Our first Thanksgiving “banquet” I didn’t cook; my mom did. Doug and I spent Thanksgiving 1972 in Jonesville South Carolina.
The next year though, I did cook – armed with The Southern Living Party Cookbook. I prepared a meal straight from its “Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner” menu. And no, I had never done such a meal before! But those were the days if I thought it, I could do it. I’d seen my mother do it – I’d seen my aunt, her sister, do it – How hard could it be?
I found out.
And so began a three and a half decades-long tradition that I do not miss.
The days before Thanksgiving, I spent planning and prepping; then on the big day, before 7:00 AM, I wrestled a stone-cold, raw, buttered 20+ pound bird into the oven . . . I juggled casseroles, always one more than I had room for in the refridge or oven . . . usually I forgot the cranberry sauce or the rolls . . . and then the dirty dishes . . . GOOD GRIEF! I had a dishwasher, and I was still doing dishes on Friday, or so it seemed.
My table in 1973 was replete with our china, crystal, silver, fresh flowers, and linens that took an afternoon’s ironing.
However, I learned to simplify, simplify, simplify. At some point, plastic tumblers, stainless, paper napkins and everyday plates replaced the good stuff. But it seemed liked I was still doing dishes on Friday . . . go figure.
I learned to say thank you and please when friends offered to bring something, as Southern Living’s suggested menu lost its command over me. Home grown flowers, arranged in small containers gave back space at a table filled with the most valuable components of our dinners, our family and friends, whose numbers increased as the T-day menu became simpler and simpler.
The hassle, I do not miss; the people I do!
One benefit I enjoyed during the last stretch of Thanksgiving preparations was our grown children inviting their friends who brought outstanding rolls, veggies sides, and PIES! My goodness! Better than any selection at any upscale grocery store!
Now Doug and I are the grateful guests – bringing a side dish or two when asked. We reflect on how much we have enjoyed each and every one of our Thanksgivings, hosting or guesting; and the folks with whom we have shared these celebrations – our kids, and now their families; our parents, aunts and uncles, and parents – and siblings . . . and so many friends!
Thornton Wilder said, We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. If that’s the measure of being alive, we are rockin’!
So, while I am grateful not to wrestle a turkey this year – or juggle casseroles, or burn the rolls, I am more grateful to God for all friends and family who overlooked my culinary limitations, and are so much a part of my happy Thanksgivings!
I miss those who are gone, and for those who are still around, but not a table we share this year: May God bless you with your hearts’ deepest desires!