You know it's Thanksgiving time when you're running to Mars late at night for more pie crusts, Granny Smith® apples and egg nog.
You know it's Baltimore when you say you're "going to Mars" late at night and everyone knows you're going to the grocery store, and not some distant planet.
You also know it's Baltimore when you find a parking spot at Mars and a nice lady gets out of her minivan and walks to the store with you and, as you step back to allow her to enter first, she calls you "Hon." And she has a bumper sticker on the back of that minivan saying "Angels Are Watching Over Me."
"Thanks, Hon" is as Baltimore as the sauerkraut on our turkey dinners, the curiously adenoidal backwater 'O' sound that true natives bestow on words (to hear sportcaster Keith Mills call out baseball's Magglio Ordóñez is to hear a symphony of vowel sounds in the key of F-flat major) or the acceptance of the glee of civic leaders that it took until Thanksgiving week for the city to reach 200 homicides this year.
It's the same thing every year, and it's beyond the point of being a tired cliché to say that we are rushing around early and late, dashing to Mars or Big Lots! or the indescribable Ollie's Bargain Outlet, a chain of stores that vies annually for the shopping dollar of cheapskates such as I with the legendary Good Stuff Cheap stores, and making ready to make merry through the holidays.
The good folks at Lifetime Movie Network and Turner Classic Movies will show you lots of celluloid examples of Rich Famous Good-Looking Actors portraying Everyday People Doing Wonderful Things, but we can't always be watching TV.
I know. Try as I might, sometimes I have to put the remote down.
And I'm glad I do, because then I go to Mars and have a nice lady call me "hon" just because I stepped aside and allowed a lady to pass, as my father taught me to do when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and then I read about people who give up their day off to prepare and feed a multitude of hungry, sad strangers, and then I come to work and talk to a friend who, for every holiday, rounds up this widower guy she works with and brings him home for dinner with her family. These are the angels who are walking among us, my father included, and showing us a better way than Lifetime could ever depict.
I am fortunate and glad to have you in my life. I know and love a lot of people, and although I wasn't blessed with a lot of talent in a lot of areas, I surely was given all the love one heart can hold. Thank you for putting with my old jokes, arcane references, bluntly-stated political opinions and did I mention, old jokes? I can't remember. I am the luckiest man in the world, to have friends such as you, the most wonderful wife - my Peggy! - and all the joy of the holidays to share with you.
Ready? Let's go!
Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and thank you for meaning so much to me all year.