Rockin’ a Hard Place: Making the most of the short end of the drumstick

So here we are, having given thanks for all our blessings on Thanksgiving 2020. But wasn’t the main thing we’re thankful for simply that 2020 is almost over? No need for a show of hands. I think I know the answer. Be gone, most cursed annus horribilis!

Even here on our Rock, with all its gorgeous beauty, open space, tall trees, friendly folks and fresh air, the world has encroached on us. Stores have closed because of the poor economy, uncivilized politics have spilled their vile bile even in the letters to our dear editor, COVID-19 has spread among young Rock dwellers including more sailors at NAS Whidbey and even a kindergartner in Coupeville, and we’re told not to invite anybody to turkey dinner in our homes or dare to go off-island to eat at somebody else’s home. Let’s just hope the power doesn’t go out again and make the Rock even darker than it feels right now.

We were all stuck with the short end of the drumstick this Thanksgiving. Let’s strap on our masks and make the most it.

Over Thanksgiving 2019 – and doesn’t that seem like a long time ago! – my spouse and I flew to Oakland, Calif., and enjoyed a wonderful holiday celebrating with more than 30 relatives in a restored 1905 mansion near Lake Merritt. We haven’t been on an airplane or visited with any of those loved ones in person since. That weekend, we saw “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” a great movie about Mr. Rogers starring Tom Hanks at the Grand Lake Theater, a classic movie palace. We haven’t seen a movie in a real theater with buttered popcorn since.

This year, it was just the two of us with our two dogs and our view of Penn Cove. We had a Zoom call with various locked-down loved ones in the morning to make sure they’re safe and well, if bored. Then, in the afternoon, I picked up our delicious take-out Thanksgiving dinner with its many extravagant trimmings from Oystercatcher, Coupeville’s gourmet restaurant. That evening, we watched a couple episodes of “The Crown” on Netflix and went to bed. Such is life in 2020.

Recently I took a gander at the Thanksgiving column I wrote for this newspaper in 2017. The headline was, “Thanks, Whidbey, for Everything You Have Every Day.” Wasn’t I the optimistic soul back then! Here are a few things I was thankful for:

The silent symphony of golden leaves falling from willows and alders drifting by my window in the chilly fall breeze.

Millennial young people moving to the Rock, starting creative new business and enhancing our community.

Rockwell beans, a red-and-white species grown only in Central Whidbey by a few precious farmers and by far the best baked beans I have ever eaten.

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, created by some stubborn, devoted, passionate Rock dwellers in 1978 to prevent apartments and bluff-side mansions from destroying a magnificent natural prairie that has grown food for at least 5,000 years.

And last thing I mentioned in my list of things to be thankful for on the Rock those three long years ago was this: the growing foodie culture on Whidbey Island that has given us some of the best chef-owned restaurants anywhere. And that most definitely includes Oystercatcher in Coupeville, now operated by Tyler and Sara Hansen, a millennial couple who moved here a few years ago.

I am thankful that 2020 is almost over. But on Thanksgiving Day, I was much more thankful that Tyler, Sara and their crew prepared our delicious Thanksgiving take-out dinner in this otherwise not very tasty year.

Harry Anderson is a retired journalist with the Los Angeles Times living on Central Whidbey.

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