In good times and bad, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, my husband and I have hosted and toasted family gatherings at Thanksgiving for over four and a half decades.
We’ve survived five children, challenging health threats, in-law and outlaw visits, numerous moves, career changes, and roller coaster stock market rides. Some years our glasses might be fuller than others, but there’s always enough love and laughter to fill up the empty space.
One thing my family should be very grateful for is that my food preparation has improved over the years. The first “four-legged” turkey I served to my potential in-laws set the stage for future taste testing teasing. I was still matriculating at Regis College, concentrating more on the classics than any culinary pursuits, and it was the first time my parents invited my husband’s family to Thanksgiving dinner. My contribution to the dinner centered on decorating the table as my mother wisely kept me out of her kitchen while she prepared the meal. No one in my immediate family cared much for turkey legs, but my male cousins used to fight over the crusty limbs. So, when I brought the turkey platter to the dinner table, I proudly proclaimed that there were two other legs out in the kitchen if anyone was interested. It was pretty apparent that I was majoring in English, not Home Economics, but luckily my foul-ish faux pas did not effect my impending engagement.
Growing up in New England, Thanksgiving Day always centered around frosty football games, crisp breezes, and blowing leaves. In contrast, our first Thanksgiving as a married couple was spent playing winter ball in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and preparing dinner in a primitive, un-air-conditioned efficiency hotel. Rather than the Wedgwood china and Waterford crystal I was accustomed to setting out at my parents home, I had to settle for mismatched plastic plates and jelly glasses, which were displayed buffet style on our aluminum table. Purchasing a paltry eight-pound turkey that would barely squeeze into our compact oven, I set out to prepare our post-game feast. Five other American winter baseball families shared the same less-than-luxurious accommodations and would join us for our first family-less feast. Always open to sharing her talents and resources Jane Decker, the trainer’s wife next door, handed me a very strange looking object I politely accepted and brought back to our room questioning my husband as to what in the world this device was for. With a roll of his eyes and a resigned sigh, he picked up a spud and showed me how to use a potato peeler. Much to his relief, I have become skilled in adapting to both resources and recipes.
Over the years, many celebrations, crisis, and catharses occurred around Thanksgiving. We’ve had skinned knees, broken hearts, and broken bones; golf outings, soccer tournaments and walk-a-thons along with christenings, engagements and weddings. We’ve sailed over highways and skyped with our son-in-law in Iraq. One particularly stressful year we ate dinner out, but it didn’t seem like a true Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone was on his/her best behavior, there were no unexpected uninvited guests, nothing was spilled on the table, no one’s feelings were hurt – it was all way too civilized. Dining in an elegant restaurant does not allow for gut wrenching guffaws.
The more time a family spends together, the more we realize that time really is relative. So what if it’s a day’s drive. Who cares that hours of preparation are eaten up in minutes? Coming together for Thanksgiving dinner is all about slowing down and appreciating the strange and wonderful unique personalities that two sets of genes formed. Family, friends and four legged turkeys — that’s the legacy of Thanksgiving.