So. We had Thanksgiving. Days ago. I can hardly remember it now...what was it? Oh, yes.
It was Delicious. Also: Fabulous and Lovely and Warming and All Of The Things You Would Want From A Thanksgiving.
When I was a child Thanksgiving was hands-down my favourite holiday. There was none of the stress of Christmas, because even as a child Christmas is stressful: am I showing enough gratitude for this gift I'm not sure I want? Does anyone like the silly things I could afford to buy for them at the dollar store? Thanksgiving was only and completely about coming together, crowding around a table or stretching out throughout the living room, and eating the beautiful food everyone had made. I remember sitting in my Granny's kitchen smelling the wonderful smells of Thanksgiving and then later, in the evening, loading up my plate and staking a claim in a spot I'd never otherwise be allowed to eat in: maybe the stairs or the couch or balancing the plate on my knees and eating until I could only roll upstairs to bed and fall into a deep, deep, food coma. My Granny died when I was nine and Thanksgiving wasn't quite the same after, but it was always good. We always did it at our house instead of hers from then on and it always had the same smells: orange and sweet and rich. My dad cooked the turkey on his Weber barbeque and my mom did most of the rest in the oven. Sometimes aunts or uncles brought rolls or pies or green bean casseroles or appetizers and the meal was never, ever fancy but it was always too much and always the best thing I'd eaten since last Thanksgiving.
Now, we sometimes do it at our house, my grown-up mother-house, the house I live in and cook in daily. I love to bicker with my husband about the right way to do the turkey, which sides to do and how to do them. He always wins with the turkey; I always win with everything else. The kids love knowing what to expect from Thanksgiving dinner and I love to make the dishes we make only once a year: cranberry sauce (up to three kinds), sweet potato gratin or casserole or whatever, turkey (because, really, I don't care for turkey: it's only an excuse to make gravy), gravy, usually with giblets when we're at home, pumpkin pie. These aren't things we eat normally and it feels so festive to have them all cooking at once, the house filling with smells we haven't smelled since last year, all coming together.
Last year it was only the five of us here because we were sick and couldn't travel for the holiday. We still made everything we had come to expect, and at a hefty price; it's expensive to do the whole shebang, especially with a heritage bird. This year we were able to join the rest of my family in what has become the new tradition: Thanksgiving dinner at my Grandpa's house in Pebble Beach. After my Granny died, my Grandpa married a lovely woman who graciously opened her beautiful home to his motley crew of children and grandchildren and now great grandchildren for holidays and vacations and various other get-togethers. They have a wonderful home overlooking the Pacific Ocean and it is the greatest treat to visit and have a meal. This year the duties of the meal were divided so judiciously throughout the family, everyone thought they were getting off easy. We were to make mashed potatoes, a salad, cranberry relish. My mom made stuffing, cranberry sauce and pie. My brother's girlfriend made rolls and pie. My aunt made green bean casserole. Her husband, my uncle, barbequed the turkey. My grandmother supplied drinks and appetizers. Nothing was fancy. Everything was delicious.
Now it's been over for several days. We had a lovely weekend in Monterey visiting with family, lamenting the ones who couldn't join us. I don't know who will host next year; probably it will be us with Kelsey's family joining us. It doesn't matter. Nothing will take the place of the first Thanksgivings of my memory at the house my Granny made. Nothing will be like the Thanksgivings at Pebble Beach with ocean views and 50's swank. Nothing will be like the year we made it for ourselves, sick as we might have been. Nothing will be like it is in the future. And yet it will all be defined by the sameness and our love of tradition, whatever shape it takes.