When I was young, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. It was one of those few occasions when as a young girl I could eat as much as I wanted and nobody judged me or made snide remarks about my weight. I was actually encouraged to “save room for pie!”. The day was my kind of day. It wasn’t that I was a “fat kid”, but there was one time where I was wearing a black and white print shirt and my grandmother said, “don’t wear that shirt ever again- you look like a cow”. The irony was that she was my favorite one in the family and usually never said a mean word to anyone. For her to say that to me must have meant that I REALLY needed to hear that.
Now that I’m a grown man, Thanksgiving has different meanings to me. It’s a day where we actually are all on the same page about life and that gratitude is something that we should not take for granted. It’s still a great time to eat as much as I want without someone telling me to “slow down”. Don’t get me wrong, my wife still has to ask me every year why I need to have a piece of every pie, but that’s only because she doesn’t want to die of a massive heart attack. I love her for that, but I’m still gonna eat all the pie I want.
I miss my mothers stuffing the most (that’s what we Yankees call dressing). She passed a few years back but Thanksgiving always reminds me of her. She would always cook too much and then complain that there was not enough food for everyone. She would wake up at 5 am and start cooking a 16 pound turkey and then when it was time to eat would say “she was too tired to eat”. She would never just cook a turkey. One year she made a turkey, a ham, and a lasagna. I asked her why and she said “she didn’t know what everyone wanted”. I said “mom, its Thanksgiving, we want turkey.” She would take a long drag off her cigarette and say” its too late the lasagna is in the oven”.
My grandmother would always make sure there was “color” on her plate which I never understood until many years later. I thought it was some adult code for something I wasn’t supposed to understand. My sister explained to me that it meant “vegetables”. I wonder why she never just said that? My grandfather would bring his “special drink” which was Metaxa. I think the 39% (78 proof) alcohol helped him cope with the demands of having to wait all day until the women fed him. He was not missed after he was gone.
My father had left us when I was 16, so I don’t really remember him at Thanksgiving. The times when I did visit him on the holiday, he would ask everyone at the table if they wanted a roll “with or without”. Of course all the friends who were there for dinner would have no idea what he was talking about and say “with!”. My father then would grab a roll and stick his stubby finger through it and say “here’s your roll WITH a hole in it!” and everyone would laugh. Of course someone would invariable say “what if I said “without?”. He would grab a roll and stick his stubby finger through it and say “here’s your roll WITHOUT the center!”. Everyone would laugh and laugh and tell us they couldn’t wait to do it to their friends next year. I though it was hilarious the first time, and funny the second time, but a little overdone the 3rd and 4th time. I do admit that from time to time I will do it to an unsuspecting friend, but it really doesn’t go over as well as it did with my father. He’s 74 now, so that’ s a lot of fingers through a lot of rolls.
On this Thanksgiving, our grown children are learning the recipes from our childhood so that maybe next year they will cook for us. We will all say how grateful we are to be together, and I will make sure there is plenty of color on my plate. This will make my wife happy. There will be no ham, and no lasagna, but plenty of rolls.
I will make sure that they are “without” so I have room for pie.