Growing up, my family used to have Thanksgiving with one or two extra people. Sometimes we would be with grandparents, other times with a few holiday orphans as we used to call them. But with a military family you learn to make do with the family within the four walls and you invite others who are alone because you know yourself what that is like.
Today, however, was a very different Thanksgiving for me. Today was nine adults and seven children, dinner at 1:30 and a grace done by holding hands around the table. In other words, a completely traditional Thanksgiving and so completely unlike any Thanksgiving I have ever attended in my life it was amazing.
My family does have it's many traditions. When we are home, we used to attend a Thanksgiving service shared by the synagogue where I attended from seventh grade through high school and an Episcopal church. The two oldest congregations of their kind in Alexandria, VA and former neighbors when both were in what is now Old Town Alexandria. We'd always attempt to sit in Robert E. Lee's pew when we attended the service at the church and sometimes were even able to sit where George Washington sat when he was a congregant. After returning home from our church service, complete with a coffee service replete with home made goodies (our synagogue catered the goodies, the difficulty with keeping a Kosher style kitchen - no home made goodness) we would start work on supper. The turkey would go in the oven, apples would be peeled for applesauce and apple pie, crescent rolls would be rolled and yams would be scrubbed before joining the turkey in the oven. Supper would be around the time we normally ate - five thirty or six - and eaten in much the same way. Together, but without much todo regarding gratefulness or giving thanks. It has never been our most comfortable meal together, and since 1991 has always involved tension in one way or another. Any way you slice it, thought, this has been our Thanksgiving and I do remember many of them fondly.
There were many unexpected things about this Thanksgiving including the location. We were supposed to be in Andes, NY but too many people with colds and an aunt who really cannot be exposed to germs right now caused us to rejigger at the last moment. Instead of driving to Andes, one of my favorite spots, we drove instead to Lansing, MI where we were assured the grandchildren all already had colds so there would be nothing new. Thus our Thanksgiving went from seven to sixteen in less than twenty minutes. A day an a half later, we arrived at our new destination, folded into a Thanksgiving weekend in progress but well before the "big show."
Today I had my first incredibly large Thanksgiving. We were here four years ago, but we were six or seven short of today's numbers. It was loud, controlled chaos and amazing. The pies I had baked for Andes were well received in Lansing. The children each ate corndogs, mashed potatoes all shaped to loo like a turkey while the adults ate turkey, stuffing, yams or mashed potatoes (or both), corn, jello, cheese rolls, rolls, and far more than I can remember right now, but not before we stood around the table saying what we were thankful for. Here is what I shared.
A moist chill bites my bones
I quickly run between the raindrops
Taking each step with care,
Avoiding puddles that will soak shoes.
I barely notice the change.
At first the warmth,
Then the noise of many voices,
Then, at last, the aroma
Wafting towards me in the hall.
Roasting bird, starches from heaven
Are followed by enveloping hugs
As a child Thanksgiving was a grand affair
But small compared to this.
A parade of people.
And for this I am truly
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!