When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was truly a show in our house. A blended family with four family sides and a three story house with an art school in the basement? Yup, we hosted Thanksgiving every year and made the swarming masses come to us. We did it potluck style and somehow rarely were the ones who had to make the turkey. There was a revolving door of transplants and distant relatives and homeless-for-the-holidays friends, and we also had regulars who attended every year. The menu never really changed: a big a** turkey, sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallows on top, rusty potatoes, broccoli/cheese casserole, pumpkin bread, cranberry bread, stuffing, pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream and peanut butter/chocolate pie. With food, we always knew what to expect. With family, we didn’t. I believe there were years in which all four sides of grandparents came but often not. There were years with fights, some that have never really resolved to this day. There were years one or more of the five of us kids brought dates or acquaintances who had nowhere else to go. With all of the the things that changed and all of the the things that didn’t, the event itself was a constant in my childhood. Through 80’s legwarmers and 90’s grunge flannel shirts to early adulthood and college, this was my Thanksgiving. It was not unusual to have 40-50 guests at our Thanksgiving table.
Every year, I slept too late to see the start of the parade. This is ridiculous to me now because this year I put on the TV to see what time the parade starts, thinking it must be 7:00 or 8:00 am, and I was surprised to see it started at 9:00 am. 9:00 am! That was still two hours after I had gotten up on Thanksgiving morning. My, how things have changed.
Every year, my dad set up appetizers on the giant wrap-around bar we had in our old house. We even had pulsating lights and a giant silver pole in the room…a pole which became the butt of several jokes I will NEVER tell. And I loved to pig out on the variety of appetizers, some of which I only got to eat once a year. Then I had to watch the clock and pace myself to stop an hour to two hours before dinnertime was scheduled. Then we’d eat buffet style and talk about films and school and boy/girlfriends. Then my cousin would turn on the football game after dessert and a few people would pass out in front of it. Eventually after everyone left, we’d think it was very late at night because of the early dinner and we’d be surprised that it was only 8:00 pm. And we’d dip into the leftovers for a second dinner. Every year.
And some years saw extreme sadness, like my great-aunt vomiting into the silver sink behind our beloved giant wrap-around bar because of her chemotherapy. That’s real life, not even exempt during holidays.
After my senior year of college, Thanksgiving shifted when my parents sold the childhood house and moved to a farm in Blairstown. The five of us were shifting too, one of us to Vegas, two into steady relationships and places of their own, me to central Jersey then San Francisco then western MA. For a few years things were out of orbit. I considered myself to be one of the most steady faces at a Klein/Jacobson Thanksgiving dinner and even I missed one while out in San Francisco. However, since then a new groove, a slowly steady rhythm has presented itself again. And I couldn’t be happier.
When Cassidy and I had our summer relationship over six years ago, a dream of ours was to have Thanksgiving altogether with both of our moms present. That I lived in NJ, he in California, and that I had never met his mom didn’t seem like obstacles at the time. We split before that could happen and spent two Thanksgivings apart, me at my cousin’s one year and a neighbor’s house the following year. When we got back together years later, it was October, and we knew we were going to make our dream come true. And it was fabulous. I love looking at photos of that time – we were so glowy and fabulous looking. The next year I was in San Francisco and couldn’t travel, but there have been three consistently wonderful Thanksgivings since then.
My parents hosted in Jersey two years ago and we toasted our dinner with me announcing my pregnancy, a pregnancy so early that the rest of the world wouldn’t find out about for six weeks. Last year, we hosted here in Noho and had a four-month-old daughter to be thankful for. This year, Cassidy’s mom hosted and we didn’t have to travel or host. There are some steady, always there faces: me, Cassidy, my sister Lindsay, my parents, Cassidy’s mom Ruth and her husband Ernie, my Uncle Jamie. Then there are the sometimes but always welcome attendees: Cassidy’s dad Larry and his wife Peggy, my sister Marisa and her new husband Matt, Cassidy’s brother Sam and his girlfriend Jess. It’s not what we grew up with but that had to change eventually. Would I go back if I had the chance? I wouldn’t.
It’s all part of our ever-changing lives. The generational shift is a bit scary as I’ve written before. However, I’m also deliriously happy to be able to host or help make the Thanksgiving memories that our babies will one day, maybe, blog about.