Friday, November 18, 2005

Thanksgiving

I know I'm a little early, but I figure I better strike while the iron is hot.....or while the muse is working.

Last Monday I watched the Thanksgiving episode of Related. Faced with a powdered gravy, canned cranberry sauce dinner, the girls took over the reins and decided to make all their mother's traditional recipes. Throughout the episode they flashed back to memories of their mom and thanksgiving.

I don't know why I was so moved by this episode, but it has stuck with me all week long. I have thought about what I consider important about the holiday. What are my traditions? What are my memories? What memories will my son have?

Growing up we had two very different styles of Thanksgiving. The ones at Grandma's house and the one's at home. Grandma's was filled with family, card games, cooking, relish trays and eating until we were going to burst. I guess I wasn't old enough or there wasn't room in the kitchen. I never remember helping or learning. I just remember Grandma and my aunts bustling around the kitchen all day. I remember thinking I was going to starve before that turkey was done.

I loved being there. I loved hanging out with my aunts and my grandparents, playing cards, reading books and watching grandma crochet.

I barely remember Thanksgiving's at home. They weren't quite the production of the one's at Grandma's. While there might have been a time when Mom made everything from scratch. I remember boxed stuffing, canned gravy, instant potatoes and canned cranberry sauce. The only thing I remember that was always made from scratch was the candied yams.

I'd love to say they were always happy memories, but the truth is that even at the best of times there was this underlying tension. At Grandma's there was always someone who was missing or currently cut-off from the family, someone's name we weren't allowed to mention. Everyone was on edge, wondering if Grandpa would pass from the happy go lucky drunk, to the mean, angry drunk. And Me? I never knew when Mom would lash out at me. There was this fine line between having fun and interacting with everyone and trying not to draw too much attention to myself. If I was quiet and in another room I could go unnoticed. If I was in the thick of it, I could draw her attention.... and that was never good.

Home was pretty much the same. If I tried to help in the kitchen I got in trouble. If I hid in the bedroom I was avoiding the family. The dinner was delicious, but we weren't what you'd call the happy family. By the time dinner made it to the table mom had surely complained about all the work she had to do to prepare the dinner, how ungrateful I was, how unobservant my father was and my brother....well he was perfect.

With that background, one would wonder why I am so enchanted with the holiday. I started hosting Thanksgiving when I was 19. The year mom and dad got divorced. I made boxed stuffing, canned gravy, canned cranberry sauce and asked mom to bring the candied yams. I stopped up my plumbing with potato peels and learned that you never put them in the garbage disposal.

Over the years I have learned to make home-made rolls, gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pies and pecan tarts.

Most years we have two dinners. One on Thursday at my Dad's. A small meal for 30-40. It isn't what you would call intimate. It is an EVENT, complete with a buffet line where we get to enjoy everyone's specialty. And on Friday or Saturday I cook a traditional meal for my family. A girl's gotta have leftovers you know! When you're one of 40, you don't really go home with a doggy bag.

As I reflected on that episode of Related, I asked my husband. What do you think Joshua will remember about Thanksgiving? He laughed and said "I think he'll remember the pecan tarts."

I hope he's right.
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