Ah. I can smell the dysfuntion brewing like a fat, buttered fowl after four hours in a 350 degree oven. The annual family gathering has begun.
Actually, it wasn't that bad. My family gathered at our "ancestral farm" in Vermont. Well, that's what our mother called it, but can you really call a property bought within the last fifteen years part of our ancient heritage? Do barely five acres in the middle of a neighborhood qualify as a farm? Sure there is a barn, paddocks, a small riding ring, and a pasture, but...it's Vermont, not the Boston suburbs.
We gathered for both the traditional turkey fixings and to celebrate my son's birthday. He's grown up enough that he is heading out to spend the winter in Colorado. As he is just out of college and contemplating the direction for the next stage of his life, a little living and ski-bumming is definitely in the cards. At least he has a plan. Sort of. He's been talking about this trip for the entire summer, but didn't quite think out his departure. His intention was to leave the Sunday after Thanksgiving, all well and good, barring a few minor details, like a summers worth of garbage and an evil rabbit. (No. I did not offer to take Bunnicula. I have too many animals of my own- yes I just admitted it. That's the first step to recovery, right?)
Mr. W and I drove to the farm the day before T-day, loaded with the dinner makings, including a turkey bought from the local market; the woman there "grew it herself." Yeah. I am a food hypocrite. I try to eat natural, locally grown, yadda, yadda, yadda, and I love to eat meat that I hope is not pumped with steroids and antibiotics or mad-cow disease. BUT, I don't want to know what it's name was before it was handed to me neatly wrapped in plastic. Whatever happens between Bambi running through the woods, or Ferdinand basking in the sun, or Foghorn Leghorn pecking around his free-range, and placing the shrink or paper-wrapped package containing my dinner in the grocery cart, is definitely within the realm of "I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW!"
My sister and her family, minus one (who was back in PA nursing a sick dog. She was missed), arrived on the big day, about 11:00 AM. Anne was providing the roasting pan, so we aimed to eat around 5 PM. Mr. W, living up to his moniker, began the process of preparing the meal. My sister went to her hotel to take a nap (they had been driving since 5AM); the boys did whatever twenty-something boys do; I got in the way and made the stuffing.
The meal was fantastic. The turkey, which we brined overnight (simple salt and water brine), was cooked to brown, crispy-skinned, juicy perfection. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, whole and creamed corn, peas, giblet and plain gravy, cole slaw, and plenty of dinner rolls were set out buffet style. We loaded our plates, squeezed around the long, plastic folding table, lit the candle in a Patron bottle center piece, poured ourselves some wine, sang "Happy Birthday", and dug in.
The mood was fun, despite the fact that my son was anxious about his impending mood, my sister was worried about a sick dog left at home, my nephew was concerned about his allergies (the rabbit was in the corner of the room), Mr. W hoped the meal was perfect, my brother-in-law joked, and I obsessed about what I was going to do with an empty farm. (It's not completely empty, a friend keeps her horse in the barn and checks on everything at least twice a day, but... the future is looming and it may be time to say goodbye to that dream my mother and I shared.)
We glutted, cleaned up, and sprawled on the couches and chairs. My son received his presents, which were mostly monetary in nature. In an ironic, lovely twist, when I was searching through a trunk for a tablecloth, I found the tiny, blue shirt my son was given by the OB group that delivered him. I held it up marvelling at the difference twenty-four years makes. It was a fitting reminder for both of us.
A bit later, a few of his friends came over and the pie was served with ice cream. When we could neither eat nor drink anymore, and we had watched sixteen episodes of "Punkin' Chunkin", my sister and brother-in-law headed to the hotel to sleep it off. I nudged Mr. W, who had shockingly nodded off during the pumpkin carnage, and we retired for the night, leaving the younger set to play video games into the night.
Thanksgiving is a day for gratitude and gluttony. We eat and appreciate. Too often, it turns into arguments and tension, and while my family has had it's dysfunctions and challenges, I'm sure it isn't unique. (Ok. I do think a mother who tells you, "You're not fat, Nancie, you're just chunky" is rare. And that was one of her nicer sentiments. My sister could tell you many more.)
For me, this Thanksgiving was the perfect reminder of all the things I am thankful for. I am a very lucky woman.