The extended warmth of Autumn 2022 has given way to colder weather just in time to get everyone in the mood for the holiday season ahead. I was hoping the 70 degree days were going to last until the end of the year just to prove the climate-change die-hards are right. But no such luck. Like death and taxes, winter in New England is inevitable as well. It wouldn’t feel like November if people weren’t digging out their hats, gloves and scarves.
Thanksgiving is high on my favorite holiday list. There is no deadline-induced gift-giving pressure. The day is all about the food. And like most Americans, I love to eat. Everything in moderation of course. I still don’t know why people don’t enjoy turkey all year round. I guess it makes Thanksgiving dinner that much more enjoyable.
The Thanksgiving holiday for my family has changed over the years. My grandparents passed on long ago yet I still remember big holiday gatherings in their second floor apartment in Everett. I can still remember the taste of Nana’s homemade bread and warm biscuits with honey. Thanksgiving dinner was served on the good plates with ornate silverware, apple cider served in crystal stemmed glasses. I can’t forget the Lemon Meringue Pie with peaks so high and a sprinkling of sugar on the top. Pure magic.
When my parents hosted Thanksgiving, it was not as fancy. My three brothers and I weren’t allowed to help with the preparations (or did we just not volunteer?). My mom would be in the kitchen at what seemed like 4 a.m. to get “the bird” in the oven so it would be ready for the noontime feast. There was never enough cranberry sauce to go around (the jellied kind, we weren’t touching anything real or with whole berries). I still have a fear of running out of that side dish to this day. I start sneaking small cans into the grocery cart in October so I can build up a supply before the holidays. Funny, I don’t remember me or my brothers helping with the massive after-dinner clean-up. My mother must have done that single-handedly too.
After I got married, Thanksgiving Day was always celebrated with my wife’s family. My father-in-law and his sons-in-law watched football while “the girls” prepared the food. My wife and her two sisters helped their mother coordinate the holiday meal. It was always a gigantic feast with lots of meat, wine, vegetables and desserts. And mostly, lots of laughs. After the meal, the guys would make a half-hearted attempt to clear the table only to be thrown out of the dining room so the women could work on the clean-up. It was a completely different world back then.
When my children came along, Thanksgiving became my family’s favorite holiday. We had cinnamon rolls and coffee while watching the Macy’s parade in the morning. There was always an appetizer spread to hold us over until dinner. My wife worked hard every year to make the meal special. Each year’s golden-brown turkey was more spectacular than the next. My sons and I helped out as much as we could, but in reality, my wife did just about everything without a complaint. We’ve enjoyed so many special Thanksgiving holidays in Stoneham. My two sons have lasting memories of what the day should be like. And now the tradition continues.
The Thanksgiving torch has been passed to my son and his wife who host the big day at their home. My wife and I are now the grandparents. We arrive as dinner guests and we enjoy the company of our grandchildren while everything is prepared for us. Our own traditions are in good hands. We no longer have to bring the “emergency turkey” just in case. The pressure of hosting is off our shoulders. We can sit back and enjoy the day. We are full to the brim when the day is over, our hearts overflowing with love.