Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving (and) dinner

This is a tough time of year for weight loss. The weather is cold and damp, and the kitchen is warm and inviting. It becomes more of a hearth than merely a place to store and prepare food. More than ever, a cozy, fragrant kitchen is the best place to find solace.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays- and no, not because the focal point of the whole thing is a huge dinner, lol - though that does add to the appeal. I remember cooking my first Thanksgiving turkey ever and playing hostess to the feast. One thing I was grateful for that year was the example my mother, grandmother, and aunts had set for me over so many years of Thanksgivings in the kitchen. I saw very clearly what a labor of love is it to put on a spread like that, and how effortless they had made it look, trotting around the kitchen talking, stirring, chopping, and laughing - always laughing and smiling.

But more, I love Thanksgiving because it simply asks everyone to reflect and give thanks. That's it. You don't buy gifts; you don't give out candy or throw an endless series of parties. The year is coming to an end. The harvest is in, and winter's on its way, along with Thanksgiving's brash, boisterous, big sister, Christmas. Thanksgiving brings a moment to pause and think (after the cooking is all done, I mean ....), to sit with family and simply "be" together. This holiday can be celebrated by anyone living in America, no matter their countries of origin, religious practices, or lack thereof. It's also a patriotic holiday in its way, but one that doesn't conjure up images of cannons, muskets, bombs, or bloody battlefields. And while I am well aware of the actual relationship between settlers and Native Americans, I believe it's still possible to embrace the notion that our country and everyone in it can take a day to gather at its collective table, together in peace, with gratitude in its heart. It's a beautiful thing.

I recall thinking that Thanksgiving was boring when I was a little girl. I was too young to help cook, and it always took FOREVER for the darn turkey to get done, so I remember lots of waiting around and listening to the men holler at the football games they were watching. We didn't get presents, either. Then as I got older, I'd take more of an active part in the preparations, not to mention the visiting and frivolity. And even as a young kid, I was always aware of how wonderful everything smelled. There's this Thanksgiving aroma - it's a mixture of cooking turkey, wood smoke from the fireplace, cinnamon, rosemary, and .... men's aftershave. I conjure up that fragrance in my memory and tears come to my eyes.

I am grateful to have had Thanksgivings like those back then. I still love the holiday and the sentiment (and the aromas), though the actual event has changed in recent years. I am divorced, my mother died years ago, my father and sisters live too far away for us all to celebrate together, and the other "orphan friends" I used to host on Thanksgivings have either moved away or hooked up with new families to celebrate with. Last year I celebrated with my two teens and my boyfriend, which was lovely. Still, it's not quite the same as having a house filled with people in their casual best and smelling all nice.

And this year? Well, frankly, I'm not in the mood. I had hoped to be considerably thinner by now, which I am not, and that makes me mad. My family is far away, and that makes me sad. Add that to being in the above-described kitchen atmosphere, and it only makes me want to eat everything in sight. (And holiday fixin's are so hard to resist!) I could take my kids and go out to dinner, but my son looks forward to those day-after turkey sandwiches all year. Yeah, I guess I'll cook a dinky little turkey. Maybe even our meager little gathering will stand out in their memories as a happy, meaningful time for them. Maybe one day, years from now when/if they have their own families, I'll be dottering around their kitchens, slipping their children pieces of pumpkin bread and searching for the potato masher, and they will wistfully remember the non-chaotic, aromatic Thanksgivings of their teen years. That would be nice.

1 comment:

Corwin8or said...

Beautiful essay. I've never read a better (or any) explanation of how Thanksgiving stands apart from the rest of "the Holidays."

My Thanksgiving memories are of a day so laden with food and snacks beginning first thing in the morning that by the time the Big Meal was ready, I wasn't hungry enough to enjoy it.

In any case, I hold little in the way of Norman Rockwellian feelings for this day, especially since it's often just another work day.

But if by chance I am invited to be part of your Thanksgiving, however "meager," I will certainly be there. I'll even wear aftershave.