Days of prep and days to recover, but I have Thanksgiving in my heart, and yesterday, as I walked off some of my food related misdemeanors from last week, I realized why. During our oh-to-short gathering with extended family, a sixteen year old nephew told me how much he loved coming to our house for Thanksgiving. Our twenty-six year old niece tells us it her favorite holiday too.
Twenty years ago, my husband and I volunteered to take Thanksgiving off of his mother’s shoulders which meant entertaining some combination of seven of his siblings, plus spouses, and children. That first time, I was clueless how much effort it would take. Our daughter, and several nieces and nephews were toddlers and I stepped over crawlers while trying to get dinner on the table. I don’t even remember how many came that time, just that we managed through it and decided we could do it again. And then again. Who knew it would become a tradition?
Now, we look forward to it. We have lists of what to accomplish each day leading up to a feast in which anywhere from twenty to thirty-plus folks may show up. We know that on the day, Uncle John will arrive with a bunch of sides and join me in the kitchen where he’ll assure me the turkey is cooked, the stuffing is hot enough, and yes, it’s time to serve. This year, our daughter made the pies, three delicious additions that saved me a half day of work. Unbeknownst to me, one state away, the aforementioned twenty-six year old niece took over from Uncle John—her dad. She made his traditional offerings, squash, sweet potatoes and veggie casserole. When the "adults" (read that as, those of us with grey hair) sat down at the table, we marveled. “Look at us, passing it down to the next generation.”
Across from each other, filling three of four adjoining tables, a group of cousins, those long ago “crawlers” talked about their jobs and college as if they’d been together the week before. Those present live in five different states between them, and all of them (including the missing coast guard boys stationed in FL, and CA and one niece living in SC) keep in touch by a group text. As I marveled about that, I realized Thanksgiving is one of the reason why. This one day a year they're together keeps them bonded, in spite of schedules that make it impossible for them all to meet up at the same place any other time.
As I power-walked yesterday, trying to burn off the sins of dip, creamed onions and pie, I recognized over the last twenty years, my husband, daughter and I have made memories, but not just for ourselves. Someday, long after my generations is gone, the cousins will reminisce about their childhood Thanksgivings gathered as family at our house, and will remember joy. That's an unexpected life accomplishment for which I’m feeling pretty thankful.