Building a new Thanksgiving tradition

It is Thanksgiving Day, and for the first time in three years, we are not in our Airstream.  We’re in a house, trying to build a new tradition.

With fuel prices collapsing below any level we saw during our full-timing years ($1.75 a gallon for unleaded is easy to find here in Tucson), it seems a lost opportunity not to be wandering off for Thanksgiving.  The Airstream is completely packed and ready to go at any time, but for some reason we don’t feel compelled to go anywhere.  Our preceding three holidays are all easily remembered for their differing locations: one in the California redwoods, one with a group of similarly homeless Airstreamers in Tampa, the last in Riverside CA with an old friend.  This one will be remembered for being the first in our Tucson home.

Along with building new family traditions, we are preparing for the desert winter.  As you might guess, there’s not much preparation needed.  I won’t be mounting a snow plow to my truck or stocking up on home heating oil.  Our preparations involve trying to get this completely uninsulated house to be a little warmer.  The house is basically a stack of adobe bricks on a concrete slab, with a flat roof.  It’s wonderfully cool even on 100 degree days, but in the 40s, 50s, and 60-degree days we get in December and January, it is completely unheatable.

silver-travel-trailer-slippers-from-front.jpgBeing Tucson, where nobody wants to invest much in heating, the heating system uses the same ceiling-height air ducts as the air conditioning.  So when we turn on the heat, we get a blast of hot air up around the ceiling while the floor remains chilled to the ideal comfort level of penguins.  I did not think when we moved southwest that I’d still need my Airstream slippers in the winter.

Our fireplace in particular is a disaster, from a heating perspective.  It is pleasant to look at and practically in new condition (the first owners of the house never used it in over 40 years of ownership), but as Shakespeare wrote, when lit with a raging fire it provides “sound and fury, signifying nothing,” especially not heat.

There are various home improvements we could install (ceiling fans, better windows, fireplace insert, etc) but for now we are being cheap about it and simply buying a few rugs and extra blankets.  It’s a good excuse to pick up a couple of the Pendletons we’ve been eyeing. (On eBay you can often find bargains on them.)  I’m not particularly motivated to start piling more money into this house.  If things go as planned, we won’t even be here in January.

The other winter preparation, if you can call it that, will be to pick the grapefruit. I have been reading about citrus cultivation and care for the past few weeks, because later I hope to install one or two more citrus when we finally get to re-designing the back yard.  The one grapefruit tree we have has responded nicely to the emergency care I gave it last year, and has rewarded us with a heavy load of over 90 fruit. They’ll be ready for picking in December.  I may wait until we get a freeze because people say the fruit sweetens after a light freeze.  It never freezes here for more than a few hours, but there’s a good chance we’ll get a short one overnight in late December.

Looking forward to next summer, I’m also working on plans to get our 1968 Caravel back on the road, if not entirely restored.  Those of you who read the Tour of America blog might recall that last July I built most of the interior furniture and delivered it up to GSM Vehicles in Plattsburgh NY for storage and eventual installation.  The list of things the Caravel needs seems to be getting longer rather than shorter as I approach the supposed end of the project.  Last night I was tipped off to a good deal on a replacement refrigerator on eBay (a slightly scratched unit being sold off by Airstream), so that was purchased and will soon be freighted up to GSM Vehicles as well.

With the refrigerator in place, we can finalize the kitchen cabinetry and start installing.  I’ll get back up to Vermont in July and finish the remaining interior parts before it’s time for the Vintage Trailer Jam.  I may start a mini-blog just on that topic later, to document the last phases of the Caravel’s restoration project.  By the way, the Vintage Trailer Jam 2009 is likely to happen in August — bigger & better –  but we are currently negotiating with venues, so an official announcement is still several weeks away.

That’s all far away stuff.  Right now our consideration is simply Thanksgiving Day, but looking at all these things I see that we have much to be thankful for. We still have the freedom to travel, happy things coming in the near future, a fun place to live, good family life, health, and even a few interesting challenges to solve.  The concerns we have can be shelved today, and the things we might view as negative can be turned into positives.

thanksgiving-cooking.jpgIn addition to being the first in this house, this Thanksgiving may also be notable for the thunderstorms.  All night it poured hard, a rare event in southern Arizona this time of year.  The humidity this morning is an astounding 89%.  All the dust has been washed away, and for one day it feels like we are in Houston.  It’s a novelty here, since we have not seen anything but sunshine in the last six weeks.

Eleanor’s major goal today is to make the house feel like a home by spending the entire day cooking a massive meal for six people.  We are not expecting any guests, so that means we’ll be having Thanksgiving for two days.  Emma has been recruited to help on the pie.  My job is technical support, which means making appropriate playlists for the iPod (you need a certain type of music to cook by, says Eleanor), looking up technical turkey details on the Internet, hauling off vegetable scraps to the compost bin, and answering the phone on Eleanor’s behalf while her hands are deep in various mixtures.

I had thought that ideally we would have hosted some guests for Thanksgiving, as we usually did when we lived in a house in Vermont.  Eleanor loves cooking for large groups, especially when they are known “eaters,” meaning people who will appreciate everything she puts on the table.  But as Thanksgiving approached it became clear that we wanted to just be together.  Friends would have been welcome, but being new to this house and this town, we are just as happy to spend the time with just each other.

Together we can live completely in this moment and think of nothing else.  That’s where the most memorable days come from, when you are completely absorbed in the moment and letting all the other things go.  To my mind, Thanksgiving is not a day of obligation but a day for self.  The outside world has gone away.  It can come back some other time.

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine