Autumn leaves. As autumn begins.
My sweety loves to create a family dinner. Over the years, we’ve had the good fortune to share our Thanksgiving dinner table with our own and other families, sometimes folks who had no relatives here to be with, or were experiencing severe challenges, or came to be with us for any number of random reasons. Each time, we were blessed by them joining us and sharing a meal and cherished togetherness.
Thanksgiving has always had a lot of significance for Sweety, and she has forever gone all-out in marking the occasion with a scrumptious meal, prepared with days’ worth of deep love. I put in the table leaves to extend it, and she has gathered autumn leaves to adorn it and create a beautiful tableux; indoors as out… a beautiful sight. She’s the most remarkable person I’ve ever met, and I’m thankful I get to share this life with her.
At our dinners, when all the busy-ness of preparing and cooking and placing everything onto the set table, and everyone is in their seats, she takes her traditional place in front of the turkey platter and always asks me to say something. I have sometimes thought I should prepare it in advance, but as someone who’s never felt natural speaking to a script, I opt for what comes in at the moment. The words are built upon remembrance for those with whom we used to share the table and have there with us only in memory or whatever spiritual presence we feel of them.
But this year, the table isn’t set. The leaves aren’t in it, or on it, and the house is quiet except for the sounds of music, cooking for two, and Perry Como the handsome cat, singing for food as he always does even when his bowl is full.
Tonight, like the last seven months, and many more months to come, is the way it needs to be so we can protect ourselves and each other while the unseen virus eagerly awaits to be an unwelcome guest accompanying everyone home.
“Autumn Leaves” is a jazz standard and popular song written in 1945 by Joseph Kosma (1905-1969) and covered by many, many artists, including Nat “King” Cole, Doris Day, Bob Dylan, The Everly Brothers, Edith Piaf, Manfred Mann, and so many others, plus Eva Cassidy (1963-1996) on her album Live at Blues Alley (1996). Cassidy has been highlighted on this blog before, with her cover of Paul Simon’s “American Tune.”
Today while I started to write this — after Sweety and I enjoyed probably the last gin and tonic of the season out in the summer porch (in the sunshine at 13°C, or 55°F) — she was making homemade tortillas (and I mean she made the tortilla part itself, too!). They were amazing. Quietly, we missed our family, our friends, our traditions.
We look forward to when we can all share time together again.
I think there will be a massive table when that time comes. I might just have to prepare some words in advance. Or not; those present, those far away, and those with us only in memory will inspire.
We were out for a walk earlier this afternoon and saw some people decorating the corner of a nearby park, and we heard they were preparing to celebrate a marriage proposal. There are things to celebrate, gratefully, loudly and audaciously, and silently. Yes, still.
And, a moment to acknowledge the colonial history of this holiday, remembering the people from whom much was taken when masses of people settled here for a better life. If only it had been better for all. It could be. Yes, still.
Blessings to everyone for Canadian Thanksgiving. Stay safe and well. We miss you. And may not even have met you yet.
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Eva Cassidy is special to Sweety and me as we were introduced to her music, albeit after the singer’s death, by friends (and their table) that occupied our 115-year-old home before we did. We lost track a few years after we moved. We miss them too.
Here’s the official video for the song from the Eva Cassidy YouTube channel, featuring Cassidy’s vocal and the London Symphony Orchestra. This version was released in 2018, with Cassidy’s vocal track isolated from her 1996 recording and used in an arrangement by William Ross and Jochem van der Saag, and played by the orchestra. A magical way of bringing someone from the past back “to the table,” or to the leaves, as it were:
Here’s a short article about the recording.
And here’s the 1996 version, with footage of Eva playing live at Blues Alley (one of the so many venues closed due to restrictions in place to protect people from the pandemic) in the Georgetown neighbourhood of Washington, DC in the USA: