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Thursday, December 11, 2008

A gathering of family and strangers: A typical Thanksgiving!

It's two weeks to the day since we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in our new old house. We thought we'd be down about five in our usual head count, but it seems that Nature and Thanksgiving both abhor a vacuum.

We welcomed 3 complete strangers, California natives (poor things!) with no East Coast family. Niece Alice invited one of the Californians, niece Becky invited two others. We were delighted to have them.

So all in all we were a modest group of 27.
Howard and I, married 30 years, have hosted Thanksgiving all but 4 years. It is the perfect ecumenical holiday; everyone celebrates, so there's no chance of offending anyone's beliefs, or non-beliefs. Everyone believes in eating. And everyone believes, or should believe, in gratitude.

It was odd, planning for Thanksgiving in a different house, after 20 feasts on Riveredge Road. In that old house, I knew where everything was and where everyone would sit, and our kitchen was so narrow that there was only room for Howard and me in it -- no spectators allowed. We realized this year, with the kitchen so open to the conservatory, that people could HEAR us. Yikes.

I discovered the day before the feast that I was missing the long banquet tablecloths, half of the old silver flatware I use at the holidays, and various bowls, pots, etc. Time to improvise.

Plus ... our dining room is a good size, but not large enough to seat 27, especially now that "the cousins" are actual complete and full sized humans. It's no longer possible to jam 10 little bottoms cheek-to-cheek at the far end of the table, as we used to do at the long living room set-up on Riveredge Road.

(Picture of dining room, before setting up the long rental tables. So serene before the chaos!)

We put a "cousins" table in the conservatory, a kids' table, with "kids" ranging from 18 to past 30.

The 13 "grownups" got rented tables, diagonally placed, in the dining room. The dining room table was moved into the parlor as a drinks table, and the parlor chairs and sofa were moved back against the walls to make room for more chairs for chit-chat. With a fire going, it made for a lovely, cozy nook for my Dad and my brothers to sit and have a really good jaw.

My daughters, bless them, retrieved all of the Thanksgiving china from the bottom of a breakfront, and made sure all the wineglasses were spotless. Or nearly so.

It was a good dinner. The food was what Thanksgiving food should be: traditional, not poisonous, cooked in a timely manner, and EATEN.

And we all were grateful.
Dion, above, and Connie, below --- enjoying the special
cookies our niece Becky brought for them.

I am thankful for so many things this year, too many to list. But my joy in a family gathering is shadowed by my mother's absence. I want her there to encourage me and tell me I did a good job, to call me the next day for our "party post-mortem" conversation. But she can't be a part of our family gatherings now, and she will never see this old house we love so much. Mom is a prisoner of Alzheimer's Disease, and lives in a facility only 10 minutes away... so close as the crow flies, but light years away from reality.

But to have my husband, my daughters, so much of our family, and those three complete strangers, to sit at our tables and break bread (and wishbones) with us -- now that is a blessing indeed.

Next Thanksgiving -- the draperies in the dining room will be actually SEWN and not just fabric panels hung by clips, and I will by then have found that missing silver flatware. Probably.

On to Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year!

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