Fellow Americans, are you cooking Thanksgiving this year? Got it all figured out? Still in denial? That works too.
I’m off the hook. And am as pleased not to be cooking as I am about doing it other years. The mental space ordinarily occupied by organic turkey pre-order schedules is open. In a meadow waiting for the picnickers to arrive, I spread imaginary red-checked tablecloths on the grass, and wait.
Which is a fanciful way of saying I remember other Thanksgivings.
My first memory, I think, is of a dinner at a dining table newly arrived to our house from my father’s mother’s estate. Or, precisely, I remember the brief period after that dinner when I was allowed to sit under the table with our German Shepherd. This was not at all common. Perhaps in my father’s grief he got comfort from his daughter and a dog. Or my parents wanted to drink their wine in peace. Either way. We still sit around that table, maybe I should crawl under and play with my nephew in remembrance.
I spent the first Thanksgiving after my parents’ divorce at my aunt’s house outside East Aurora. She lived in an old converted schoolhouse. The kitchen was large and not at all fancy, but furnished. Imagine a fireplace hung with horse brasses, a couple of worn sofas, an old television. A place for boots. The rest of the house was more formal.
Lawns extended to the horizon.
At one point, still sad and angry about my family, I wandered outside. Might have wanted to be visible in my misery, who knows the topology of a college senior’s emotions? My aunt took me by the elbow and told me it was time to get over myself. In a kind way, if that’s possible. She served overcooked peas in a silver chafing dish. Everything was served that way, if I remember. Just because we have memories doesn’t mean they are correct.
One year, all four grownup siblings and families at my house, my brother insisted on making garlic mashed potatoes. Surely we’ve all got stories of The One Who Would Not Budge. My brother’s a great cook but that year he put in so much garlic, so early in the cooking, that raw allium seared off the skin of our tongues. High WASPs have had to learn to work with garlic. It refuses to get over itself.
One year I introduced a new love to my family. Never invite a crowd to your small house and cook way too many ambitious dishes (thus making young children and people over 80 wait for dinner), in hopes of heartfelt thanks and immediate union around the table.
One year the new love and I honeymooned in Kauai.
Last year my daughter, her boyfriend, my son, my husband and I celebrated here. I designed and printed a menu. The kids did most of the work. My daughter’s boyfriend is good to cook with. Good dinner.
The Hollywood Reporter recently interviewed a set of actresses. Great piece. Charlotte Rampling said of aging and acting, how she got better.
“You become more and more charged with your life and with a life that you’re observing.”
Seems right. We are all more charged with life.
Good luck with your Thanksgiving. At a guess, you couldn’t make more mistakes than I have over the years. Generally someone comes to the rescue.
Have a wonderful weekend. If you are so inclined, I’d love to hear your Thanksgiving stories, charged or not. We’re all in this together.