Sunday, December 7, 2014

Thanksgiving Day

November 27, 2014

This morning I get up and tell myself I will not turn on the television and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Instead, I will do something else.  Usually, I bake a pie running back and forth between the kitchen and the living room to see what is coming next, but I baked last night.  So, I get up, and turn on the television, sit on the edge of the couch and start watching.  I am not sure why I have to watch this parade, but I do.  It is something I have done every Thanksgiving since my children were old enough to watch.  We would wait to see the newest balloons, and anticipate the arrival of old favorites.  Together we would enjoy the precision of the marching bands and their associated flag or rifle corps, and critique the lip synching abilities of the singers on the colorful sponsored floats.  We would enjoy the snapshot scenes of Broadway shows being reenacted in front of the Macy's entrance.  To miss all of this, seems like leaving something out of our Thanksgiving.

Even though only Alex is currently at home, one by one, each of my children join in watching the parade with me as the morning goes on. They come in from their travels, and gather in the living room and it is like old times.  It is a part of their tradition that they also look forward to.

We will be spending Thanksgiving Day at my sister's house.  We go there most Thanksgivings, but this year, without my dad, it will seem a little smaller, a little different.  I have invited the young couple I met at church last Sunday to join us.  It occurred to me late in the week that they might not have any plans, so I asked them to come along with us.  They happily accepted the invitation.

I want to make a quiche for our guests, since I have learned that they are vegetarians.  As I watch the parade, I calculate how long I can wait before I start it. The parade ends at twelve, and we need to be at my sisters by one thirty, so I can safely wait until the parade is done before I start the quiche.

Kaileigh has brought me some butter from her house, since I discovered I wouldn't have enough for a pie crust unless I went out for some.  This would violate the don't buy anything on Thanksgiving Day goal I have set for myself.  Not that I would go to any of the big box stores on this day, but I think the workers at milk stores deserve a break too.

Once the parade is over, both Ayla and Kaileigh come into the kitchen to help with the quiche.  We are not working from a recipe, just the idea of what we want.  I make the dough and roll out the crust, the girls decide on the filling and prepare that.  By the time it is baked, we are all ready to go. Kaileigh and I go to pick up Erin and Dan, and Steven, Ayla and Alex will meet us there.

My sister's house is a sweet little cape, with sleepy gardens in the front yard.  The scent of Thanksgiving seeps from the house into the yard.  When we enter,  it is steamy and warm from all of the cooking that has been going on all morning.  There is a slight wait until everything is ready, but her kitchen is so small, only one other person is able to help out.  Ayla goes in and claims her spot as helper, and the rest of stand around and talk until dinner is served.

Dinner starts with a beverage survey, one of my kids will find out what each person needs to drink, and brings it to the table.  When I was growing up, you would never have been allowed to have a soda can on the table, we would have glasses which would require refilling very quickly.  These days we are much more casual, and drink from the can.

The table is set beautifully, covered with a lace cloth, just like when we were kids.  The table, the place settings, the china was from my grandparents house, so this all feels comforting and familiar.  It is a connection to our past, as well as the present. The room is painted a spicy orange color, with curtains with big blossoms scattered across them.  There are china cabenets in the corners, and plants in front of the windows.  A buffet chest stands along one wall, with artwork made by family members who are no longer living.  This is such a wonderful place to spend this day, surrounded by family, love and mementos of those who are still alive in our hearts.

The table is spread with so much delicious food!  We can't wait to eat: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, turnip, green bean casserole, spinach quiche, boiled onions, olives, black and green, celery, gravy, and cranberry sauce, whole and jelly.  These are the very same foods my grandfather used to make us at Thanksgiving, with the addition of the quiche and the green bean casserole.  Each Thanksgiving he would tell us that this was the very same meal his mother would make for the Thanksgivings of his childhood.

Since we are using my grandmother's china, the serving area is much smaller than plates of today.  It has always been a challenge getting all of your dinner on one of these plates, but in years gone by, I would have gone back for a refill of everything, and be sitting at the table feeling like I could barely move.  This year, somehow, no one seems to eat too much, and we are all happier for it.  After all, there will be plenty of leftovers for later!

Steven and I start in on the pile of dishes, while Kaileigh takes all the meat off the turkey carcas, a job she has had since we discovered her talent at stripping a turkey!  Food starts to get put aside in containers for each group to bring home, and while we finish up in the kitchen, a game of Anomia begins at the table.  Once the kitchen is back in order, Sara, Steven and I join into the game, giving our dinner a chance to digest a little before dessert.

Anomia is a fast paced card game that involves matching symbols and shouting out answers to categories such as famous address or superhero, as quickly as you can.  These are not things I excel at, but it is fun to be a part of the game.  We play a couple of rounds before we are ready for dessert.

My grandfather's desserts would have included cranberry pie, mince pie, squash pie and a suet pudding.  The mince disappeared from the table by the time I was in my twenties, but the other pies have been a mainstay.  This year the Onepie canned squash we use was no where to be found, and the suet pudding exploded, so they were absent from our menu.  My kids have never been big pie fans except for a chocolate cream pie, so we have added that to our menu, and Ayla has discovered she likes to bake apple pie, so we've added that as well.  These days there is always ice cream, and the fruit tower remains, my grandmother's contribution to our historical dinner.

The food and company today have all been lovely.  Our pilgrims, Erin and Dan have been excellent guests, such a nice addition to our celebration.  We have missed my dad, Grampie, but felt his presence in small but significant ways.

We gather our food and thank Sara for the delicious meal she has made and shared with us, and head back to Providence to drop off our guests and go back home.

When my children were younger, at this point, we would go to visit Steve's mom and her Thanksgiving celebration.  For the last couple of years though, the day seems too short, and too rushed so we have skipped it.

This year, I am so tired when we get back home, I can hardly keep my eyes open.  I worry that if I go to bed early, I will wake up in a couple of hours and not be able to get back to sleep.  By seven, I can't keep my eyes open much longer and get myself to bed. I lie in bed feeling grateful for my family, my friends and the beautiful Thanksgiving I have just enjoyed before I drift off to sleep.

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