Thanksgiving has always meant a overheated home, steamy windows, and the din of 20 family members talking while a football game plays in the background. It’s meant the biting cold and stark silence that hit as soon as you stepped outside of the family home; the rustle of brittle leaves blowing over brown grass or dirty snow.
But when I was single and living far away, it also meant bringing a dish to a co-worker's house and standing up ram-rod straight as I politely made conversation with strangers. Every year people tried to get me to their houses for Thanksgiving, but, introvert that I am, all I wanted to do was sit home in the same clothes I’d slept in and read, write, paint, or talk on the telephone. One year, when I was in graduate school, I claimed to a co-worker that I had too much studying to come to dinner. Yes, I literally insisted that I didn’t have two hours free on Thanksgiving to come to her house for dinner. Do you know what she did? She came by my house with two plates – one of turkey, stuffing, yams, and green beans, the other with slices of three different pies, and a jelly jar filled with red wine. You would think her generosity of spirit and pie would have made me shut up and politely attend every Thanksgiving dinner I was ever invited to again. Instead, when I was dating my future husband, and he invited me to his family’s Thanksgiving, I told him, “I have lots of offers for Thanksgiving dinner. You don’t have to invite me to yours.” What I meant to say was that I didn’t need him to give me an invite out of pity. (We'd only been dating three weeks.) What I should have said was, “Thank you. I’d love to come.” But he understood me, so it worked out okay in the end. And that was the Thanksgiving that I met his family for the first time, so I’ll always treasure the memories, even though they are touched with embarrassment, nervousness, and downright fear.
Now that I’m an old married lady, things have changed. This year, I expect to start cooking as soon as Lynn Rosetto Kasper's Turkey Confidential comes on NPR. I like to drink wine while I cook, even though it will only be 10AM. I’m making pies. Normally, I’d make an apple pie and a chocolate pudding pie, but we have frozen peaches from this summer, and my 90-year old mother-in-law loves peach pie, so it will probably be peach and chocolate. I like to wear my pajamas the entire weekend, (except of course when I leave the house), so I’ll probably be cooking in my flannel pajama pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt, drinking wine, listening to NPR, and not taking phone calls from family (because I don’t like Turkey Confidential interrupted) while my husband hangs out with our kids.
At my sister-in-law’s I’ll spend most of my time trying to have conversations with people while I keep the kids from falling down stairs and pulling tablecloths to the floor. Maybe we’ll get home in time for me to walk my dog and watch other people step outside of their noisy, hot homes to smoke a cigarette or enjoy a moment of quiet. I’ll take a moment to be thankful for my dog, who is coming on 9 or 10 years, and who still makes me laugh and keeps us safe. I’ll be thankful for my family, my husband and children, who bring me a continuous stream of quiet joy on a daily basis, but also for my parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles. I may take a moment to be thankful for our high standard of living and wish that everyone on earth could have the kind of good luck and fortune that I have. Then I’ll probably head home with my dog, change back into my pajamas and play a game of Go Fish with my family. What a fabulous day Thanksgiving has become!