I love Thanksgiving. I love the idea of a holiday centered around being thankful. I love cooking old foods that we have cooked a hundred times before. I love making the tacky dessert my mom used to make and I love making the more sophisticated crostadas I make all year long. I love my stuffing. It’s mine. I invented it because I always hated stuffing and this stuffing is the stuff of holiday dreams. Everybody loves it. There is never any left. I love that I invented it and that everyone always eats it all. The secret is real dark maple syrup soaking the sage and apples and pecans. It smells divine and tastes as good as it smells. It is practically a perfect food.
I like the idea of turkey. I like how it looks on the platter all golden and pretty for the five minutes before it is carved. I don’t like it very much at the table but I love it in turkey salad a couple of hours later. I love that turkey salad so much that this year we made an extra turkey today, the day before, so the boys could have sandwiches and I could start this holiday with a little turkey salad on white bread with iceberg lettuce. That sandwich is enough to be thankful for all by itself.
Every year we have company. The friends around our table change around every once in a while. They are the same friends we always have only some years this one comes and some years it is some others But this year through a variety of circumstances our daughter is in Vail and it will be only us and our boys and one girlfriend.
But just the same we will do what we always do. We will cook. The boys will throw and kick balls. We will walk in the woods with our dogs and we will watch our old happy standby– Home for the Holidays. The sweet girlfriend is bringing her Grandmother’s cranberry relish so we will have one of her traditions at the table. Breakfast will start with John’s Grandmother’s nutroll so his Slovak roots will be on display. And my mom’s tacky dessert actually kicked it all off tonight. I made it early and when Eli asked if he and Timmy could have some I said sure. Why not? We have only ourselves to please. This made him unreasonably happy and prompted the extra turkey and these heavenly turkey salad sandwiches. Why not indeed? There is gratitude in abundance around here tonight.
And when we sit at the table, ( the one with all that great stuffing), we will say our sweet little thankfuls out loud. Some years I cry. Some years my husband makes us laugh until I worry that we will choke. This is my very favorite moment every single time. I love hearing what mattered to these people I love and who love me back. Some years we are all thankful for the same things like the year we sold the store or the year we moved to Vermont. But more often there are little surprises, reminders of things that happened throughout the year. Hannah always has a lovely long run-on rant sort of Jack Kerouac style. Maybe she can call hers in tomorrow. Eli will be thankful for Timmy and some thing they did and for which they did not get into trouble. We will all be thankful for the short time we had dearest Gracie and the long life we shared with Stu. I may be thankful that the last of the leaves got cleaned up if they do and that concert the other night, another of the sublime moments I get to share with this man I married. There are friends who won’t be at the table with us but without whom our lives would not be the same. Benjamin might be thankful for this whole new hunting thing. We will all be thankful we got through that dangerous spring and that we are here still on the other side. And every time I look at this robust teenage boy of ours I am deeply grateful to have had good medical care and gotten him back safe and sound after a harrowing illness last summer.
There is always so much to remember and savor. There are always hot spots in every life too. We have all had moments we didn’t think we could get through and they have come and gone and will undoubtedly come back around again. I think the trick is to remember, even in the depths of any misery, about swirling falling leaves, chocolate, and the sweet comfort of a good dog walking beside you on a sunny beach. There are always more books to read, more baths to take and more desserts to eat with hungry boys. There are purple manicures and Doris Day movies and Harrison Ford is still alive which is a whole reason to be thankful all by itself.
I am lucky and I know it. And tomorrow they made a whole holiday just to celebrate feeling grateful and glad. That it comes with turkey salad and this amazing stuffing deserves a prayer of thanks all by itself…..