I love Thanksgiving. It’s been one of my favorite holidays for as long as I can remember. In my mind, Thanksgiving, family and food go together and should never be separated. Growing up, most years were the same and they run together in my mind. For at least 15 years, my family came to our house. It had the most room and was kind of central for everyone. One year is crystallized in my mind as to what Thanksgiving is to me.
It’s 1996. I pull into our driveway that’s already half full with cars. I run into the house, full of excitement over our football team’s win over our biggest rival. I explain to the family already gathered that it means we’re going to the Superbowl while I munch on the veggie tray that’s already out. My family really doesn’t care but pretend to because it’s important to me. I’m excited in the way only a teenage girl can be. After that I jump in the shower to warm up…it’s cold cheering at a football game on Thanksgiving morning in MA.
Once I’m in warm clothes I join my family again and we visit and laugh. In my memories, there was always a lot of laughter when we all got together. I sit and catch up with my grandma, then chat with my cousin all the while helping my parents get dinner together when they ask me to do something. There was also a lot of grazing going on, as there was always food out, including cheese and crackers and chips and dip. Sometimes we even got into the desserts early. Chocolate chip cookies make a great appetizer. Someone also made a convenience store run to get a paper or two. We NEEDED the Black Friday ads that are in them.
We sit down to dinner around two even though my Uncle and his family haven’t arrived. We had told them dinner was at 1 but they are never on time so we’re not surprised that they’re not here yet. We’ve given up waiting on them, even though they’re bringing a ham. We have a turkey (a naked one, as we all fight for a piece of the crispy skin when it comes out of the oven) and we’re happy with that. The table is full of food including mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade stuffing, corn, squash, rolls, pineapple and Jell-O mold.
My uncle arrives around 2:30. We make room for them at the table, though the three kids sit in the other room. There’s plenty of food left because we always have too much. We all want leftovers because there’s nothing better than a turkey sandwich with stuffing for a snack later. Those of us that have saved room for ham add some to our plates and eat a little more.
Once we were done eating, my grandma would get all the meat off the turkey carcass. She was so good at it and it was her job every year. A cousin and I cleared the table and put leftovers away while my mom and Aunt did the dishes. Everyone else helped out as they could, which sometimes meant staying out of the way.
Once the food was put away we would visit some more. Grandpa would go for a walk and some people would go with him. The Black Friday Ads would come out and we would all take turns looking at them, seeing if there was anything we wanted for ourselves or to buy for someone else. Mom, Auntie, T & I always went out early on Black Friday and we had to plan where we were going and what we wanted to get.
Dessert would make it’s way out. Apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate pudding pie and cookies were munched on and enjoyed. People would start to leave eventually, stuffed but happy.
Thanksgiving isn’t like that anymore. My family is now living all over the United States and we don’t get together like this anymore. Since getting married four years ago we haven’t done the same thing twice. Eventually our Thanksgiving traditions will get set. I pray that family, blood or otherwise, is at the heart of it.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving tradition?