I’ll be hosting my first Thanksgiving this November, and already, as you might imagine, I’ve been reviewing my immense Pinterest board on the subject. Of course, I want to make a Norman Rockwell style turkey. I want side dishes worthy of Instagram. I’m dreaming up a wreath of feathers, paper flowers and eucalyptus. In short, my mind is a Martha Stewart marathon.
Until last year, my parents had hosted Thanksgiving at their home, and the years shimmer and merge for me-a cousin’s new boyfriend, a baby standing on her own, my grandfather’s card tricks. I was in my twenties before I missed a single one, and I spent it trying to track down a can of sweet potatoes in Costa Rica.
It’s hard for me to believe I’m old enough to start a tradition, to be as old as my parents were in my first memories of them. I try to think about the tone I want to set, what will be different, what will remain the same.
So far, the only thing I’m sure of is that there will be turkey. Do I buy the newest version of Trivial Pursuit, make my grandma’s mincemeat cookies, try and replicate my mother-in-law’s corn dish? Will my dad bring my great-grandfather’s carving knife and who will put olives on their fingers with my sister and me?
I know it’s the way of life, to shed the old to make room for the new, but I can’t help but be nostalgic for a past I’ll never be able to recreate for my boys, for people I’ll fail to bring to life for them. Still, I’m very conscious of the fact that we are making our own memories and traditions and that someday I’ll be the footnote in someone else’s Thanksgiving feast.
I’m also a bit sad to be giving up a more childlike role in which others create something for me to delight in. I loved waking to the smells of my mom’s cooking, and selfishly was relieved to be tasked only with decorating the table. There was a magic to the way the meal was assembled behind the scenes only to come together in such harmony.
Now that I’ve peeked behind the curtain, I see the sweat, the forced smiles, the forgotten grocery items, the failed recipes, the burnt fingers, the imperfect edges. Still, I am making someone else’s magic now, and that’s my motivation.
In that same light though, I don’t want it to be all braided pie crusts and mercury glass candle holders. Even though they never had a ton to give, my family has a history of being there for their neighbors and doing good deeds in humble ways. How do I make that part of the boys’ lives as well? Is Thanksgiving the time to do it?
While we may be good neighbors, we are not a religious family, so there were a lot of years where we might not have said grace. I never really thought about what we had or didn’t have, let alone express gratitude for it. I know I definitely did not have a realistic vision of the historical Thanksgiving feast. However, there was my aunt’s meringue mushrooms, the epic games, my cousin’s annual nap. There were the voices that are the soundtrack of my life. It’s as though I spent decades “celebrating” gratitude and it’s only now that I can look back clearly and give thanks for the Thanksgivings we had and the family we were.
I know that come my first Thanksgiving as hostess, I may be cussing about a forgotten timer and yelling at my husband to get more chairs, but I hope that all my boys will see (and smell) are the seeds of a holiday they will anticipate and cherish and that will be worth every toil.