Happy Thanksgiving, Santa Cruz. What are you grateful for? I’ve got Nancy Pelosi and pasta palooza on my list

Claudia Sternbach's grandson Dodger on the beach in Aptos.
(Via Claudia Sternbach)

If you are hankering for turkey and pumpkin pie, steer clear of Lookout columnist Claudia Sternbach’s house. She and her 8-year-old grandson, Dodger, won’t be sitting around dishing up gravy. They’ll be on the beach eating cheese puffs and apples from Bella’s orchard, building sandcastles and talking about gratitude. At the top of Sternbach’s list? Nancy Pelosi, pies from a freezer, her grandson’s giggles, airplanes, Lookout and you.

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If, when you enter a house on Thanksgiving and are welcomed by the scent of a roasting turkey, the sweet smell of pies baking, the happy chatter of hungry guests who are snacking on cheese and crackers, the good cheese that you buy for only special occasions, the sounds of clinking glasses as wine is poured and toasts are made, the sight of a green bean casserole with the crunchy fried onions on top just waiting to be slipped into the oven and the background noise of a football game on TV, you are not in my house.

Claudia Sternbach

Oh, you are in a fine place, and I am sure the time spent in such an environment will be delicious, but this year we — and by that I mean me, Michael, our daughter and our grandson — will be down at the beach building sandcastles, looking for shells and hoping to see dolphins out in the bay. We will have snacks with us — cheese puffs and cheesy popcorn, apples from Bella’s orchard out in Day Valley and something festive to drink.

Once home, tired and sandy and hungry, we are launching a new tradition, which, like a noodle thrown against the wall, may or may not stick: Pasta Palooza!

Neither my daughter Kira nor her son, Dodger, enjoys turkey. Neither would welcome a scoop of green bean mushroom casserole. If he was faced with a serving of that traditional vegetable dish, I believe Dodger would run and hide in the coat closet until the offending side dish had been removed from the table.

While this is a very simple plan for the holiday, getting the two of them up from Los Angeles is a little more involved. They are coming separately. Due to previous commitments, Kira won’t be joining us until Thanksgiving day. Eight-year-old Dodger arrived the Sunday before.

To get Dodger, I have done something I haven’t done since I was a flight attendant decades ago: take two flights in one day. I drove to San Jose, hopped on a Southwest flight to Burbank, met up with Kira, who handed Dodger off to me. Then the two of us flew back to San Jose and then popped over the hill home. Easy-peasy.

My gratitude knows no bounds when it comes to this. I know just how lucky I am to have a grandchild close enough to pull this off.

I am grateful that we can afford plane tickets. I am thankful he wants to come and hang out with his granny (although I go by Mimi because it sounds young and French). I am super grateful he has never questioned my desire to be called Mimi.

I am thrilled my daughter is willing to trust me with her most precious boy. The days I have him without his mom we visited Manuel’s for quesadillas and beans and chips followed by ice cream at Marianne’s.

In the evening after his shower and teeth-brushing, we curled up under the quilts and made lists of what we are thankful for this year. I am telling him about Nancy Pelosi and how much I appreciate all she has done for California and the entire country. I might not have always agreed with every decision she made, but boy do I admire her dedication. She is brave, hardworking and the kind of fighter the Marvel universe would love to have.

I am working to explain just who Rupert Murdoch is and how even though I can’t stand him or his politics, I am so grateful for his New York Post front page illustration of “Trumpty Dumpty.” And also his buried-on-page-26 response to Donald Trump’s presidential run, “Been there, Don that,” calling Trump “a Florida retiree” and “avid golfer” with a “classified documents library” at his Mar-a-Lago home and membership club.

Love the message. Despise the messenger.

I’ve mentioned to Dodger how much I enjoy knowing that I may purchase pies at Aptos Ace Hardware. Weirdly, the store has added a freezer to its decor. And inside said freezer are pies. Apricot, berry, rhubarb-strawberry and more.

Are they the best pies in town? I have no idea. But the novelty of purchasing one while buying a gallon of paint or a box of assorted screws delights me.

Did you know Ace Hardware sells pies?
(Va Claudia Sternbach)

There are so many things that make my life better. The show “Bad Sisters” on Apple TV. I would love to know each of these Irish women and hope they have plans for another season of attempted murder and mayhem.

The fact that I live in a community with a roller coaster. And that no one makes me ride it.

I am comforted knowing that I live surrounded by redwoods. That the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is just moments away from my house. That wildlife is still a part of my life.

I love that Santa Cruz values poets. And artists of all kinds.

I am thankful for the book “How Lucky,” by Will Leitch. Recommended to me by Gary Butler at Two Birds bookstore, it is a gem of a read.

Speaking of reading, I am thankful for my book club. We have been gathering to discuss life and food and movies along with books for almost three decades.

And family. My husband’s family, which is large and noisy and fun and chaotic and mostly on the East Coast, and my own small love unit, consisting of Michael, Kira, Dodger and me.

And I am so grateful to Lookout for offering me a place in the lineup. And for readers who make time in their precious day to spend a few minutes with me.

Claudia Sternbach is the author of three memoirs. Her most recent is “Dear Goldie Hawn, Dear Leonard Cohen” (Paper Angel Press), which also includes stories about her sisters. Her previous piece for Lookout, “Can somebody please send Ye to his room?” ran in early November.

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