Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Traditions

I was up early this morning. Normally, and for the past however many years of my adult life, this would have been the time that I was in the kitchen all burners full and the the house filled with the wonderful aroma of Thanksgiving dinner in the making. Not this morning. This morning I was actually able to sit at the table with the cat curled next to me, and sip a hot cup of coffee while a pot of sweet potatoes boiled on the stove. It felt weird to not be elbow deep in a turkey trying to get every crevice filled with stuffing. This year, Ken's folk's took over the turkey cooking duty. A few years back they bought one of those deep fat turkey fryers. It's amazing how moist the meat is cooked that way. Not greasy at all, and it's like the flavor is seared in.

Since I had one of the most relaxing Thanksgiving mornings I can remember, I had time to think over past years and what it was about other Thanksgivings that made them so special. The food was always good of course. Always the traditional turkey with all the trimmings. But I think it was the fact that we all got together in one place and put aside our busy lives for a day to just eat and BE. It was a day that all of us looked forward to with much anticipation.

For many years, we had our dinner at Grandma and Grandpa Allen's house. Grandma Allen always hosted a big group. Not only was there immediate family, but adopted family and other 'strays' as well. Grandma would spend a few days before, moving things around in the garage and cleaning. Long tables were set end on end so that the entire two car garage was tuned into a massive dining hall. At some point grandma would come and and tell Dad it was time to cut the turkey. I can still see Dad and his best friend Dave carving the turkey and eating almost as much as they put on the platter. Then, when all was ready, we would gather around the table, stand behind our chairs for the blessing and for the first time since we walked in the door, every one would quiet down. As soon as "Amen" was heard, the line started to form. First it was by the stove for potatoes and gravy and stuffing and rolls, a platter of hot turkey and on to the table that was filled with a variety of salads, pickles and olives. The line was always long, but there was never a shortage of wonderful treats. And just when you thought that you might burst at the seams, grandma would roll out the pies. Never just a pumpkin pie or two, but apple and mince and chocolate just to name a few. If you had a favorite pie, she would make that too.

It was always a happy time and looking back now I know that I saw it all through kid eyes. I didn't see the hours of work that went into preparing all that food or the mountain of dishes that had to be done after. When I grew up and started doing Thanksgiving for my own family, I tried to keep that magic and the  special feel of the day alive. I still cook many of the things that my grandmothers did, but for the first time this year I broke with tradition and didn't do the turkey. I also didn't do stuffing the way I normally do or even the gravy. But the amazing thing was that even though the table wasn't set with all the good china and fresh flowers and we chose to eat buffet style, it was still a special meal. For a while there, everyone put down their phones and Ipads, stopped watching TV and spent time eating a wonderful meal. And I came to realize that that is the real part of our tradition. Not the food served or the way it's served but the time spent with the ones we love without distraction. It's a beautiful thing that seldom happens in our busy lives and I was so blessed today to have that time with my family.

I missed our family that couldn't be here, but loved every noisy moment of the kids and grand kids that could make it. I have so many things to be thankful for this year and I need to remember that when I start to feel a little worn down by life. No doubt about it. I am truly, incredibly blessed.

To steal the perfect line from my friend Cindy Wobbe, (I don't think she'll mind)  "Wishing you Grace and Plenty" this Thanksgiving day.

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