Tomorrow in the United States is Thanksgiving.
The earliest Thanksgiving I really remember clearly was when I was in 6th grade and we moved into a new home on Thanksgiving day. With boxes all around we sat and ate hotdogs in the middle of our new dining room. The novelty of it was fun and memorable and as a child I thought we were being rather naughty “breaking the rules.” Hot dogs? Not turkey? We were rebels.
After that Thanksgiving was always at our house because my mom loved Thanksgiving. She loved all of it- the cooking and preparing for everyone to come over. Sometimes taking days to line up the silverware and dishes and plan out the menu and decorate the table. When I was young I didn’t appreciate how much work it was to put on a feast like that. Especially when relatives just showed up and expected to be fed and not help with much of anything. I just knew she hardly ever sat down all day and the dishes were sky-high by the time everyone left.
The first turkey I made for family was after I was first married. I remember taking pictures of the turkey shrapnel. Proud to be a domestic goddess (at least for one day. I am not known for my cooking). But I learned. Afterward I had many big holiday dinners for Easter and Christmas and New Years and Valentines Day. But never Thanksgiving. That was my mom’s day. I learned to cook and entertain for clients, customers and for company parties. I learned to throw together at the last minute parties for 50 people or more. I did it for years. I spent days running and shopping and prepping and literally days cleaning up from dishes that were sky-high. (all the while counting down to when I could paint again.) I never loved all the fuss like my mom did and I never measured up to the “British Martha Stewart” that was my mother-in-law but I could hold my own.
After cancer took my mom, Thanksgiving was never the same again. Before that next Thanksgiving my sister and I looked at each other and said, “What do we do now?”
“Lets have it at my place” she said. “But I don’t know how to cook a turkey.” She is an accountant. Enough said.
“Never cooked a turkey? How old are you?” my dad giggled. “Forty-One? and never cooked a turkey? My my.”
“Well Dad…”, I said, “How many turkeys have you cooked?” He was silent after that.
“I’ll come over early and teach you how to cook a turkey.” I said to my sister. “We’ll get two of them. One for me and one for you and enough for everyone. The lessons will begin at 8 am and that is also when we will start drinking.”
So that is what we did. And as we cooked and prepped the turkeys the wine flowed along with our tears. We slapped butter on the turkeys so hard they looked like misshapen and deflated albino soccer balls. Cavities were stuffed, the oven became stained, the kitchen floor was a swamp of a mess and yet we didn’t care. Potatoes were whipped over-enthusiastically while young children ran into the kitchen and then quickly back ran back out again yelling “Mom’s drunk!”
It was the most memorable turkey holiday ever since hot dogs on paper plates while sitting on the carpet. I don’t think I have laughed that hard in a long time. We coped. We laughed. We toasted my mom. Over and over.
After that we got involved with a church and my kids spent quite a few years delivering holiday meals to shut-ins. People who just wanted to talk to someone more than anything else. The food sometimes was secondary. It was a way of giving and a way to remember to be thankful that we had family. That we had a way to cook it and money to buy it and people to share it with… because life can change blindingly fast. Along with holidays.
This Thanksgiving I will be back at my mom’s place. My dad wants one more turkey dinner in memory of my mom but this time I will be buying all the food and the fixings and bringing it over. My days of cooking and cleaning for days on end for holiday family dinners are over now that I am single. I don’t have a dining room anymore and I don’t want one ever again. Although I will always keep my mom’s turkey roasting pan. The coat of a domestic goddess was never a good fit on me although I tried to shove myself into it for many, many years. I just can’t do it anymore so I have hung it up. I’ll let someone else slap the turkeys around. Now I just want the laughter and the food without the stress.
And maybe more than enough wine.
Very poignant. Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear friend.
thanks! best wishes to your family….
This brought back many memories. Not of my mom. She wasn’t a very good cook. But, of my own slaving in The kitchen to make a feast for the family. I loved every minute of it. Well my kids are grown with families if their own. We are two again.
Rudy wanted the big dinner this year. (We haven’t had a big turkey day dinner for a while.) one son couldn’t come and the other procrastinated. Rudy said “You are not cooking”! So we are dinning out this year. The Penn Alps. Don’t you know our eldest decided to accept our invitation after all. He wanted to know what they needed to bring. (There are 4 kids and 2 adults) We told him they needed to bring hat coats and shoes as they will be dinning out. (I think he was a bit disappointed! They always got the left overs.)
hehe- good for you. you need to enjoy the day too and I am sure there will be doggie bags for all!
After my mom couldn’t deal with the stress and the mess of hosting Thanksgiving she continued to make the turkey and stuffing and haul it over to my house. When she was 93 her eyesight made prep impossible. That year we all went to a restaurant for Thanksgiving. The following year I ordered everything from a local gourmet grocer and that worked well enough to do it again. Then my mom was gone, my brother, too, quite unexpectedly and my husband and I haven’t hit on a tradition just for two. Life is about change.
Ain’t that the truth. Traditions are what we make of them. Sorry for your losses and wishing you a very wonderful holiday.
What a fantastic story Christine. Thanks for the laughs. Enjoy your turkey day with your dad.
thanks! Best wishes to you as well.
A great and heartwarming story of Thanksgiving through the years of your life. Thanks for sharing it! I wish you a Great Thanksgiving while you prepare the dinner in memory of your mom, which I’m sure your father will enjoy! I’ll clink my wine glass remotely with you :o).
thanks Nick! Best wishes and a toast back at ya!
Enjoy this holiday with your Dad, Christine. He is so proud of you. I met him after one of the Artist talks at Sweetwater.
best wishes back to you….
Christine, thanks for sharing! Your sister sounds like a gem and so are you! Enjoy a well-deserved break from the kitchen but a celebration none the less! May you have a truly blessed Thanksgiving.
thanks! back at you!
The title and photo are a hoot and your story made me smile and nod in understanding. I’m just going off to pour myself a glass of wine. Cheers and a very happy thanksgiving to you & your family!
There’s nothing that brings back memories of my parents as much as the holidays. Sweet and sad at the same time. Times change and so do we. Happy Thanksgiving.
same to you…
Wishing you and your family a laugh-filled day. Let the wine flow.
you bet! it was fun…..
Cheers!!! And love sent your way.
back at ya!
What a poignant story of love and losses, change and coping, and the love and ties of family, with the Thanksgiving theme tying it all together. Thank you for sharing from your heart. You are a wonderful storyteller as well as artist, Christine. Happy Thanksgiving!
thanks so much! I just start writing and they somehow weave together….
Each time I read your blog, I wonder how you can top the last one. You’re right on the mark with this one! Such wonderful, sweet memories.
thanks! Its just life….I write about it and hope others can relate….