Thanksgiving is my mom’s holiday. My aunt had Passover and when my uncle passed away, my cousins took over. We considered rotating it among all the cousins, but it somehow didn’t feel right under anyone else but the direct descendents of my aunt and uncle. Which means one day, I will host Thanksgiving.
I don’t like thinking about that day. Although, when it was time to purchase a dining room table, I made certain to select the largest that would fit in the room, just for Thanksgiving. But I want that day to be far away. Not because I don’t want to host — I love hosting holidays. It’s just what it would really mean if Thanksgiving were at my house instead of my parents.
I didn’t grow up near extended family. My parents did, and I loved hearing stories about what it was like for them growing up. Even more, I love when they get together with others of their generation and how their faces change when they start to tell stories, how the now 70 and 80-year-old women giggle like little girls at the memory of some childhood mischief.
So when I see my aunts and uncles and cousins only at Thanksgiving or Passover, I see the years. I remember too clearly being the little girl at the table, remember too vividly that there used to be family a generation older than my parents at the table. My mom and her sisters would bustle around the table with the energy of youth. Now I see how much the holidays take out of them.
My mom still prepares everyone’s favorites — sweet and sour meatballs for me, cranberry jello for Buddy, schnecken for Jennifer. Just mention once that you like a dish and she’ll make certain it’s there for you every year. There’s always too much food, too many courses, but no one can agree on which to eliminate. Each item is meaningful to at least one person at the table — and that’s all that’s needed to make it a must-have. Even foods we really don’t want to eat anymore — the little hotdogs rolled up in the pastry dough, the frozen boxed egg rolls and the potato puffs — none of us would dream of preparing these at any other time of year. But, it’s tradition that mom puts them out around 4 o’clock as an appetizer. Not that we’re even hungry after the large bowls of “dirty soup” (vegetable soup with big hunks of beef flanken) that greet us as we arrive at the house, hungry from the hours on the highways.
My aunt always makes a speech about my uncle and how much we miss him. My mom gets sad the years my sister can’t come in from California. We go around the table, like every family does, and say what we’re thankful for. We always say family.
I am very blessed. I have much to be thankful for. But the bottom line for me is family. I’m thankful my parents still tell me what to do. It means they care. I’m thankful my children are friends — that friendship will be increasingly important as the years go on. I’m thankful that my favorite thing to do on a Saturday night is stay home with my husband. Our kids think we’re boring. I think we’re happy. And I’m thankful for the table full of food on Thanksgiving, because it means that the table is surrounded by my family.
From my family to yours … I wish you a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude, a Chanukah filled with light and a Shabbat filled with peace.