I won’t be hosting Thanksgiving this year. For the first time in over 40 years, there won’t be a turkey roasting in my oven on Thanksgiving day.
When we were fairly new at holiday celebrating, Angela and I decided to take on Thanksgiving as our gift to our family. We agreed to turn our home into the gathering place for all of my sisters and their families to celebrate Thanksgiving, which is, after all, the ultimate family holiday.
In the beginning, it provided my mother with the opportunity for her to be with most of her family for the holiday, and when she passed, we decided that it was a perfect vehicle for us to continue to have one grand family gathering. We managed to accommodate the fluctuating numbers each year and we all found a way to contribute to the array of food that was placed on the groaning table.
It became an almost sacred ritual, hosting that holiday. Angela and I began to collect table settings and turkey decorations to add to the festive atmosphere. We had place cards and holiday napkins, and special tablecloths as well. It really was a wonderful time for us all.
Over time though, the families disbursed into their own smaller units as children had children and decided to create their own holiday celebrations. But we always had our table set for all those who wanted to be together.
The menu remained pretty constant with family favorites appearing each and every year. The desert table always managed to look like the display at a Greek diner, and we would have it no other way. Even though everyone was assigned a particular dish, just about everyone bought something extra. It was great fun.
As the numbers dwindled, I continued to cook too much turkey, convincing myself that it wasn’t really Thanksgiving without having almost as much food left over as what you had served. We would buy the restaurant take out containers for everyone to bring food home in, and we would still have leftovers for at least a week.
Two years ago, the first year without Angela, I decided that I wanted to keep the tradition going, so I invited the last vestiges of our original group, and we had a quiet, reserved holiday with Angela’s presence very much noted.
Last year, the group grew slightly, and we carried on, but I found myself wavering over how much I could get done in order to keep it all alive. I looked again at Angela’s holiday notes from the last Thanksgiving that she hosted, with all of her reminders about how to improve on the meal or cut down on the excess. I still have them.
But a few weeks ago, Frank and Katie told me that they wouldn’t be working in the ER that day. For the first time in at least five years, Frank had the day off. They seemed excited at the prospect of hosting the holiday at their home, and they invited me to go there. I must admit, I had a pang of anxiety; I would be giving up the last traditional holiday celebration that Angela and I had instituted all those years ago. I hesitated for a few moments as memories of so many beautiful meals passed before my eyes, as well as the countless turkey preparations that I had encountered.
But, in the end, I realized that they wanted to try to create their own tradition and they wanted me to be a part of it. That’s what is supposed to happen, right? Something that you began gets picked up by your children as their own. Frank may not have this opportunity next year, as his schedule may not offer him the day off (the plight of every ER physician). But for this year, a new tradition will begin, with many references to all those past holidays that we enjoyed. That’s how it goes.
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