Thanksgiving, for me, was always about family. Unlike Christmas or Easter, with their family services, choral services, and vigils, Thanksgiving was not a religious event. It was not church, smells and bells. Thanksgiving was Aunt Peggi's house and cousins and trying to watch TV with first generation closed captioning. Garnish trays and turkey, cooked by Grandpa. Homemade rolls and pie (pumpkin, apple, and cherry), always made by Mom. The kids' table and the grown-ups' table. Telling Uncle Don that we were eating at 2 PM to ensure he'd be there by 4. A Christmas Story on the TV and the inevitable quoting of favorite lines, Dad reminiscing along the way about a snow outfit like Randy's (he lay there like a slug, it was his only defense) and then sharing, again, the story of Peg, the toddler stripper, leaving a trail of clothing on neighbors' lawns. Spending 10 minutes hugging goodbye and falling asleep in the car on the way home.
And then I grew up and moved away. There were divorces and marriages and children and deaths. And we all grew up and away.
In Texas, we had the incredible fortune of making a new family - our very good friends Paula and Harold, who cooked for us in exchange for chocolate cake and apple crumble (I cannot make pie crust, no matter how many times my mother walks me through it over the phone). The dogs (4 canine children between us). The food, oh the food. The wine and the coffee. The music and the company. The family.
And then they moved away and we had a child.
So we began to build our own family, our own traditions. With only three of us (and then four), an entire turkey seemed excessive, so CrackerBarrel made our meal (less dessert). There was something about eating a metric ton of hashbrown casserole with your turkey - intensely soporific and happy making.
And then we moved away. And the closest CrackerBarrel is in Idaho. And the closest family is a 2-day drive away. I do not remember what we did last Thanksgiving.
Last week, when asked to write about Thanksgiving, Rory's answer was, "I don't do Thanksgiving. I don't decorate."
So this year, I am not ordering premade food. I am not letting it go. I am baking bread (Rory's very favorite) at 1:40 AM because he is my family and this is his holiday.
Today, so early and rainy, I am thankful for my son, whose 1st grade assignment reminded me of why we cook and bake all day, to break bread together, to appreciate what we have. For my daughter, who loves nothing more than to see me first in the morning, a rare treat these days. For my husband, who saves the best bite for me, every time, and who every day makes me take time for a little something that will make me laugh. For my family away, for what they have given me through the years and for how much I miss them when I'm not with them. For health. For safety. For love.
And for premade pie crusts.