The local raccoons enjoyed the last bits of turkey scraps as we wrapped up the Pilgrim candlesticks and the turkey cheese spreaders. You just can’t be too kitschy on Thanksgiving.
On Thanksgiving I haul out equipment I only use once every 365 days: electric knife, turkey baster, silver stuffing spoon and the big old roasting pan that used to belong to my mother-in-law. It fits a 15-pound turkey as if it were all meant to be.
This is us, I kept thinking, our family, but then I wondered, is it just us? Do most families just do it all pretty much the same way, year in and year out, cherishing the tradition of it all?
Of course, the players on the Thanksgiving stage always evolve. For maybe 15 years we were a stable group. Then my parents died. Then nieces and nephews married, then babies were born, one dog passed and another found a place under the table.
We were 25 last Thursday. One set of kids comes from Florida; the other comes from California. No surprise, the California kids needed to go to Bikram yoga on Thanksgiving morning. One Florida kid was yoga-shamed into going. For the uninitiated, Bikram is yoga in a superheated atmosphere, like the worst sauna of your life. It was 45 degrees outside. You remember the wind that almost grounded the balloons? After the yoga, they drove to Long Beach and jumped into the ocean. So if you saw three 40-something people screaming and running naked into the water Thanksgiving morning, yeah, those were my kids.
They survived, and now want to make the polar bear dip part of the annual tradition.
For the first time, I turned the task of setting the table over to the grandchildren. They Googled napkin folding, decided that each one should be different and created quite an original look for the table, with 25 different creations.
This year, as usual, my husband was on patrol. This is a tradition we could happily live without, but he can’t help it; when the kids come, he becomes hyper-vigilant. He lives for these visits, and for Thanksgiving in particular, but he is scanning all the time for breakage, spillage and bad behavior.
Unfortunately, Thanksgiving morning, just as he was going out to walk the dog, Elijah, 12, threw a hacky sack across the living room and it burst, spreading a half pound of blue pixie dust over the couch and floor. Immediately we went into hide-this-from-Papa mode. One kid went out to walk with Papa and basically keep him out of the house for 15 minutes. Another kid fetched the vacuum, kid three got the hand vacuum, and it was all sucked up without any unnecessary drama. Papa didn’t need to be aggravated by a blue pixie dust event. It was all OK.
For the first time, Jacob, 14, pitched in with the cooking. He wanted to dress the turkey in a bacon suit, and he did, covering the seasoned bird in strips of bacon before it was roasted. He learned this in Florida from Cuban friends, and it traveled well. We embraced pavo Cubano as a new tradition.
As always we had too much food. In fact, this year we had more overage than usual, and I think it’s because everyone is actually more mindful of eating healthy, even on holidays. All I know is, everyone went home with food packages.
I was a little worried that our dinner might be disrupted by political talk, but we never went there. I had read numerous articles about how to finesse the crazy-old-uncle tirades, but we didn’t actually have a crazy old uncle in residence, so it was all quite civil.
For one blessed night, we toasted one another, ate delicious food and pretty much watched the two new-comers, my toddler grand-nephews, do what babies do, which isn’t that much but is fascinating nonetheless.
Then my kids let their kids watch “Borat,” a totally inappropriate movie, and I collapsed in bed to watch “Les Miz” on PBS. It felt like midnight in my back and feet but it was only 8 o’clock.
We had eaten dinner at 3 because of the babies. This speaks to our ongoing Thanksgiving philosophy: The when and the where don’t matter nearly as much as the who. This is us.
Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.