My favorite. A Holiday simply about family, food and gratitude.
But this year Thanksgiving was different and to be honest I really, really, really, hate that it was. It was another first, but not a good one. This was the first without my kids here. I barely made it through. But, I have learned an important lesson, I know now to move Hell and High Water, to pay out the nose for a ticket, whatever I have to do, to make sure we won’t do another Thanksgiving without my fam all here to celebrate the traditions we have that most normal people just don’t have.
Thanksgiving is mine. I am calling mom dibs five ever ( yeah that’s a hell of a lot longer than forever). It has been cemented for me in an undeniably hard way, all of our traditions that most people find a bit odd, are more important than I could have realized. Thanksgiving for my fam is pure joy. Pure love. Pure fam and I miss them and it really, really stings. But I know I’m lucky…I know especially now.
Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house…it’s different here.
It began when the manchild came home from college his freshman year. We have an open door policy as a rule but most importantly during the Holiday season. (It is expected that you bring someone with you to the table who doesn’t feel welcomed at “their” table or doesn’t have one to go to.) So, per expectations, he brought a buddy with him. They also brought the pet chinchilla. Apparently, chinchillas are rather fragile little critters, and the chinchilla died from heat stroke we think shortly after they arrived home from the drive across Kansas in one of those unusually warm Colorado years. It sucked and we were sad. We had a funeral, and buried him in the backyard. Shots of Rumplmintz were poured over, and over. And so it began.
Welcome to our Holiday’s and a different kind of Thanksgiving.
The Holiday’s here are not what most people expect. In a house surrounded in Ganesh, an Ankh, a rosary that was probably blessed by the Pope’s presence from Rome, Cthulu, Star Wars, RPGs, and the Silver Surfer our choice of Holiday celebrations has always been…commercial at best. For example, we understand (now that they are adults) in this fam, that the idea of Mother’s Day or Father’s Day is most assuredly created by greeting card companies for revenue and is new in historical context and actually total bullshit. Be thankful for your mom and pop whenever you want, and don’t let someone force you to if you don’t want to. But, we celebrated with the dinner or the brunch, camping trips, or the flowers and cards because you are supposed to.
Halloween was and still is just about fun and costumes and emulating whatever you wanted for a night without judgment, and the once a year celebration with sloppy joe’s and tater tots to go (thanks Napoleon for making it ok to keep tots in your pockets).
Easter and the idea of a magical bunny and egg hunting being related to the resurrection of the son of God has always seemed strange to me, but we did the baskets and the egg hunts that over time and with maturity morphed into basketball shorts and lip gloss over the years. Oh, and deviled eggs, with Red Hot thanks.
Christmas is full of other world and religious iconography if you choose to study the day deeper than just the birthday of Jesus. But now this birthday of the son of God is full of shopping deals and the guilt that comes from not being able to buy the right gift. (At least for me that sums it up) But we put up a tree and hung the stockings (Bad ass, hand made, one of my favorite things of all times stockings my kick ass grandma had knitted for us because she wasn’t crafty.) and we hung them with…care.
But we didn’t do the church thing, no midnight masses no prayers before we scarfed down a perfect prime rib. When the kids were in Catholic school we did do the required religious play thing they would put on for families, but those Holidays have never felt like a holiday for us.
We are a house of foodies and I love to cook a feast. In fact it is one of my favorite things to do, cook great food for people who love food. (I’ve been known to make up a reason to host a thing so I can cook…maybe it’s a calling I should look into….) I love to make pies and the perfect turkey. I promise the turkey is actually perfect. Brined, cheeseclothed to look like a mummy. Roasted upside down and stuffed with bread cubes and a sticks of butter, apples and walnuts and celery and onions. Flipped for the last little bit to brown the skin and finished with white wine to make the gravy that my manchild gets his own boat of. Perfect, even for a true foodie.
The five pounds (at least) of mashed potatoes made with enough butter to give them a yellow hue. Because butter and potatoes. I messed up the potatoes once, only once, my family has never let me live it down. It is known as the glue year.
I make cranberry sauce only because it makes the house smell awesome, because nobody actually eats it. But that smell of cranberries and oranges in the house is important.
I make green bean casserole because there should be something green on the table and I have a irrational fear of scurvy, but that’s really just decoration. Nobody really eats that shit either.
Drunken sweet potatoes, really a crustless pie. Sweet potatoes mixed with butter, cream eggs and whiskey and oranges topped with a pecan (peecawn not pee can, thank you) and brown sugar crust. That pan of orange goodness stays too hot to eat for the whole dinner. Some sort of physics thing I don’t quite understand or maybe it is the thermodynamics of potatoes paired with pecans and sugar. Whatever, they are awesome and dangerously hot. We call them napalm.
Around two o’clock we play our annual Thanksgiving football at the park before we eat. (We eat at dinner time because I’m sleeping in and not getting a turkey anywhere near an oven before 10.)
Wear your jersey and cleats if you have them.We tell our peeps to meet us at the park before you head to your first meal or the next with the other family, just come play with us for a bit. Another family that has been joining us for the feast for years comes to play. That’s always a good thing or the game would be just four or five of us and that would just be awkward. The neighborhood kids would join back in the day. It was touch football, until the kids were teenagers. Rain or snow or sunshine we play. We laugh and usually end up covered in goose poop with an appetite built up for the feast and a bit of the hangover worked off.
When we play, almost always, strangers at the park join in when they see us having fun. It might be my crazy flag, but they come. Kids stare from a distance and we welcome them to a team. Our open arms game of football may have been what made this year tolerable. A few wee one saw us with the ball and we asked them to join us. Then, the grown up decided to play too. It was lopsided and messy and full of laughter as the wee one team won this year. Hearing the kids laugh made my heart happy. Friends and family playing a game before we eat. Magic.
But the night before Thanksgiving is special in this house.
It is different in this fam. It would probably be considered blasphemy or some other horrible thing to those who haven’t ever…come. But it may be the most us Holiday there is. Bring your peeps. Open arms here, but consider yourselves warned it’s gonna get ridiculous. But you will have fun, I promise.
It pretty much began with that funeral for the Chinchilla. A shot of remembrance. Stupid rumplemintz (A drink that tastes like toothpaste, I mean come on.) paired with a glass of wine (white while I’m cooking thanks…) and then another and another. And now every year we have to have a shot of that peppermint nonsense.
The night before Thanksgiving has become the biggest party night of our year. A night to let loose and totally relax and laugh with anyone who needs a break. We are not discussing politics, we are not discussing your boy/girlfriend…yet. We wait until we’ve all had a few. There is hugging and drinking and laughing and more drinking and snacks. The fam all lets loose a bit…together. Proper fun to us, debauchery to others.
For crying out loud the name of the Holiday says it all…Thanksgiving celebration is about being Thankful. It is the one time of year that you are truly, really truly supposed to outwardly express that gratitude you forget to express all year. I don’t understand hearing the horror stories or Hollywood fueled nightmares of fighting and pouting and hurt feelings. In this house we may not do Holidays the way we are supposed to, but we do Thanksgiving and the night before Thanksgiving so very right and it is why it is my favorite. Gratitude, and grub gloriously celebrated on a giant scale.
But this year was different. My babies were’t here. But here’s the bright spot I have after face time and texts and phone calls galore. Though my kids may travel for the other Holidays and visit with other families and not be home, we are all in agreement on this.
Like Pearl Harbor or some other military tragedy I can’t remember now, we all vow…Never Again. We will never miss Thanksgiving together again, it just wasn’t right. We really missed each other.
And for that, I am truly, powerfully, Thankful.