Thanksgivings I Have Known
I was raised an only child of two parents who had both moved far from their families of origin. I was 11 years old before I celebrated a Thanksgiving with more than 3 people at the dinner table, and my mom was a reluctant cook at best. Thanksgiving typically meant Cornish game hens in front of a football game, with Stove Top Stuffing and Pepperidge Farm rolls on the side. Once my grandmother taught me to bake, a Libby’s pumpkin pie or Crosse & Blackwell Mincemeat out of a jar joined the holiday table. We won’t mention the Thanksgiving where I added twice the amount of evaporated milk to the pumpkin pie. Let’s just say I’m not a strong cook.
When I was a teenager, my parents would typically invite a friend of mine and go to our favorite beach (a few hours south, but by no means warm) for a few days at Thanksgiving. This period of my life featured the Thanksgiving where we bought a frozen turkey the night before and couldn’t figure out how to thaw it in time. And the Thanksgiving where my friend and I tried to reheat a pizza, but didn’t realize that you had to take it out of the box first. We call that one the Smoky Thanksgiving.
In my early twenties, I married into a large family with multiple accomplished cooks. Suddenly instead of 3 at the dinner table, there were 13. The food was amazing, but the people were overwhelming and tended toward uptight. Everyone had to dress up for dinner and have serious discussions with Aunt Thelma about Fermat’s last theorem. Dinner was preceded by grace and long lists of items for which each of us was grateful. And, sadly, there seemed always to be a general lack of joy at the table. Finally getting to escape that holiday gathering was one of the benefits of my divorce.
For the last couple of years, I have been lucky enough to be included in Momus’ family Thanksgiving. Momus comes from a large, raucous Irish American family. Every time they get together each member’s goal is to be the one to make everyone else laugh the most. Cousins fly in from all over the country for this one day. Thanksgiving is largely potluck, so everyone brings what they are good at (I bring wine and my daughter’s magical peanut butter pie). The evening is full of jokes, games, and copious amounts of beer and wine. The kids gather together to play in the basement, or sit at their parents’ feet to hear the inappropriate-for-children’s-ears things the grown-ups have to say. Last year everyone was even game enough to play along when a cousin’s girlfriend demanded to lead a Zumba class before dinner.
This gathering has been Thanksgiving for Momus his entire life. I can see in his eyes, and hear as he talks in anticipation of the day, how much this holiday has always meant to him. And I feel extraordinarily lucky to share in that, and to be welcomed to celebrate with this wonderfully crazy family. So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the opportunity to celebrate this day with Momus and his clan. And to finally, in my forties, experience Thanksgiving as it was meant to be.
In honor of Turkey Day, we will skip Throwdown this Thursday (seems not really in the spirit of the day, and we would probably end up debating the merits of stuffing vs. dressing or pumpkin vs. pecan pie and make you all sick anyway). We’ll be back next Tuesday. Happy Thanksgiving!