Happy Turkey Day, everyone. No, I’m not posting a holiday rant. Not yet, anyway. Just having a quiet and reflective morning and wanted to share some thoughts.
Some of you may know this — Thanksgiving was actually my favorite holiday for many years. No religious overtones, no gifts to buy, no cards to send… just a day where you got together with loved ones, had wonderful food and if you were of a mind to, counted your blessings.
I loved going to my mother and stepfather’s for Thanksgiving. My mother and I have always had our ups and downs, but on Thanksgiving, all that was put aside. I looked forward to arriving at their place; it would be warm and cozy, filled with mouth-watering smells and festively decorated. There was usually an eclectic bunch present; Mom had always been one to take in the people who were by themselves, at loose ends, on holidays. Over the years, I’d brought my share of friends who had no other place to go, and they were warmly welcomed.
No one cooked like my mother. Her turkeys were always tender and juicy, even the white meat. She’d collect all the drippings and juices, put them in the freezer until all the fat rose to the top, then skim it off. I don’t know how she thickened the gravy, but she didn’t use flour and it was never lumpy or pasty. She always put in plenty of cooked fresh mushrooms, because she knew I loved them. Oh, and her stuffing… I could have made a meal of that alone, mountains of it. I hate yams, and you can have mashed potatoes anytime. Pass on that disgusting Thanksgiving staple, the goopy green bean/mushroom soup casserole with canned fried onions on top. (Not that she ever made that!) But my mom’s stuffing — starchy Nirvana.
She and my stepdad and their friends were partial to a lemon cheesecake from Baker’s Square pies for dessert. However, I thought cheesecake after all that rich food was utterly gross, and besides, you have to have pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. So I always brought one.
Even cleanup was fun, as we’d crowd into the kitchen, wrapping leftovers, washing dishes, laughing, sated and giddy with carb/tryptophan overload. I figured since I didn’t do the cooking, the least I could do was help with the mess afterward and I enjoyed doing so. I’d spend the next couple of nights there. After John came into my life, I’d come home Saturday morning and spend the rest of the weekend with him. He’d be with his own family on Thanksgiving; we’d mutually agreed that he’d see his, I’d see mine, and we’d get together afterwards.
It was a lovely place to be. I felt like a kid again, or at least how a kid should feel… comfortable, loved, well fed and cared for. Safe.
Then my mother began her slow descent into dementia, and everything changed.
Thanksgiving went from warm and pleasant to not-so-pleasant, then uncomfortable, then spectacularly awful. There were tears and fights and ruined food. And finally, it was over. My mother went into an assisted-care facility, and that was the end of Thanksgiving as we knew it.
For the past two years, I have refused to acknowledge Thanksgiving. I have treated it like just another Thursday, staying home and watching DVDs, reading, whatever I felt like doing. John continued to do his own thing with whichever family member was in town; I was always welcome and I knew that, but I didn’t want to go and begged off. He understood and didn’t pressure me, although I know he was disappointed. I couldn’t help it. It was too damn depressing for me and I preferred to withdraw and ignore the whole thing.
This year is different. This year, for better or worse, I think I’m ready to rejoin the living.
We are invited to John’s sister’s house later this afternoon; most of his family will be there. I have many mixed feelings about going, but above everything else, I want to be with John. I know he wants me there and I want to be there for him. It’s one meal, it’s a few hours. I could have lost him in recent weeks. On this day, I want to be with the person in my life for whom I’m the most thankful.
And hey, there are bright sides. John has two sisters: one prepares food that is tasty and reasonably healthy; the other one’s cooking makes me feel like all the blood in my body has been replaced by butterfat. Fortunately, the former is doing the cooking today, not the latter. 🙂
All right — time to do some laundry, get some other things done and then prepare to head out. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, whatever you’re doing. I wish you peace, happiness and a thankful heart this day.