Thursday, November 25, 2010

Don't forget the turkey butt.

It is the morning of my favorite holiday.
Nothing can ruin my day. It's a proven fact: nothing can get me down on Thanksgiving - not even an old man throwing up in the bushes right outside the window next to the dinner table (Thanksgiving 2008). I just kept on shoveling stuffing in my mouth. Didn't even slow down. I might have even waved at him when he glanced up, startled, and realized our entire family was staring, mouths agape, from a foot away.

God, I love today.

Thanksgiving is a day where I can completely submerge myself in rituals and memories and traditions - it is so nice to be able to go on autopilot for once. I know what I need to do. I am prepared.

I know a lot of families (mine included) spend Thanksgiving together. Grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and cousins. I have wonderful memories of childhood Thanksgivings - sitting in my PJ's watching the parade, changing into a new dress and tights with no holes in the knee, and a pair of patent leather mary janes that I shined carefully with Vaseline. With two sides of the family to visit, we spent the day eating and driving to eat more. We went around the corner to Grandmother's house for the first meal of the day - the turkey always slightly dry, but the pies........oh, the pies. We were usually the only kids there, so no one was competing with us for access to the cable television - which was a relatively new development and very very exciting. Most of the afternoon was spent lying in front of the TV while the grownups chatted downstairs. Very peaceful, very dignified, very traditional. The table laid with highly polished silver, all sorts of matching Thanksgiving themed decor (candles in the shapes of pilgrims? Check.) lovely china and serving platters, a proper utensil for every dish. I would whip the cream into stiff peaks, and watch the meringue of her lemon pie turning a perfect butterscotch brown in the oven. Stuffed to the gills, we would load up the car and head to the second meal, at Grammie and Grandpa's house.

The door would open on full-blown chaos. Everyone was arriving from their first meals, or had been sitting around all day drinking and waiting for the rest of us. It was a fun group, raucous and argumentative, and loaded with kids. Grammie was in her element in the kitchen, greeting the crowd and keeping track of when each dish would be ready. Grandpa wandered around with a glass of wine, pausing from time to time to crank up the volume on CNN and make sure he wasn't missing anything good. There were stacks and stacks of mismatched china plates, half-empty paper cups covered every surface, handmade pottery serving dishes from Ireland and local artisians were filled with food, and the older grandchildren were setting the table. Someone's dog usually peed on the floor, and once we had a baby goat in the mix. Aunts and uncles were drinking, or feeding babies, or shooting a game of pool in the basement. The one thing I can remember clearly is the noise. It was so ridiculously loud. With 7 children, their spouses, and 20 grandchildren, just having the immediate family meant 40 people were coming for dinner. And we wouldn't have missed it for the world.

It's different now, of course. Grandmother and Grandpa have passed away, and Grammie goes to one of her children's houses for the holidays now, so the big family dinners have evolved. We no longer have 2 stops to make. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the first time when I was hugely pregnant and unable to make the trip home to see family. There were a few mishaps - please don't tell me I am the only person to forget to pulls the paper bag of guts out of the turkey butt - and I took some liberties with the stuffing recipe (dried cranberries! HOW NOUVELLE CUISINE!!!) and at one point I got wedged into the galley kitchen with my huge belly and couldn't get the turkey out of the oven, or close the oven door - I had to shout for help. But it was empowering and satisfying and comforting to know that I could do it. I could give my own family a holiday to remember. We still have pictures of that day - me in my nightgown because my maternity pants no longer fit and DAMNED if I was buying a bigger pair, Sam in his plaid flannel bathrobe in solidarity. We had video, but Sami taped over it by accident. I might forgive him for that someday.

Now that I live here in Hawaii, far from my New England roots, I have settled into my own Thanksgiving celebration. I still put cranberries in my stuffing, and I have a crowd of my own - friends-like-family, kids, dogs, and the occasional neighbor all show up in the late afternoon. Cases of wine and bottles of rum and whiskey crowd the kitchen counter, a cooler of beer is on the porch. We're about to peel 10 pounds of potatos, and two turkeys are going in the oven shortly. And yes - I pulled the bag of "parts" out of the turkey butt already, thanks.

1 comment:

High_Noonan said...

Happy Thanksgiving, V.