While the rest of the country was reliving how the Pilgrims stuffed themselves back in the day, I was having my own unique perspective of the holiday in Upstate New York. My mission was to visit my oldest daughter, who had just gotten married and her husband’s family had invited us all out to his parents home for Thanksgiving. Being with either of my daughters is the definition of perfect completion and always the ultimate necessity. But to get to learn the details of other people’s lives, in the context of celebration… well that’s a whole other noteworthy event.
We drove out to my new son’s parent’s home, nestled way back in the rolling hills of Syracuse. His parents had built the home piece by piece and then raised their children there and now me and my camera would arrive for the holiday. Naturally there were many details excluded but the highlight shots have been attached. This story sort of starts here but it’s more about a story of where people come from, what they look like and what we all do on this holiday.
How we all start out as someone else’s children and how us children meet and have children of our own. It’s about how people get molded and influenced right up to the moment when I take the shot of them to share with you here.
Below is a basket of balls. I don’t know what they are, where they came from or where they are going, but apparently everyone that see’s them, takes their picture.
Throughout my new son’s parent’s home, the one he grew up in, are little knickknacks. Tiny memories of moments that have been honored on bookshelves, in cubbie-holes, on refrigerators and comfortably resting everywhere waiting to be viewed. Below is a bench full of dolls. If one ever took the time to think about how much time someone took to make these, they would truly be in awe, humbled and stopped in their tracks.
I once read some where that God speaks to us between our thoughts. You know, when I heard that, I of course wanted to try to hear what he had to say. Have you ever tried to slow down all your thoughts and try to listen to the incomprehensible moment between them. Naturally, I’ve tried and succeeded. Someday I’ll tell you what I heard.
The Thanksgiving table was set so beautifully set and the sun was pouring in to light it up. I couldn’t help but try to catch the high high of long shadows painting a table set with light and love for dear relatives by kind hosts. Have you ever thought about the time and effort one puts into hosting a Thanksgiving? The food is just what we consume but the true feast is one of love, one of giving and one of permitting someone to open their home and give.
And of course there are the strange and bizarre customs that evolve. In this home, with this family, the custom is for all the manly men to gather in the kitchen prior to the meal. The women are ejected to any of a number of nether regions but the men circle around a hot plate of cooked turkey gizzards, smothered in butter, onions and bacon. I had some meat from the turkey’s neck but was more interested in capturing the glistening smokey bacon wrapped in foil lit up by the setting sun.
As the men picked apart their kill, I noticed an old couple observing the buzzard-like behavior from atop the fridge seated in front of a picnic basket. He was snoozing and she was knitting.
By some miracle, this was the final warm sunny day in upstate New York, before the death-defying dark overcast sky would set in for the next nine months. We all went out to the lawn and sat a while to enjoy the beautiful weather.
Meanwhile, at the kitchen table, as the sun set, the “heaving hippo” sat quietly waiting for its transfusion of gravy that would eventually be poured out over the turkey. It seems that another tradition is to make heaving sounds when one pours the gravy from the heaving hippo gravy boat, onto the Thanksgiving meal. I loved this hippo… and couldn’t stop taking pictures of him.
The sun, the sun, the sun… shown through the kitchen window and turned the ordinary spray from rinsing off one’s hands into a magical fireworks shower of sparkly white tiny needles.
And in my humble opinion, no family get together would be complete without the family pets. This dog’s name is Stout. Rumor has it that he impresses the big dogs at the dog park by chewing on giant truck tires and dragging them around the park. Magically, when Stout would get too rambunctious, they would put a Christmas sweater on him and he would freeze and lie down like a quiet docile puppy.
After we ate all we could eat and drank all we could find, we went out shopping! First stop at 10pm was Wal-Mart of course. If my eyeballs were movie cameras, you could really see what I saw but for now, here are a few grabs from the more outstanding late night shoppers among us.
Once we had our fill of Wal-Mart, we cruised over to Target. There we stood on long lines woven through the health and beauty section in order to get to the cashier.
The next day we went on a hike through the woods located across the street from their home. Not sure if all the trees in Florida are slender and the trees in New York have big bottoms, but on this day, we actually found a tree trunk that probably needed to lose a few, though it was attractive to me.
Finally, it was time to leave the childhood home filled with memories, traditions and big bottom trees. On the way out-of-town we got lucky enough to follow some hunters heading to a different set of woods. I loved the pretty girl in fashionable orange, sporting her hunting make up and her hunting earrings.
We passed a pond along the way that supposedly was the location of all types of naughty behavior conducted by the high school kids in town. This was where they hung out when they cut class.
On the way home, we passed through Skaneateles, New York. Naturally, they were having a Dickens Christmas event just as we arrived and everyone was dressed in turn of the century garb. No, this isn’t a dream or one of my made up stories… this is just another ordinary day on Barry TV.
But here is my most favorite part of the journey. Saturday morning we went for coffee at the public market. And as I sat there in the booth, the early morning sun pierced through the window behind me, as the clouds passed and lit up a variety of faces. This first one was a beautiful girl in the distance.
This next one is the manager of the coffee shop. She just so happens to be friends with my daughter and her husband and she joined us in the booth. The sun came in and shined on her face and I had the camera ready. Some people just have amazing and marvelous sculpted features.
Next to us, the sun shown on a beautiful little red-headed girl who was coloring in a coloring book. Her dad sat next to her reading his book. Having two of my own and taken pictures of some of the greatest beauty that this world has to offer, still nothing compares to the face of a little girl.
It came time to leave the coffee shop and we wandered through the frigid market. We saw this woman in the picture below who had her cell phone attached to her ear while inside her head wrap. I stalked her past the pastries, alongside the incense, following the fish and chugging past the chicken. Then as she stepped outside the market, I snapped her.
Late Saturday night, we all went out to an art gallery opening. There was this woman there that was more art than any of the pictures on the wall. She was dark and dramatic and it turned out that she was the owner of the gallery. As everyone was inside trying to figure out the significance of plastic trash bags stretched across a painting’s frame or messages written backwards in clear caulk on broken windows as stark light cast its reverse shadowed messages on the wall behind it… Rosa was out front smoking a cigarette under the street light.
Rosa told me a story about how when she was little, a very famous painter, wanted to paint her portrait. He required that Rosa’s parents permit her to be alone with the painter as he captured her essence. Rosa’s parents declined and Rosa never got her celebrity shot as a child. Now all grown, she promotes other rising artists at her gallery. As a favor to her, I sort of painted her in the top banner of this blog.
The next day I departed from overcast and 30 degrees and arrived to sunny and 70. I was thankful that I didn’t gain a whole lot of weight from the stuff fest… but more thankful that I got to be with my daughter and see her world. Few things in this world are as great as a thankful father being able to sit next to an amazing daughter. This could be one possible definition of perfect.