As much as I love Halloween ... if I could have only one holiday a year, it would be Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is about family.
All my Thanksgivings of memory have two constants: my mom and my sister. There were Thanksgivings when I didn't have children or a husband. And it has been 40 years since I spent a Thanksgiving with my dad who died in 1970. But there have been no Thanksgivings in my memory without my mom and sister.
Growing up and as a young married woman I remember having Thanksgiving at my mom's house. Although we always left the table totally stuffed, looking back and compared to today, I think our Thanksgiving meals were modest. They included the typical turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, a vegetable, canned cranberry sauce, and mom's pumpkin pie. Once I had children I took over the dinner, and I learned to cook a turkey and many of mom's dishes. My sister and her boyfriend (now husband) would join our table. My mother-in-law was also with us, and with her came the a tradition of sour kraut and turkey (she said it was a German tradition). Once my sister married, she and her husband would have two dinners on Thanksgiving day: one with us and one with his family. They did that for years until they had children and decided to stay home for Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving dinner torch was passed to my sister when she had children. Since then, our dinners have become an adventure in eating. My sister loves to cook. No, let me say this differently. My sister LOVES to cook. Mom and I treated this meal as an opportunity to get family together and we fixed the same typical and traditional dishes. My sister treated this meal as a passion (and she still does). We have all benefited from that passion. Besides having the space to serve all the family, she has the pretty dishes, the beautiful pottery, and the adventuresome cooking spirit. She gets the fresh turkeys from local farmers, and once we even had two turkeys (we did a deep fried turkey one year - incredible), she makes her own rolls and pies, she makes her own cranberry sauce, she frequently makes two stuffings recipes, and always serves tasty and unusual appetizers ... I could go on, but you wouldn't believe me.
But the food is only part of the specialness that is Thanksgiving. My sister lives in a rural area of Virginia about 60 miles from me. The last 10 minutes of the trip are the best. We turn off the main highway onto a gravel road. This road goes for about 2 miles through a beautiful section of properties, some of which have been there for quite some time. You real feel like you are in the country. Beautiful land. You can't see it well in the top picture, but in the distance is Sugarloaf Mountain. These are two views from her porch.
But it would all just be a Martha Stewart moment if it wasn't for our family. It is one of the few times during the year when we get everyone together. Since our "children" are now grown and most are in their 30's, it is beyond incredible that we have maintained that family dinner tradition. In our culture, it is common for families to go their separate ways, to individually celebrate holidays far from each other, to grow away from the family holiday traditions and the specialness of their relationships. Thankfully, that has not been our experience.
This year Thanksgiving was special for so many reasons. To begin - my son and his girl friend have been together for years. This Thanksgiving was the first time they came together to share our meal. She is very much a part of our family - having her there felt right. I suspect we are seeing the beginning of holiday meal sharing between families. I doubt my son would eat two Thanksgiving dinners in one day. But sharing is the natural way of things. We were thrilled she was with us this day.
And then there was the grand announcement that my sister and her husband will soon be adopting a lab puppy! Actually, "announcement" isn't quite the right word. It was more like an unveiling - my brother-in-law turned his computer screen towards me without saying a word, and there was the perfect little face of a chocolate lab puppy. I was so excited and joyful for them. The last few years have been very hard - two elderly labs with health problems, many struggles to give them a good quality of life as they aged, and, of course, the final heart break when their lives were over. The void will now be partially filled with this beautiful new little guy. You can't ever replace a beloved pet, but you can open your heart to another. And he doesn't know it yet, but he has landed in a home where pets are family members. He is a lucky dog. I am eager to meet him in person.
And then the dinner! Yikes! My sister out did herself - if that is even possible. The turkey was 25 pounds - barely fit in her oven. There were two potato dishes, two stuffing dishes, four or five vegetable dishes, a tossed salad, homemade rolls, two kinds of cranberry sauce (one home made, of course), gravy and mom's pumpkin pie - not to mention the Bourbon soaked dates and Bourbon balls as well as several home made appetizers.
There were 10 of us. She had food for 20.
But if you set all that aside (and I mean allllll of it), the real jewel of the day was that I was able to spend yet another Thanksgiving holiday with my sister and my mom. How many more we have together only God knows. But we are truly fortunate to have had this wonderful day together.
Mom catching a cat nap!