Friday, November 12, 2010

Thanksgiving timetable

So, it's less than two weeks till Thanksgiving...

...which means two things here.

It is time to really scramble and pick up and clean the house that was abandoned during marching band season and sit down and make some serious inroad on the Thanksgiving day lists.

One delightful advantage to having inherited the family home is that you also inherit the family holiday traditions and with only a year or two exception, we have been the 'doors flung open, come to feast' family center for Thanksgiving.  People come early and stay late, or stay over and eat from early till late.

One of my sweetest memories of my father was that after our reconcilement he would always show up on Thanksgiving morning BEFORE I got out of bed... standing on the porch, where he'd spent so many Thanksgivings, with his hat in hand, the morning paper and a big old country cured ham nestled in his arm.  I was expected to make the coffee and the biscuits and from his corner chair in the kitchen he had the singular advantage of watching me prepare for a huge meal.  I wondered, as he watched me, what he was thinking... I know for a fact that those were contemplative days... Following his death, I needed not to cook that meal that year, in this kitchen, with his empty chair... so we packed up kith and kin and headed to the beach for a seaside Thanksgiving.  It was necessary for that year, but the following year, we needed to get back to tradition and so we have ever since.

Thanksgiving never fails to have a surprise or two,,, like the year the college football training team joined us that was also the year that we found Leo, the black kitten who was abandoned and nearly frozen.

Something that is never surprising is that we're always going to have food.  I make the traditional expected dishes and try to make a side or two that is different.  At least three desserts are necessary, something chocolate, something spicy and nutty and something cheesecake.  Folks who come sometimes pitch in a dish or two.  We need to set up additional tables and chairs and I need to plan in advance for things like extra glasses.  I know that you can use paper products... and a time or two in thirty years we have done so, but I LOVE to break out everything beautiful and use it, even if it means a two day dishwashing adventure to set things straight again.  I have a wealth of china and it's accompaniments and always have enough folks to need to break out several sets.

Another tradition here is that right after the noon meal, dinner here (as the evening meal is supper!), everyone that is able is tossed out to do a  'Weaver family walk'.  The walkers head off, amicable chatter flowing, to circumnavigate the hundred acres.  I think this started when the children were small, as it enabled me to clear the table and start the dishes, and frankly sit down for ten minutes, without everyone underfoot.  But, it is, ironically, something that I've never participated in.  I clean in peace and quiet, then sit down on the porch to await the return.  Happy folks of every age, pink cheeked and glowing, laughter you can hear from a quarter mile away... this is also when the boys take slingshots and gather some mistletoe in advance of the Christmas season.

Over the next week, the preparations simply must happen.  I need to gather in two turkeys and maybe a ham. This year we will have venison.  I've already gotten the sweet potatoes. I'll advance prepare things like cornbread and yeast breads to make the dressing from.   In advance of the day, I line up my recipes in a binder, so that I'm not frantically trying to remember which book contains the right recipe. I'll shop a solid week out for most things, leaving fresh veggies till the last minute. I'm adding to the vegetarian options as my vegetarian list is growing.

Two days before I'll make desserts, because frankly, cheesecake is better after sitting for two days in the fridge and some things will be measured and parceled out in advance.

This is as much of a delightful holiday here as is Christmas.  It's a gathering of family and friends, and friends who are like family for a time of being thankful for our blessings and thankful for each other.  Getting ready for the holiday makes my heart happy... I remember those who are not with us anymore and am grateful for the time that I had with them.  I see how my own children have grown and now begin families of their own.  I wish them happy traditions of their own and welcome them home with open arms when they are a part of ours.  I welcome those who maybe can't make it to their traditional home or simply need to be part of the rambunctiousness that is here for the day.
It is a labor of love and a season of joy abounding.
For this, I am grateful.

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