I have been battling mini-panic attacks at least once a day for the last month. I’ll be sitting at my desk at work, or watching my son toss food at the dog, and all of a sudden, the evil thoughts creep into my head.
Don’t forget to bring in the guy to calibrate the oven… Do I actually need to touch the giblets?… Are three desserts enough?… What if I mess up the turkey?… Am I crazy for hosting this outrageously overwhelming holiday?
Deep breaths, and sometimes a glass of wine (not at work, of course) can typically fend off the mounting meltdown. At least until the next “what if?” sneaks in.
For me, Thanksgiving is the be-all, end-all of holidays. Growing up, it was the one holiday a year that both sides of my family celebrated together, and it was always at our house. I eagerly anticipated spending the day with both sets of grandparents, cousins from as close as Highland Park and as far as Louisville, friends that were more like family and, of course, my mom, dad and three little brothers.
We built forts out of sheets and blankets in the basement, and showed off our new toys, and got into silly fights over said toys, while picking at the appetizers and waiting impatiently for dinner to be ready.
Our Thanksgivings weren’t fancy affairs. No china or crystal or silver graced the tables. My mom, who spent the previous week (if not more) in the kitchen, probably figured that her children were not going to line up and help with the dishes after all was said and done, so we were a paper and plastic kind of family.
I’m sure the food was delicious. To be honest, I don’t even remember. What mattered to me was that everyone I loved was at my house, and for just one day, everything was perfect.
My own memories of perfect Thanksgivings past are going to give me a heart attack. I am driven to re-create the perfect day so that my child will have the same experience I did, even though that child is 15 months old and can’t even say “turkey,” much less remember anything other than when his next bottle is coming.
No matter. I’ve been consuming old holiday editions of Bon Appetit for months. I’ve collected turkey placemats, pumpkin pie-shaped dishes, Thanksgiving-colored candles and baskets of gourds. I’ve come up with a creative way for all of us to share what we’re thankful for. I have dived fully into Thanksgiving insanity.
After my parents got divorced, our perfect family Thanksgivings came to an end. We still had delicious dinners, but only with one side of the family, and with re-marriages, that family included a lot of new faces. It was good, but it wasn’t the same.
This year I made it my mission to bring us back to the Thanksgivings of my childhood. My parents (Mom, Dad and Step-dad), my in-laws, my brothers and sister-in-law, my grandma and my closest family friends will somehow cram into our home and squeeze around the table. There will be hot cider, cold beer, football, and probably a food disaster or two.
Our son, Ben, will most likely scrunch up his face when he tastes stuffing and cranberry sauce, a sign that the food is about to be launched over the high chair tray. He’ll be overtired and in bed by 7, missing most of the party.
And I will try my hardest to stop fussing with the turkey, and kvetching about people in the kitchen, and fretting about how we’re all going to fit in the dining room, just long enough to take in all the warm, familial goodness and be thankful.