Banana pudding. Weird as it sounds, that’s what I’m missing this weekend. For starters, I’ve never been much of a pie person. My parents owned a small grocery store when I was growing up, and the week before Thanksgiving was our busiest time of year. Our little bakery churned out more than 1,000 pies, and to fill the orders the bakers started on Tuesday and worked nonstop through Wednesday. Once I got to high school, I would head to the store with my mom about 9 p.m. or so on Tuesday and work through the night. No, I didn’t make too many pies myself. But I folded pie boxes, moved the pies onto cooling racks, and helped fill the orders. My mom would call me off of school and so, after a couple hours to sleep or a trip out for breakfast, I would go back to the store and work as a cashier. It was hard work, but the atmosphere was always lively and customers were (usually) in a good mood. It was somehow energizing and exhausting at the same time. But once it was done—the big cooler emptied of all the turkey and stuffing orders, the shelves looking a little bare—pie was the last thing anyone in my family wanted to look at.
Those years are long past, but we still try to have a few dessert alternatives at our Thanksgiving dinner. For most of the last 10 years, my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and nephews have come in from South Bend, Indiana, for the long weekend. And, among other dishes, they’re on banana pudding duty. It’s a great alternative to pie, but its real utility comes at breakfast the next few days. A bowl of banana pudding, a few cups of coffee, and ESPN’s College GameDay on in the background while we catch up with people we don’t see often enough—it’s just about perfection.
My in-laws didn’t make the trip this year. And we didn’t have any local family over, either. It still felt a little bit like a holiday—it was a Thursday with no work or school, football games played on the TV, and I opened a bottle of wine in the afternoon. We cooked a turkey. But it was pretty subdued.
As it was for most of you, I gather. I know that the plural of “random Facebook photo” is not “data,” but from my vantage point it seems like many Americans realized that we are at a particularly dangerous point in the pandemic and kept their gatherings intimate. And it gives me a little bit of optimism. In some ways, I’m reminded of David French’s great newsletter from this week (more below), about how our legal and political systems are standing strong in the face of President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the results of the election. Trump and his legal team have been lobbing baseless claims of election fraud all around the internet, but weak legal challenges are being rebuffed and states are certifying their elections. The pandemic is exacerbating our polarization, we’re still having stupid fights about masks, and, well, some of our political leaders were a little hypocritical this week. But when push came to shove, a lot of us were willing to give up a holiday.