Tomorrow will be the time to gather together to feast and give thanks. Whether you are traveling over the river and though the woods to grandmother’s house, hosting the food fest at your own table surrounded by hoards of family, or making it a quiet affair for two, Thanksgiving always brings up fond memories of holidays past.
Or in some cases, maybe not so fond.
This year will be the first year of my married life that I will not be cooking a turkey with all the trimmings. This year a neighbor, who is helping Brad with the house building process, has invited us to spend Thanksgiving with their family.
And I’m scared. For them.
We know Kent, but not his family. Kent is nice. He’s seriously a kind and normal guy. And the two of us? Not so much. Oh, we’re nice. But we are far from Norman Rockwell Normal.
When we had kids in the house, every year I’d have hopes and dreams. Plans of the perfect Thanksgiving, a picture firmly planted in my brain. China, name cards, lovely autumn centerpiece. Happy, loving family enjoying the bounty of the season.
Inevitably it would start the same. Brad would take all the kids out on a hike, while I would tune into a Twilight Zone marathon, happily crafting a meal fit for a centerfold in Gourmet Magazine. Turkey lovingly cooked from a Cordon Bleu recipe. Italian sausage and cornbread stuffing. Fresh cranberry dressing. Sweet Potato Souffle. A fresh tray of garden vegetables for an appetizer. Luscious, silken gravy. Pumpkin Cheesecake. I would get a standing ovation when I placed this masterpiece on the table. The heavens would open and the angels would sing.
Year afer year, I forgot. I forgot who we were – a big, loud, boisterous family composed mainly of large males, who had no need for creatively folded napkins, if they had serviceable sleeves.
Growing up, my family consisted of Mom, Dad and four female siblings. Being part Italian, it did get noisy. I mean, people don’t understand that Italians argue. It’s what we do. It’s not so much arguing as it is convincing people we are right. And in my case, 99% of the time, I was right.
But with Italians, meals are more of an event. The meal is about the food, first and foremost, and equally important is the conversation. And that conversation MUST revolve around the food.
We talk about how the food was prepared. We talk about the great meal we had last week. We talk about the food we are eating. We compliment each dish. One. By. One. Each is examined, critiqued, lauded. We even talk about the leftovers we are planning for the next day. It’s a process that takes time, and with Italians, it’s not a quick process.
When you marry into a family of boys, which I did, the earth tilts on its axis. Because there is no conversation. There are sounds. Yes, there are sounds. Barnyard sounds. Grunts. Slurps. Great gnashing of teeth. But conversation? No.
In all fairness to me, I was not used to children of the male type. I had one girl. And of course, she was perfect. Brad was raised with a brother, and had five boys. So he was accustomed to it.
Every year it was the same. It was akin to watching a Disney movie. Where a pack of wild hyenas attacked a animal, leaving only a carcass after five minutes. It was, literally, heads up, heads down, then gone. Like human vacuum cleaners. Or dining room table explorers. They came, they saw, they conquered, they left. I’d barely pour gravy on my mashed potatoes, only to look up and find myself at a deserted table.
So this year, there are no children. It’s just the big guy and me. Going to a nice family Thanksgiving dinner. And trying to behave as if we know what a nice family Thanksgiving dinner looks like.
When we lived in Washington, we had neighbors who were friends. And I’m sure for the first few months, or even the first year, they had to get used to the odd new neighbors. But after a time, they were broken in. And certainly looking back on it, they would say they were happy we were there. Having neighbors who were quirky meant you could feel good about yourself and your own sanity.
Not sure how this new Montana neighborhood feels about us. Are we weirdly wonderful? Or just weird? For Thanksgiving dinner, do I get to act like Tina Fey, or do I curb myself and act, instead, like Emily Post?
Do we get invited back? Or do they firmly close and lock the door when we leave, change their phone number, draw the curtains and have 9-1-1 on speed dial?
Wishing all Happy Thanksgiving Blessings.
And hoping you have many girls around your table!