Thursday, November 26, 2015

We gather together



Thanksgiving Day 2015

My daughter is about to host her first Thanksgiving. Married, with a baby, a dog and a house, it’s her turn. It will be a small party, just the two of us, the two of them, and his parents. I have already made the cranberry sauce, stuffing and carrots in my little kitchen, and I’ll take everything when I go over at noon to help her cook her first turkey. Then we’ll do the mashed potatoes and Brussel sprouts together and set the table with the flowers R arranged in little pots. It will probably have taken us about 10 hours of prep time to prepare this meal which we will eat in 30 minutes.

Last night daughter was in a snippet because it turns out the dog doesn’t like the father-in-law. It started barking and growling when he arrived on Wednesday afternoon and didn’t let up until 9:00, when husband took the poor pup to the kennel to be boarded until they leave on Saturday. Naturally, this upset her, who is already stressed by all that comes with a 3-month old, a full time job and in-laws in the guest room. The mother-in-law took personal offense and, when we last texted at 10:00, was crying that she feels unwelcome. I told daughter to apologize for the dog’s poor manners, say good night and go to bed. After all, she was probably going to be up with the baby at 2 am.

Thanksgiving is not really a holiday I celebrate. Growing up, we never had a formal Thanksgiving. I think a widowed grandmother would come for dinner, which was like every other dinner: linen tablecloth, appetizer, meat, 2 vegetables, salad, dessert, eaten with silver, in the dining room, served by our “maid” who came when beckoned by a little bell. The meat for this meal would be turkey, but that was the only concession to the American holiday. Certainly we did not go around the table saying what we were thankful for.  I came home from college for Thanksgiving because that’s what everyone did. My own adult Thanksgivings began abroad. First in Crete, where a bunch of Americans tried to replicate the traditional meal with a couple of chickens and the local produce. Next, in England, with my English husband, I did the same for a few years, preparing a large meal for a shifting assortment of friends. I, too, had a new baby the first time I cooked a turkey. And I think I broke down in the kitchen in the middle of dinner because no one was helping me.

Back in America, with my second husband and 3 more children, Thanksgiving was a moveable feast, always with friends instead of family - his parents were dead; mine were uninterested - sometimes in a big rented house at the beach or at the lake where we all spent the summer. The meal was traditional, but we were nothing like the multi-generational family in the holiday ads. I am trying to recall those wine-infused weekends as fun, with adults cooking together and children frolicking, but I remember being sad much of the time. I think the kids enjoyed it and, for me, that was the point. Divorce ended that tradition with the Thanksgiving from hell in 2000.

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