived the trans-Atlantic voyage and the gentle, loving attention of  the baggage handlers. We talked as Husband retreated to his laptop, unable to follow the conversation (he is a very smart man, but completely and utterly ignorant of any other language besides English), or rather a winded monologue.

While nodding and interjecting an occasional “da” or “aha”, I pulled a chicken out of the fridge, emptied its cavity and separated the liver from the neck, heart, and gizzards which went into my soup bag. I sprinkled the chicken with salt and pepper inside and out, rubbed it with butter, stuffed it with rosemary, thyme, a garlic head cut in half, and the liver. I put it in a roasting pan on top of six thick pieces of baguette, and poured several glugs of olive oil and wine to moisten the bread. It roasted for forty five minutes before I added the wedges of potatoes, big chunks of carrots, and the other half of the garlic head, glistening with olive oil. It remained in the oven for another forty-five minutes, filling the house with an air laden with pleasure breathed through the nose and straight into the soul.

The table was set and red wine poured, while everybody was milling around feeling good, listening to the 80s ballads in anticipation of the delectable meal. After all this was Dorie Greenspan’s Roasted Chicken for the Lazy People, and I have been looking forward to making it since I read the first glamorous review on the French Fridays with Dorie group site (yes, it was the crispy bread that did it for me).

Husband and the Beasties are properly trained, and accept that my Canon Rebel must eat before they partake. But Father and the Berkeley Kritter set the pace and set in on the beast like vultures. The crispy golden skin was peeled and half-digested before I could remove my lens cap. Hence, no pictures of the meal.

And still, November whines, kicking its bratty feet, unwilling to relent. The Kritter’s birthday is up next and her ever evolving palate is not easily appeased. The Brits have an ode to Guy Fawkes that begins, “Remember, remember, the fifth of November…”

So, why is it that year after year, like a mother forgetting the agony of labor, I let November sneak up on me so that by the fifth, I am the victim of its treason and plot.

But, oh how we remember, remember our sweet Novembers.

12 Responses to Remember November

  1. Stephirey says:

    This was a fabulous post. I loved all the beautiful imagery! I felt like I was tackling November right there with you!!! Well done.

  2. Krissy says:

    You have a wonderful talent for writing. I did not need your photos…the well written post painted beautiful pictures and I could smell your chicken roasting with all those lovely vegetables. So happy for you that your father arrived and was here to enjoy this meal with you and your family. Hope he will stay for awhile. Now I must remember not to let December tackle me and throw me to the ground…but it is my favorite month and I love all of December…I’m trying to get a jump start during these last few November days. Until next week….

  3. Cakelaw says:

    What a beautiful post – I agreee with the pevious comments that this post paints such a vivid picture.

  4. Rose says:

    Without the pic , i can say , ur chicken mus have been soooo delicious!
    U write so beautiful and paint a pretty pic of the events that went by and enjoy i do every bit!

  5. Allison says:

    Your writing is so evocative. My lazy Sunday all of the sudden feels squirrelly. Hope you have the chance to breathe ( and write more for us) this month!

  6. May all your Novembers be memorable and filled with the love and joy that went into your “lazy” chicken! Great post!

  7. Elaine says:

    I agree with the others that your words paint such a vivid picture. Really enjoyed reading your post and I am not surprised that they devoured it so quickly!

  8. Andrea says:

    Draga L.,
    novembar/studeni kako god ga tko zove na ovim prostorima je i moj mjesec. Uzivala sam citajući tvoj post :)
    Kod nas pocinje 1. sa muzevim rodjendanom, pa onda 8. sa mojim, pa 13. od mog tate pa 21. od moje mame :)) Luda kuca puna skorpiona :)

    A danas se od jutra prisjecam sa nostalgijom 29.novembra, malih pionira i tradicionalnog svinjokolja :)) Eh to su bili dani :)

  9. April Campbell Jones says:

    Lana, you have to slow down, I cannot keep up with all these delicious blogs!!! Your blog about the perils of November was particularly on the money!

    Your household sounds splendid and I live vicariously through your adventures in dining! You are a truly gifted writer!

  10. Lana says:

    @Steph, thanks! I love November, but it is always a handful:)

    @Krissy, writing is a form of therapy for me. A great way to escape the reality (these days certain aspects of my life are giving me a lot of grief):)

    @Cakelaw, I am much better at painting a picture with words, than with acrylics:)

    @Rose, thank you, so much. It makes me happy when people enjoy my writing.

    @Allison, thanks for the wishes! I just need a day to have at least five more hours…

    @Elaine Corwin, I appreciate your kind words and wishes.

    @Elaine, I was so disappointed when I realized that all I had was a platter full of bones – not very photogenic:)

    @Andrea, ne mogu da zamislim kuću punu Škorpiona! Imam ovu jednu i to mi je dosta! Mada sam namenski planirala da mi se najstarija čerka rodi kao Škorpija, omanuli smo za jedan mesec:)
    Da znaÅ¡, i meni nedostaje 29. novembar – tad se praznovalo onako na veliko. Na svinjokoljima nisam nikad bila, ali nam je kuća uvek bila puna raznih djakonija. Eh, da mi je sad…

    @April, I am beyond geeked when you pay my writing a compliment. Thanks so much.

  11. Kathy says:

    I love reading your posts. You are an artist with words and considering this is a second language..truly amazing.

    • Lana says:

      Thank you, Kathy! I am still amazed that my style of writing can translate into another language. I appreciate your encouraging words a lot!

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