Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving week — that special time of year when, in the words of my snarky (but articulate!) teenage daughter, “we celebrate the systematic annihilation of our country’s native people.” And stuffing and cranberry sauce! Cheers! Don’t run away, if you’re not ‘Murican you can stick around and chuckle at us… because we need some cheering up.
I have so many memories of Thanksgiving. First off, what my mom made for Thanksgiving was … reservations. We went to a restaurant in the “countryside” of Tysons Corner (anyone in DC remember Evans Farm Inn!?) and had their Thanksgiving meal, which was delicious. I think I remember my mom cooking the holiday meal exactly twice. One of those times I got busy surreptitiously dripping wax from the pilgrim candle into the empty Parker House roll pan and started a grease fire right in the middle of the dining room table. Being a kid, I just sat there goggle-eyed as the flames rose toward the chandelier, and eventually my mom came in to drop a pot lid over the fire and call me an idiot. Since my sister’s the one who set the carport on fire (separate holiday) I never felt that bad about it.
I married into a big, messy family. I did this on purpose. I wanted to be surrounded by the full range of dysfunction — aunts, uncles, cousins, step-siblings and hangers-on I never got to enjoy, as the child of two only children. Also, these people drank a lot, in a plaid-pants dry-martini fashion. For several years the ex and I were the designated holiday meal-hosts. I loved it. I got to trot out the fine china, the linens, the salt cellars and place cards… all of it. I’ll never regret that. And I’m thankful I’m not still doing it. There was a Lot of Drama. I remember the time I came back to the house from a post-meal walk with my brother-in-law and our kids, and found my sister-in-law sitting out in their car with the doors locked, sobbing. You could hear the other “adults” screaming at each other all the way from the curb.
There was the holiday we were all sitting around my MIL’s place outside Vero Beach, fighting. My nine-year-old took me up on my angry challenge to get us the hell out of there, called Disney World in Orlando, and arranged a very well-priced vacation. Then she put the sales person on the line (“honey, can I speak to your mother?”) and I was so impressed I accepted on the spot. I spent three days watching the twins by the wading pool at one of their cut-rate resort hotels while my kids stood in line for Magic Mountain or whatever, and it was fabulous.
This year, not gonna lie, it’s bittersweet. My dad died right before Thanksgiving last year. We were still caught up in the arrangements. This year… this year it’s hard. It’s strange to feel so old and so young, to drive around the neighborhood I grew up in on a perfect blue-sky day, remembering the hours spent riding my bike aimlessly, no worries beyond dinner and algebra homework. Was that time “innocent?” I don’t know. I think of that Simon and Garfunkel song. I am grateful. Every day.  Tell me a Thanksgiving story of your own.

  • tammy says:

    Perhaps your daughter can take comfort in the fact that the Native Americans were slaughtering one another long before those icky ol’ White People came along and worked out their karma for them.

    My Mingo great grandmother passed down stories about how her Seneca/Iroquois ancestors wiped out all of the Erie over hunting rights, and my Eastern Band Cherokee great grandmother was always very nonchalant in her mentions of how torturing the enemies captured in battle was essential in getting dead Cherokee warrior spirits over to the Darkening Land. And of course the Comanche had their own way of dealing with those whom they wished to conquer, including roasting them alive on spits over open flame, or slicing them from sternum to pelvis and placing live coals in the opening.

    It’s been a rough year in many ways, and we are only three this year for Thanksgiving, but we will nonetheless count our many blessings and spend the day in a glow of gratitude for all that is good and beautiful in our lives.

    • March says:

      Well, yeah… there’s that. My mother was part Blackfoot. When we were looking at college options my mother toyed with trying to get me on some tribal roll for the admissions edge, my mild-mannered father, who’d grown up in “Indian country” in OK, said *absolutely not.*

  • Ann says:

    Howdy, dear! Loved your Disney World story; kids do the darndest things don’t they? No great stories to tell from me. We always go to my beloved MIL’s house for turkey day and it’s one day the whole family gets together. She’s in a nursing home now, but BIL always brings her over to eat and spend the afternoon.
    So sorry about your dad; I know this is a rough time, but try to take comfort in all the good memories of him.
    BTW, didn’t know you had a Vero Beach connection — I grew up not too far from there. Haven’t been back since the ’80s but might make a high school reunion down that way in a few years. Hugs to you all …

  • Jen says:

    Well, the time my sister brought a boyfriend to Thx dinner and my brother found out he was married and my brother and her had a scream fest during which the terms ‘respect’, ‘married lover’ and ‘slut’ were tossed around along with ‘prude’ and ‘a-hole’ was an exiting year. Now its more peaceful with just our own family!!

  • Kathryn says:

    My husband and I share traditions of big gatherings with great cooks and a deep appreciation of good food in both families. My family was more restrained, the amount of tension in the room indicated by how much the china rattled in the clearing up. A few cups broke over the years. My husband’s family was better lubricated, more cheerful, and occasionally somewhat alarming. On one memorable Thanksgiving one of the older half-brothers passed out face down in the mashed potatoes. No one skipped a beat and the festivities continued.

    Now most of the two families are scattered and gone. This year it’s just the two of us. I’ll cook a duck instead of a turkey. My daughter will cook our traditional pumpkin pie for her Cuban in-laws in Miami for a Thanksgiving that will definitely include yuca and coquito. My son and his family will be in Ohio but we’re hoping to FaceTime with our toddler granddaughter and hear more about the new baby on the way. In the evening my husband and I will go to a benefit performance at the local theatre bringing a box of food for the community food bank. There’s a wreath of bittersweet on our door, but we’ll share and be thankful as best we can.

  • HeidiC says:

    I love your stories. Most of my Thanksgivings involve the kind of family you choose. My family lived far away from either of my parents’ relatives, so we usually had Thanksgiving with another family we were really close with, who feel like real family to this day because they are. And all through my various graduate degrees, my friends and I were too poor to travel, but we made the most fabulous potluck Thanksgivings full of food and booze and fun. I now live fairly near my husbands’ large family, so we usually go there for a long weekend of passive aggressive tension. Can I be a poor grad student again?

  • NastyFunk says:

    We always go to my husband’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving, along with all the cousins and aunts and uncles. There have been hijinks, but I think this year is going to be the most memorable. Partly because politics, but mostly because last week my husband told me he’s leaving. He hasn’t told his family yet. I’m just going because I want to spend Thanksgiving with our kid.

  • rickyrebarco says:

    Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house was wonderful. My mom had 9 brothers and sisters so tons of people were crammed into gran’s tiny house and we had wonderful food, turkey, ham, dressing, fruit salad, sweet potatoes and 3 pies and cake. AND gran’s homemade yeast rolls. Wow, it was amazing! And there was enough leftovers for everyone. I still make grandmother’s recipes for my Thanksgiving, but it’s only 4 of us, hubby, me, son and novia.

  • MikasMinion says:

    I loved reading everyone’s Thanksgiving posts.
    When I was a kid, a “lonely child” with no cousins within a thousand miles, holidays were occasionally fun if everyone was visiting but usually just the three of us and not a big deal. I wish I had appreciated how laid-back my mom was about it all. The pies were the important thing, especially in my teenage years when someone almost always started a fire of some sort and my dad was absent from the meal volunteer fire fighting. I distinctly remember Thanksgiving of my junior year in high school because it was the second year in a row that someone called in a hay fire just as we sat down to dine.
    These days I celebrate most holidays twice. Once in the Grand Manner with my in-laws who believe in magazine-spread perfection and veggies drowning in cream sauce. Then again later with my sensible Mom who might get out the nice china if she’s in the mood but will mostly just bake a pie, invite any stray family members who don’t have closer family around, and hope I bake a chicken or something.

  • Catherine says:

    I love any fete that involves food (oh how I love fetes organized around food!!), but I stay clear of drama by celebrating with friends new and old. This year will be the story I hope to tell in the future—over the holiday meals my new amour and I are introducing each other to close friends. And since these close friends are French (both mine and his), this is going to be two non-traditional feasts! Bring on the chèvre, patisserie, and saumon fumé, I say!

    And the perfume of the day: Ormonde Jayne Seraphim or Ta’if…

    Happy Thanksgiving, March. Happy Thanksgiving, Musette and Patty and everyone!

  • cinnamon says:

    No longer living in the US Thanksgiving isn’t a big thing. Last year, we had hot open turkey sandwiches with all the trimmings. That’s the plan for this year as well. Growing up, my German-Jewish refugee mother embraced Thanksgiving. We had the whole nine yards, including wonderful pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Given that the first Thanksgiving was supposedly about the native population taking care of the immigrants you’d think that could be a theme this year, ie, how the original US population behaved with openness, grace, consideration, and generosity (both material and of spirit). Very impressed by your creative, sensible and proactive nine year old.

  • Sarah says:

    “Over the mountains and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go”
    Driving from the east end of Long Island to the farm in Wooster Ohio was a very long “to Grandmother’s house”. So worth it. We slept in the unheated portion of the upstairs- under down comforters topped with wool comforters. The smell on those line dried old cotton sheets. I’d just stick my head under the covers and sniff myself silly. Family football games (we girls were fierce!), gathering hickory nuts and playing serious games of Up jinkins Up. Good Lord is was fun. I follow the old recipes. As good as the food is- it never seems quite as delicious as back on the farm.
    March I’m sure you are the hostess extraordinaire. I wish I had some of your gifts as I host the family Thanksgiving. I suspect there will be plenty of chaos. I hope to get a game of Up Jinkins Up going -after dinner and before pie.

  • Portia says:

    Heya March,
    In 2014 we were in NYC for Thanksgiving, it was my BFFs 40th birthday trip so Kath, Jin & I. My first ever Thanksgiving. We stayed at The Roosevelt Hotel near Grand Central station and had the buffet lunch in the restaurant. It was absolutely unbelievably gorgeous. Everything was perfect. The three of us ate till we are hurting, had a bottle of champagne and a bottle of wine.
    We did Black Friday, Art Galleries, Perfume, Food and walked forever each day.
    As a memorable moment it has gone down in history and we refer to it often.
    Portia xxx

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    Thanksgiving used to involve driving a half an hour to my grandparents’ house for dinner and hanging out but then my grandfather’s developed kidney faluire from diabetes. Gradually, Thanksgiving and many others were held at an aunt’s house that is over an hour away for us. She is the world’s most awful cook. She seems to make all the side dishes into something akin to baby food and does too many odd things to dressing that makes the dinner unappitizing, After our kitchen is finished, I hope that my family gets to host a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner instead of having to go somewhere.

  • Tiffanie says:

    Family drama is unforgettable. Your Disney World story is fabulous.

    My grandmother’s birthday often fell on Thanksgiving day. She loved carrot cake with cream cheese frosting so every year we eat it with pumpkin pie.

  • FeralJasmine says:

    There was a time when I labored mightily to make Thanksgiving festive and invited everybody who might otherwise be at loose ends or lacking family. The year I realized that 24 had become an average Thanksgiving crowd was pretty much the end of that. Now it’s small and truly joyous.
    And the perfume? Always Fendi Theorema. I have no idea why, but on Thanksgiving weekend nothing else will do.