Holiday Digest: At the Table

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By Cecile Sarruf 

Autumn leaves dance off sycamore trees and scuttle along a festive Forest Avenue promenade.

Enthused locals stroll the last of summer into fall on the Main Beach boardwalk, and the unpredictable sea holds winter at bay amidst low tide.

The sea’s dark green eyes search for a coastline cove or a tide pool where the children once played. In a time of renewal, growth and return, holiday childhood memories resurface.  

When I was around age 15 and living in Palos Verdes, Mother would send my three sisters and me outside to play until dinner time. We didn’t have electronic gadgets to steal away our attention. Instead, we had each other, the street and a football. 

“Go long!” I’d yell. “I’m throwing a bomb!” 

And I’d grip that football with my index finger at the top to control the spin, three fingers on the lace and one thumb underneath. That’s how Uncle Tam once taught me. Now, mind you, my hand may have been relatively small, but I had a power arm no one could rival. And that football would sail uphill at anyone willing to catch it without a fumble.

While building up our appetites on a crisp afternoon, Father would light up a stogie, pour himself a good red on ice and spin some sounds like Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. Mother turned chef in the kitchen, cooking up a few dishes from her homeland of Egypt and, of course, recipes from her adopted country, like apple pie made from scratch. I never could replicate her delicious flaky crust. Something about ice-cold butter and a fork? 

Finally, when the sky turned a rosy hue, somebody would yell out “dinner!” and we’d race down the block into our house, wash up and take a seat to our bountiful holiday feast. At the table, we were taught to be grateful, to pray and share, for there were those who had nothing. “Ya haram,” (pity them) my mother would say about the starving in some far-off country.

Then we’d help ourselves to that savory roast turkey piled high on a white platter. There were whole baked yams split open with a touch of honey drizzle, warm crescent rolls, Ocean Spray jellied cranberry slices, and aromatic rosemary herb rice stuffing with minced onion, fried gizzards and chopped celery. Thankfully, Mother would make two additional pumpkin pies since we had several mouths to feed!

As I walk from the beach back along Forest Avenue, I realize Thanksgiving has become a game of musical chairs for some. We stand in the shadows, indecisive, and ask who is here with me, who has gone missing, and who will open the door of estrangement. Many of us seek familiar faces, but maybe this time, it is we who will become a welcome stranger at the table.

Cecile Sarruf is a creative writer and fine artist who enjoys participating in the fine arts while living in OC by the sea. 

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