I'm not cooking Thanksgiving this year, so this week kind of snuck up on me. Normally I'm in high gear, having bought vast quantities of food, reserved my fresh turkey, and have written out the schedule of what will be cooked when. I love to cook Thanksgiving. It's exhausting, and my legs and knees ache afterwards, but the house smells delicious, and it's such a beautiful dinner to prepare for my family. The table is set with a little bit of sparkle and some glowing candles, and there is so much food that there is hardly room for all of it. And everyone is around the table enjoying and bantering and eating.
I have a very small house, so when we get 6 or more people gathered for dinner, trust me when I say that it's a houseful. We're crowded, it's loud, and we have to drag the piano bench over to the table because I don't have quite enough chairs for 8. If any of the grandchildren were here, they are now getting old enough to sit at the "children's table." I remember sitting at one of two card tables my grandmother would set up for all of the cousins, while the grownups would sit at the large dining room table. Once we were 12 or so, we could sit at the big table, but really, it was more fun to sit with my cousins. There, we could put black olives on our fingers and eat them one by one. If we wanted more of something our parents would come in and give us a refill of turkey or whatever we wanted. If you were really a baby you ate your dinner at the small built in desk in the kitchen, always with a terrycloth apron tied around your neck like a giant bib. The aprons always had some crazy print on them like dancing fruit or one with martini glasses and confetti that read "Happy New Year!" No fancy designer aprons in my grandma's kitchen. These were well worn and used until they had holes in them. Serious holes.
I miss those big Thanksgiving dinners all together. Now that our children are scattered all over the country, holiday time seems a little bit lonely. My daughter is cooking her first turkey, and they are having dinner with some Puerto Rican neighbors. In Colorado, Ronna will be making her homemade rolls for her little family. I'm not sure of everyone else's plans. We'll be joining my brother's family, my parents, and my aunt at my brother's country club. My parents have been doing this with them for years now, and they love it. In all fairness, my mother has cooked her share of Thanksgiving feasts, and she's happy, now that she's "older," to let someone else do the cooking. She's thrilled that she doesn't even have to contribute to someone else's feast - this is one is completely non-work. Just show up and eat.
I've heard it's really nice, but it's not Thanksgiving to me. It's eating out. I can feel myself getting stubborn and sulky, and I need to adjust my thinking. It was nice of them to ask us, include us when they knew we'd be alone. And I appreciate it, I really do. But eating out on Thanksgiving brings me back to the first Thanksgiving we spent in New England after moving from California. My dad was trying to show his kids New England in the days off from school and so we were traveling up through Massachusetts from New Jersey. And we spend Thanksgiving at a Howard Johnson. Depressing through and through. We were far from our California home and everything familiar, and at 14 I just wasn't feeling the adventure of it all. I wanted to be home - home where life was full of family and friends, not stuck in cold, dreary Massachusetts in a HoJo's for Thanksgiving.
Now that I'm beyond grown up, I can appreciate what my dad was trying to do. He just didn't take into account a very homesick daughter. I don't even know if my brothers remember it the way I do, (probably not) but it sure stuck with me - enough so that I've cooked Thanksgiving dinner just about every year of my adult life. I haven't wanted to have a holiday away from home ever since. Hawaii for Christmas? No thanks. Mountain cabin? Meh...
Now that our kids and grandkids are scattered about, however, I'm rethinking. "Home" doesn't quite have the same allure, or meaning when all of my dear ones are everywhere BUT home. So next year, maybe we'll have to plan on spending at least part of the holidays somewhere where we have kids or (even better) grandkids. If they can't come to us, we need to go to them, that's my feeling. I have 4 days I'm not allowed to work during Thanksgiving, and another week between Christmas and New Year's. I'm a contracted worker, and if it's a company holiday, I'm not permitted to bill any hours either, so there are almost 2 perfectly good weeks going to waste when I could be seeing my two little ladies in Massachusetts, or the other two princesses and the blue eyed pirate in Colorado. Better planning next year is what's needed.
I am going to visit Scott and Ashley for a long weekend after Thanksgiving. L is staying here and holding down the fort and meeting his publishing deadlines whilst I discover what Austin is all about and meet the new dog they've adopted. I'm very excited to do that. I've never been to Texas and I'm looking forward to lots of fun and laughing with them.
And then the Christmas season will be in full swing. My mother's birthday comes on the 10th of December, and after that, the days really starting flying by. I'm glad that I've gotten almost all of the shopping done. I have 4 more things to get, and all will be mail ordered, so I'm set. I've even gotten a majority of the wrapping done, as much of it needs to be sent to the recipients. It's been fun to imagine the little faces unwrapping the gifts I selected so carefully.
Wherever you are going, and whatever you're doing, be safe in your travels. Enjoy your families. Soak up the fun and the memories. Come back with stories to tell and pictures to share, and I'll do the same. Happy Thanksgiving.