Thirty years ago, Linda and I made our first Thanksgiving dinner in her small Oakland cottage. We invited her parents and mine, and a couple of friends. Linda’s father seated himself at the table, smiled and said, “Well, this is a sea change.” In that moment, a torch was passed. Our house became the designated gathering place for holiday meals. When we moved to a larger house to accommodate our growing family, we had room to put up guests from out of town. They came from Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Washington, D.C.—even Stockholm, Sweden. Good food, good wine, extended visits from grandparents and aunts and uncles and step-siblings and cousins. Stories and jokes with friends. Treasured memories for our kids.
So it has gone every year until the present. This year, for the first time since the Administration of Bush the Elder, we will set a table for two. We’ll do a family Zoom call tomorrow, but that is cold comfort. Our kids are spending the holiday with each other, and that would warm the cockles of my heart if I knew what a cockle is, but they aren’t here. We will have our turkey and stuffing and sides and pie, but it ain’t the same. Linda and I have each other—and that’s more than so many people have—but it will be a sad and hollow Thanksgiving nonetheless.
I know we sacrifice this year so that we may all gather in good health the next. I know the circumstances in which we find ourselves are not the fault of any politician. I know this is only one day, and our relationships endure. It all sucks anyway. We will spend this holiday reminiscing about Thanksgivings past and anticipating Thanksgivings yet to come. We hold in our hearts all those from whom we are separated this year.
Our best wishes to friends and loved ones, here and elsewhere, however you are spending this most unusual and fraught holiday season.
. . . I must have done something good.
Days like today are the best days. Linda’s apple streusel pies are made, and the pumpkin chiffon pies are in progress. She’s made most of the appetizers, including my favorite, peppers Provençal. Yesterday, I prepped the bourbon sweet potatoes (purple!), and our friend Amy prepped the roasted root vegetables with hot honey butter and lime. Today we’ll get to work on the turkey with bacon-cider gravy, cranberry-walnut relish, and other dishes. Between family and friends, we’ll have everything from curried butternut squash soup to sautéed spinach and pancetta to maple cheesecake with vanilla whipped cream and tart apple compote.
My younger son spent an hour or so out in the yard with the leaf blower. “The good thing about having people over at five o’clock,” says Linda, “is that it’s dark already. They won’t see what a mess the yard is.” That my son would fly across the country for this holiday and cheerfully help with yard work is progress of a sort we would not have expected a few years ago. We won’t have as much of my side of the family as usual this year, but between friends and Linda’s relatives we’re still seating nineteen for dinner. And get this: everyone genuinely likes everyone else.
Last night, with our work done for the day, we kicked back and tested various methods of spiking eggnog.
I’ve known lean years and hard times. Sleepless nights and agonizing choices are old companions of mine. But if that’s what it took to get to these days, then it was all worth it. I have family, friends, love, and affection in abundance now. I treasure the people in my life, though sometimes I wonder what they’re doing here and why they stick around. It isn’t all butterflies and Fudgesicles, but it’s close.
My father says that if you have luck, you don’t need brains or talent. I don’t know if what I have now is luck or something else, and I don’t care. It’s more than enough for me.