Favorite Thanksgivings

I decided to write a positive piece on Thanksgiving after my last dreary commentary on difficult family dynamics this time of year. I have definitely had some wonderful Thanksgivings. I want to share three that pop into mind when I think about happy Thanksgiving memories.

The first one took place in Boston about 30 years ago. My mother and stepfather along with their little curly-white bichon joined my then boyfriend, Charley, and I. Charley loved Thanksgiving. He loved to cook and so for him it was the ultimate cooking day of the year. He was sad to not be able to cook with his brother which was tradition but since he was on the other side of the country, my mother, stepfather and I were going to have to suffice. We began preparing some of the dishes the night before and then arose early Thanksgiving morning to continue this cooking marathon. The smells were intoxicating and the spirits were flowing. When all the dishes were prepared and waiting to be baked and the turkey was in the oven, we put on our winter coats and we all took my mother’s dog for a walk around the neighborhoods of Cambridge, stopping at the big yellow house of Longfellow…almost to Harvard Square…and then turned around with anticipation of what would be waiting for us…

Oh, the aromas that hit us when we opened the front door! But the turkey wasn’t quite ready so we brought out some snacks to graze on and eggnog to sip on while we waited. My mother who was a tiny woman (about half the size of a me) was not used to drinking much and after a glass of the delicious eggnog elixir, she was feeling it. Silly and then tired. She gracefully curled her knees up on the brown leather sofa, leaned to her side placing her head in the crook of her elbow that was resting on top of the sofa, and fell asleep. We woke her up when the meal was ready. Then we feasted on a Thanksgiving fare worthy of a James Beard Award! There were some variations from a typical Lancaster County Thanksgiving meal. For example the stuffing included cornbread and sausage (and was called stuffing, not filling), and there was a bourbon pecan pie. I remember laughing a lot and friends coming over to share dessert with us. A wonderful Thanksgiving indeed.

Another was in my loft-style condo in Seattle that had a glimpse-view of Puget Sound. I had a chef-friend, Johnny, who came over in the morning and started the Turkey and Ham (capitalized because they were the stars of the show.) Not only did he bring the stars, he brought many bottles of liquor and wine…and music. His thinking was that you must have a good glass of your favorite beverage to sip on and your favorite music playing if you’re going to cook all day. I enjoyed being his sous chef. Friends started stopping by and I was delighted to see every one of them. It became clear that my place wasn’t large enough to seat everyone so I went downstairs to the condo’s large community room and luckily nobody else was using it. We set up tables into a big square and another table along the wall to set all the food on. Everyone helped bring in the food. When we all sat down I remember feeling very happy. I couldn’t believe I had so many good friends! I was overcome with gratitude and I suggested we go around the room and say what we were grateful for. There were a few groans in response to that suggestion but we did it and it was nice. One last thing about that day I will never forget is the vodka ham gravy Johnny made. What!? I know, it was delicious.

The last one I’ll share took place the next year. I lived in a different condo. Johnny was again cooking but my kitchen wasn’t as large nor was there as much space in general so my memory is that things were toned down a bit. A few friends were invited and we had a couple of make-shift tables set up in the living room with mismatched tablecloths. But it didn’t matter. The highlight that year was that my adorable nephew who had moved to the Northwest earlier in the year was coming with two of his friends from back home. They arrived to a room full of welcomes and a bar full of spirited concoctions including a triple-spiked eggnog, apple cider, wines and beers galore. He told me that one of his friends commented, “this isn’t like any Thanksgiving back home.” After our mid-afternoon feast we went to a tavern on the waterfront which was nearly empty. Staff were having Thanksgiving fixings of their own but the place was open for business. We played pool with the staff and then closed the joint. But we wanted more. Where to go next? Some friends suggested karaoke at a dive bar nearby. I remember my nephew saying emphatically…”I am not doing karaoke!” An hour later we were laughing and singing along at the karaoke dive-bar and having a wonderful time!!! Two notes: I don’t think any of us got up and technically did karaoke so my nephew was true to his word, and I forgot to mention that Johnny again made his vodka ham gravy!!!! A Thanksgiving highlight for sure!

May this Thanksgiving be the making of wonderful memories for you!!!!

4 responses to “Favorite Thanksgivings”

  1. The description of your mother is picture perfect and thinking of her today on her “90th” birthday.


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