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giving thanks

November 21, 2008

This is the fourth year that I have had the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving dinner. My parents moved from Louisiana to Georgia after hurricane Katrina, saving us the seven hour trek over the river and through the woods each year. But their new home came with a tiny dining area and an almost non-existent kitchen, so we became the official hosts for the big day.

I have to say that squeezing my hands into the backside of a partially frozen turkey at 6 AM is, without a doubt, my least favorite part of Thanksgiving. But for the most part, I absolutely love it. I don’t mind the work in the least.

Now that I think about it, I’ve been attempting to take charge of the Thanksgiving feast since long before I was married. I can remember, probably as early as junior high, approaching my mom each November, pen and paper in hand, anxious to discuss all the preparations. My responsibilities grew from assembling the fruit salad to preparing the sweet potatoes. Eventually I decided to tackle the pies, which very quickly became my specialty. Not long after I started college and discovered a love for the Food Network, I came home with the desire to make changes to the menu. I had opinions about everything, from the best way to cook a turkey to why giblets have no place in the gravy. Yes, crucify me if you must, but I get great satisfaction every year when I toss the “bag of fun” in the trash. Canned green beans were replaced with fresh asparagus and hollandaise sauce. The standard “brown n’ serve” rolls made way for homemade ones. I’m not sure how my family felt about my interventions. But our current menu is a blend of old and new, tradition and better ideas.

The other changes I’ve made to our traditional Thanksgiving have less to do with the menu. As a kid I remember my mother getting up before the sun to stuff and roast the turkey, then little by little assembling the rest of the dinner. The rest of the family would wander in and out of the kitchen whenever there was a lull in the Macy’s parade, to nibble on whatever was available at the moment. After dinner, it was always straight back to the couch for football or a nap. My mom would then head back in to the kitchen to clean up, defying all the well-intended offers to “clean it up later”. About the time she had put away the last dish, we would inevitably decide it was time for pie. Sometime around 10 she would head to bed, and undoubtedly glad to see the day come to an end.

About the same time I realized our menu was lacking, I discovered that our celebration was missing something as well.  So each year I have attempted to incorporate some “thanks” into our traditions. Last year we began a Thankfulness Tree. My husband cut a tree shape out of a piece of plywood. Each guest at the table gets a paper leaf with their name and the year on it as a place card. At some point during the dinner, we all write something we’re thankful for on our card and then read them at the end of dinner and attach them to the tree. The only rule is that you have to write something different each year. I look forward to a time 15 years from now when the tree is filled with leaves and we can look back at each year and see who was there and how our thankfulness grew each year. This year I’m hoping my family will indulge me in participating in reading the story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. I’m sure the idea will be met with a few rolled eyes, but hey, there are some real advantages to being the one with all the food.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Debby Morton permalink
    November 21, 2008 12:13 pm

    That sounds like a wonderful thanksgiving will be had at your place. Your tree idea sounds really lovely. Having not grown up with Thanksgiving it is still foreign to me but Jim and I have found a family that has been gracious enough to include us last year and this year in their thanksgiving. Hope you have a wonderful day and I hope that you have also changed the way that only one person gets to clean up after all the eating is done.

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