If I had remembered to take pictures at the right time, I could have shown you my beautiful table, decorated and set for our Thanksgiving meal. But I didn’t and through that I realized there is an “other side” of Thanksgiving.
That side is as much a part of the good memories I hold as seeing that perfectly cooked turkey, the smorgasbord of pies ready to be served, or that plate full of food artfully arranged. The other side is seen here…
It is experienced as I wash dishes with help from guests, wipe counters clean, search space for an extra chair at the table, empty garbage, and wipe a spot of gravy off the floor (okay, it was really cat throw up but that’s not the point).
The other side includes that kind of relaxed, awkward time after eating when no one is quite sure what to do so they do this…
The other side is dear, but also a little stressfull as the number of people in the house swells, the kitchen counters are crowded with supplies, refrigerators are full of leftovers and entryways look like this.
Those necessary inconveniencies of travel, trying to keep rested over a long weekend, trying to connect in meaningful ways with each loved family member and guest – all are parts of almost every Thanksgiving I can remember. They are the other side that is maybe not so photogenic or talked about.
I think I love the other side too – the mess, the chaos, the spills, the broken dish, the menu item that gets forgotten in the fridge, the cat that dips its paw in my guest’s water glass.
Thanksgiving is a singular, memory making holiday with two sides. It might even be my favorite. All this goodness makes it easy to say “thank you family!” And “thank you guests!” And most of all “thank you God!” for another great Thanksgiving.
There are fourteen of us tonight. Tomorrow there will be more for the big meal. Our family does this frequently, big gatherings, reunions, and we have expectations. People will take turns making the meals since we are usually together for several days. We will take turns shopping for groceries and washing the dishes. Beds have been scouted out and stashes of blankets and pillows have been scattered around the houses where we are gathering. We want to be together, as many of us as can make it, because of one thing we agree on – we are thankful for family.
I am always a little surprised to hear that many people find us odd, a family that enjoys getting together. Many people do not have this kind of tradition or this kind of family. My mom and dad are the reigning seniors. There is my generation consisting of myself and three of my brothers and their families. And then there is the youngest generation, our children, ranging from fourteen to mid thirties in age. They are students, prospective parents, house flippers, a veterinarian, a geologist, an aeronautical engineer, a vegan, a hunter, There is a lot of news to exchange and the place buzzes with conversation.
Food is always being prepared or consumed or both. It seems one meal is barely finished before the next one needs to be started. There is no room in the fridg. This year Jon is sharing some vegan recipes with us. Brother Bob has brought ingredients for his famous muffin breakfast. Mom has been baking cookies, pies and cranberry bread for weeks. There is a “happy” turkey (happy while alive, not so much now). The kitchen is not very large and it is always full of people. We make at least five full pots of coffee a day. We don’t fit around one table very well, although it is a huge table.
My family is staying in a snug 2 bedroom condo a few yards away from the one my parents live in. My mom is an early riser and when she’s up and making the first pot of coffee for the day she turns on the outside lights. I wait for that signal before going over for a moment of quiet reflection and planning. Since FOOD is going to be the name of the game most of the day, she had a breakfast casserole ready for the oven. Loaves of bread and bagels were ready by the toaster. It wasn’t long before the crowd assembled – and then the food was gone. Fortunately we have a nearly seamless way of moving on to the next eating experience.
There was a brief break in the eating while we made a call to my aunt in Florida to sing happy birthday to her. Actually we sang it twice – once on her voice mail and one live performance when she called back. She is 90 and knows how to use a cell phone. Kudos.
.I am so glad the younger crowd embraces cooking with gusto. I am so glad that Walmart is open on the holiday. No matter how much planning takes place, with this many people, something is always missing or running out. After a trip to the store the kitchen was again crowded with Jon, Jamie and Julie turning out Buffalo Cauliflower, Killer Veggie Tray and Guacamole Supreme. The turkey got bathed, dried, seasoned and placed in the oven to cook, leaving room for the Tofurkey to slide in beside it later. The dressing was mixed up and put in the crock pot. The potatoes were pealed. The pies were set out to thaw.
The football game is underway, accompanied by football food. Today we do not have hunger to tell us what time of day it is. Everyone has their favorite snack and drink and we are hoping that the continual trickle of food does not hamper our enjoyment of the grand finale. My latest “chore” was getting the next jigsaw puzzle prepared for the afternoon. It is a tradition at our gatherings to do puzzles and we have done two already. There is a bonding that takes place between those willing to devote hours to staring at little pieces of cardboard. We know who we are. The last one was 2,000 pieces and we could hardly fit it on the table. This next one is only 1500 and I’m hoping it will last through the evening.
My brother who lives in this area has left to be with his wife’s family as they celebrate the holiday a few miles away. Somehow a miracle will happen and they will eat two Thanksgiving dinners back to back. I am in the quiet of my condo, me and the turkey.
There is no end to the things I am thankful for. How is all this possible? It is not a matter of deserving this plenty, this comfort, safety and fellowship. There are many others who should have more, but don’t. I also have to consider that we may not always have what we have now. But while we have it, let us not forget to be grateful and generous. The memory of these times, precious times, might be what sustains us in the future. I’m just sayin’ it’s best we pay attention.