By KIRSTEN LEVINGSTON
For Montclair Local
Kirsten D. Levingston moved to Montclair in 2008. She works in the city and writes on
theside. In “Welcome to Montclair” she explores the quirks of this special town. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Huffington Post and Baristanet.
Because Thanksgiving snuck up on me this year, the Honeybaked Ham store is “catering” our meal — that is, if you consider shipping a box of frozen food to your doorstep “catering.” Cousin Lisa is contributing her delectable corn dish. Without sharing family secrets, I will disclose that bacon is involved. My mother-in-law is supervising preparation of her macaroni and cheese, crispy on top yet moist and cheesy everywhere else. Two home-cooked dishes on the table makes this a home-cooked meal in my book. After feasting I’ll enjoy three days in a row to tool around Montclair, get in the holiday spirit, and embrace gratitude. Four things are on my to-do list:
Visit Dem Two Hands. The weekend after Thanksgiving is dubbed “Shop Small Saturday,” and my favorite small shop in Montclair is Dem Two Hands. At the corner of Fullerton and Claremont, Dem Two Hands overflows with unique and beautiful clothing, jewelry, handbags, and shoes. Owner Marion Lake, who opened the store in 1992, designs and sews some of the clothing. I discovered it when a friend hosted a shopping party there. We sipped champagne and counseled each other on what worked. Years later, a couple of days after my dad died, store staff gently guided me to the outfit I wore to his funeral. Shopping at Dem Two Hands feels like visiting the home of a friend with impeccable taste and full closets.
Go through my closets. Some of the closets in my house are as full as my stomach after a second slice of pumpkin pie. This weekend I will go through them to find winter clothes we don’t wear anymore. Montclair’s Human Needs Food Pantry at 9 Label St. welcomes donations, and provides winter clothing, food and other services to people who need them. Its next regular weekend drop-off is Saturday, Dec. 14, from 10 to noon. The Pantry has to discard about half of all donated clothing because it is unusable — worn out, stained, ripped. For this season I will use a slightly different test, instead asking how I would feel receiving the clothing as a gift under my tree.
Pick out a Christmas tree. Thanksgiving rapidly blurs into Christmas. While the aroma of roasting turkey wafts through the house and Macy’s parade balloons float across the television screen, Pentatonix and Nat King Cole carol through my living room speakers. Before the weekend is out we’ll visit one of the many lots around town to select our tree. A couple of years ago my father-in-law helped us pick the best tree on the lot at the Cub Scout sale on Church Street. My mom, who lives on the other side of the country, has already slipped me a couple of gifts she wants her granddaughters to receive on Thanksgiving — ornaments for the tree.
Give thanks year around. One way we’ve given thanks around our table is to remember people no longer with us. Today I will miss my father-in-law, who passed away in January just shy of his 97th birthday. He had very particular tastes that did not include turkey, but he enjoyed cherry pie a la mode. The gratitude I feel today for him, my family, and our comfort is something I want to hold tightly throughout the year. To help, I’ve taken one of my empty notebooks off the shelf and christened it a “2020 Gratitude Journal.” Every few days I will jot down something in it, and encourage (uh, nag) my kin to do the same. Instead of waiting a whole year to center gratitude at our table we should serve it up on a silver platter at every meal.