It was straight out of a magazine and it felt like I had waited a lifetime to get that house. The one in my mind all my friends and neighbors would swoon over. I have to say, it was impressive for our neck of suburbia. And even though I had hosted Thanksgiving dinner before, I had never been able to recreate that ‘Martha’ degree of perfection I had always desired.
The dining room was the pinnacle of my achievement. Hand painted landscape murals graced every wall. Custom sewn drapery with tassels and fringe. Matching upholstered chairs of course, and a crystal chandelier that glittered with the slide of a dimer switch. It would be an exquisite backdrop for all the fine food and place settings.
It took me days to prepare. The generations old monogrammed silver had been polished, our wedding crystal had been placed just exactly to the right of the bread plates, fittingly according to my place setting guide-book, and the individual salt and pepper shakers had been filled to just beneath the brims. It was what I had desired, a magazine worthy Thanksgiving table.
This year we would host the older generation of adults. No kids at the table. I had kids at the time and cannot even recall where they were. The older me judges. But I do remember one specific sentimental detail of the night, a reading before the meal. I had taken the time to print, on very ornate paper, a copy of the Thanksgiving Day Proclamation for each guest. As it was read aloud, our hearts were touched. We gave thanks to God for all that we had. And quickly my table of perfection was a mess.
Or maybe my favorite Thanksgiving celebration was many years later.
We had traded our perfect suburban bubble to chase a dream. And the perfectionist in me had been shattered. In her place was a thirty something home school mom who had embraced prudent, pure, and practical living. We’d been in a rental for more than a year which I was thankful for, as it had supplied our every need – minus ascetics. We would finally be moving into a home of our own, a major milestone, the Saturday after Thanksgiving so I was knee-deep in boxes. It was not the ‘Martha’ Thanksgiving I had loved from my past and we had no family to celebrate with this particular year. It was a chance to have a different kind of Thanksgiving.
Althought I we couldn’t offer the china and crystal, what we could offer was an open home, and open hearts to share with others who might appreciate a good home cooked Thanksgiving meal. I had been cooking and delivering dinner weekly for a local boys shelter – what can I say, I love with food. This weekly task was an easy thing to do to lighten the load for what they called ‘house parents.’ And even though I didn’t know how it would all work out I invited all the boys and the ‘house dads’ to eat that Thanksgiving with us.
I no longer possessed that opulent dining room setting. So in its place to accommodate all these guests would be a combination of folding tables and outdoor patio furniture pulled inside from the pool deck. The younger me judged.
In order to hide the jigsaw of tables underneath I adorned them with plastic coated Thanksgiving themed table cloths, you know the wipe-able kind with the felted undercoat. I went all the way with my practical abandon, paper plates, cups, napkins, and even disposable baking pans to serve.
They only saw the food.
We held hands around the table and shared our family tradition of saying one thing we were each thankful for – I remember trying to hide the tears. It was a good Thanksgiving.
Or maybe last year’s Thanksgiving was my favorite.
With 20 Thanksgivings under our belt, we’ve had our share of variety. There was the Thanksgiving where we were invited to share with another family, but the host got sick so I defrosted chicken breast and the four of us made do. The one’s where we’ve served meals to the needy, or ran a Turkey Trot, or made the five state drive to visit our extended family – so many memories. But last year, we finally had the chance to have ‘Friendsgiving’ and boy did I need it!
It had been an excruciatingly painful year and I needed my tank filled and a drama free zone. We’d put together a list of other families who would be solo for the holiday and invited them all to share. It was life-giving. Good food, good conversation, and good attitudes. We were all a safe haven for each other. There was more laughter than I ever recall for a Thanksgiving celebration. The wiser me approved.
They were all, each in their own way, my favorite Thanksgiving.