xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: November 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Thanksgiving has always been a big deal in my family. It was a tradition that my Mom created when I was a kid; we would make a big deal about being together and also eat a LOT of food. When I was growing up it was our immediate family and also any other people that needed a place to go for the night. My Mom always wanted to make sure that anybody we knew who had no place to go were always welcome at our table. (She would say "are there any other strays we should invite?") In college, and then afterwards, I drove down every year, I would never even consider skipping it. It was that important.

Starting at a young age, my job was to stuff the turkey with my Dad. Mom would make the stuffing and then call us in for cramming duty when it was time. He would hold open the turkey cavity and I would use the spoon to shove the goodness inside, then I would watch as he would sew up the opening. I remember the size of the needle, the thickness of the thread, and how he used his fingers to always stuff every last bit of it inside the bird.

This is a tradition that I gladly took over from my Mom when Hubs and I bought our house. After 30 years, Mom was DONE with the cooking; she had served her time and now it was my turn. So every year since 2000 I have hosted this dinner at my house, and I've also tried to invite as many "strays" as I could. Mom created an awesome tradition and I'm more than happy to carry on with it; I hope my kids keep it going after I'm done (OMG, though, it's EXHAUSTING).

Thanksgiving 2002 was my brother David's last Thanksgiving. My Mom's stuffing was always his favorite part of the meal, and I started making her recipe when I took over the tradition from her (except for the raisins, because. Ew. Raisins are gross.) That year, though, he was on this weird diet imposed by his herbalist doctor where he couldn't eat poultry, so I made him a mushroom stuffing and did the best I could to recreate the original for him. I remember him looking at me and saying "fuck it" and then eating some turkey, anyway. He died the following April. He was 35.

Thanksgiving 2012 was my cousin Emily's last Thanksgiving. She wasn't feeling well that night, and even though she pretended she was okay, you could tell there was something up. The thing about Emily was that even if she wasn't feeling well, she was still funny and engaging; she is still one of my most favorite people in the world. After dinner we snuck into the back yard for a cigarette, even though I didn't smoke; I just wanted to hang out with her alone. She died the following January. She was 36.

Thanksgiving 2016 was my father's last Thanksgiving. He also wasn't feeling well, and were were all worried about how he would get up my front stairs. Hubs helped him up and down and I made sure the chair with the arms was easy to get to, because he needed the chair arms to be able to get himself up. At the table, I always sit at one end, closest to the kitchen, and he sat at the head at the other end, so my view was always to see him there on the other side. I remember watching him eat that night, wondering if this would be his last time in that seat. He died in June. He was 85.

I just turned 47 in September and this is the first Thanksgiving of my entire life that I will spend without my father. It's been 17 years since I started stuffing the turkey with my husband and not my father, but not a year of it has gone by that I haven't remembered our stuffing tradition. The size of the needle, the thickness of the thread, the way he crammed it all in with his hands. I never turned that part of the tradition over to either of my kids, I still want to be the one who stuffs the turkey. Selfishly. Always. 

I suppose, at this point, part of my Thanksgiving tradition has now become making sure the people I love are at my table, because if this is going to be their last, I want to have spent it with them. I want them to have been in my house, eating my (Mom's) awesome stuffing, hanging out with my kids and my cats and feeling safe and cared for. I also suppose that every Thanksgiving, now, I will look around my table and wonder if this will be the last one for any of the people I see. I don't mean to sound morbid, it's just that I've come to learn that life is short. I just hope they like the stuffing.