When I was really young in Ohio, we drove over the creeks and through the woods to my grandfather’s house for Thanksgiving with the extended Alleshouse clan gathered around the table of the farmhouse kitchen. The women in the kitchen fussed over the table while the men went out for walks with air rifles. Except for my brother, who both Mom and Dad were convinced would shoot a cousin rather than a groundhog.
Later, that ritual changed when hosting all of us was too much for Grandpa. Instead we gathered at Aunt Mary and Uncle Walter’s just outside of town with Mom’s side of the family over progressively healthier meals and conversations that were louder. Mom’s side of the family always enjoyed a good argument.
I don’t remember my mother hosting an actual Thanksgiving at our house since the dining room featured two upright pianos she used for lessons, which truly limited the space for chairs around the table. It was probably a good thing since the careful preparation and steps required for my Mom to present a finished turkey and all the sides would have caused loud chaos for days.
So when it came time to celebrate Thanksgiving in our Minneapolis home with our children, we had to create new rituals to replace those of my somewhat disjointed childhood. I’ve learned that I need to roast the turkey with the Better Homes stuffing in order to feel the holiday has been celebrated. If anyone else does it, the rest of the year isn’t quite right for me.
Since the kids were little, the sequence hasn’t changed much at all. I’m up first, futzing with the turkey and its stuffing. Then the kids get up – or drive in - grab a newspaper and pour over ads for toys, then clothes, now electronics and chatter at the counter while snacking on French’s fried onion rings, despite the fact we never have green bean casserole, unlike most of our friends.
We begin our annual discussion over whether to use marshmallows for the sweet potatoes, why brussel sprouts are so gassy, and then I forget to make the gravy until we get to the table and I realize it would have made the plate more cohesive, requiring a quick jog back to the stove to see if anything is retrievable.
The predictability is almost stunning to think about. And for that I am extremely grateful.
I’m grateful for my farming roots that taught me turkeys and potatoes require months of diligent hard work before they arrive in their roasted and marshmallow glory on our table.
I’m grateful for the diversity of my Alleshouse and Blue families that foresaw the vast diversity of my current family, where we respectfully engage in a wide range of religious practice and belief that, nevertheless, still gives thanks for our blessings to a supreme being.
And I’m deeply grateful for the fact that our children continue to choose to spend time with us for this day of thanks rather than run off to the many other options available to them. Bring on the turkey!