It’s Thanksgiving week, and there’s no snow on the ground. There’ve been some heavy frosts, and I’ve had to scrape my windshield most days in the last week. Right now there’s a heavy frost covering the apple trees and the sun is coming up over Whiteface. I really wish my camera battery was charged.
When I was growing up, I had a running bet with my grandfather that there would be snow on the ground Thanksgiving morning. We always hosted dinner, sometimes with more than twenty people, but Grandpa would always walk in and give me five bucks and not say anything to me. I would grin and pocket the money, happy in my ability to predict the weather. Of course, most years, there was already snow on the ground before Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that I had a pretty good streak of winning that bet.
And then one year when I was ten or eleven or twelve, I woke up Turkey Day morning to the sight of no snow. I had what should be described as a very easy childhood, and I assumed that Grandpa would ask for his money, but not really demand it. I did not know Grandpa as well as I thought.
He came walking in the side door of our house in Gloversville. There were a few steps to walk up into the kitchen, and when he crested the third step and saw me, and I learned the phrase “sh*t-eating grin.” It was a clear lesson. He was getting his five bucks and he was going to enjoy every single second of it.
Grandpa was, by any definition, “old school.” He had a large leather recliner, everyone else got the couch or the floor or a folding chair. And it was his remote. His and his alone. We stayed at the dinner table until plates were clean. There was absolutely no wrasslin’ in the house. But he was gruff in a way that told you how much he cared about you. Just don’t tick him off.
As I grew up, and even after he passed away, I got to know Grandpa better. He would have liked that I was living out here. There’s no way he would do it, but I’m sure that he would have some stories and old woods tricks to share to help me along. I remember the way he smiled, and his eyes would get all squinty. It’s a trait that I inherited, and when I smile I usually think about him, which just makes me smile more.