Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving in Los Angeles: Is it warm in here or is it just the wine?

When you grow up in Southern California, memories are not marked by seasons. It's hard to categorize what year this event or that milestone happened, because everything happens against that same eery, sunny,  warm backdrop. Having lived on and off the East Coast the past decade, I have learned that people on the East Coast file away their memories differently than people in Los Angeles do. Where here Christmases and Thanksgivings are marked by "the year of the storm" or "the odd warm one" (which to them means 55 degrees) or "the piles of snow," in LA they are marked by the year cousin so and so brought the girl with the fake boobs (they were fake, right?) or the year my other cousin's frat brother dressed up as Santa for us but had a few too many when it came time for everyone to sit on Santa's lap, or the year my six year old cousin put together that the turkey we were eating was indeed a bird, and was indeed once very much alive, and did anyone bring the non-alcoholic wine this year?

When I moved to the East Coast, I fell in love with the ideas of White Christmases and wearing wool sweaters to Thanksgiving dinner. But the more I settle into this life, the more that sweet little veil of "cozy weather" gets torn off the truth. The weather here sucks, and once you've experienced one winter, you've really experienced them all. You know, chapped lips for four months, including the words "fucking cold" into every other conversation, and my favorite- bruises on your elbows from slipping on black ice. People have said to me things like, "But it's warm there. I think it'd be weird to have a warm Thanksgiving."  Or my favorite, "Do you have palm trees for Christmas trees?" That one's a knee-slapper. And to those people, all I can say is, "How sad for you."

Having the holidays in Los Angeles is not weird when that is your norm and coming to Thanksgiving with nothing but a light sweater on is nothing short of awesome. My memories of Thanksgivings past always include lots of sunshine, sometimes leaking stripes of light onto the dinner table. Or going for a walk around the neighborhood after eating, because it's actually enjoyable to do that in California. Or stepping out into the damp air by my Uncle's house in Redondo Beach because it's refreshing to take a break from the heat radiating off an overworked kitchen where three different kinds of birds just popped their thermometer cherries. There is always lots of laughter, music, different kinds of food...that's right, sometimes we have Indian food for Christmas at my aunt Rose's house because it's LA, and you can get away with doing shit like that for the holidays. Or my uncle Guy will bring a lasagne. We are not Indian. We are not Italian (even though my Uncle John tells everyone he is). We are just a big crazy family sprawled out over Los Angeles that has huge ornamented firs for Christmas trees and vegetarian options at Thanksgiving and sometimes saffron rice and lamb vindaloo for Christmas. We come dressed in fancy tanktops and jeans, sometimes sandals, and always sunglasses. We may not always be able to differentiate one year from the next, but the holidays always promise a good time, good albeit different food, and always, warmth.

So for this Thanksgiving, I'd like to say how grateful I am to have had so many warm Thanksgivings and walks around the block after dinner. I'm grateful to have had curried lentils for Christmas dinner and a very "jolly" Santa Clause that other year. I'm grateful for a big West Coast family that I am missing today on this cold East Coast Thanksgiving. But also grateful that it's because of these cold holidays that I can be appreciative of my many warm ones. Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family near and far, but especially those ones in flip flops somewhere in sunny Los Angeles.