Ten years ago, I wrote my first column for the Post Journal. It was the beginning of the holiday season and I wrote a piece about Thanksgiving. Ten years is a long time, and looking back at that column, it’s interesting to see how much I haven’t changed. I think I’ve dug in and become even more fond of holidays, even more socially conservative, and even more passionate about the passage of time. I could have written that first column today and meant every word of it even more than I did back then.
Though, that first column was a bit more profound than I am today, perhaps. I told my nephew the other day I’d given up on life’s big questions after he’d challenged me to a conversation about the world’s greatest thinkers. “I’ve retired from thinking too much,” I told him. My biggest intellectual goals for near future are to ponder the absurdity of having too much stuff and to watch it snow.
Here is that column:
Three years ago, I had seventeen people at my table on Thanksgiving Day.
The guest list included local friends as well as family from afar, all of varying ages. I spent a whole month preparing. I rented chairs, bought an extension table, bleached my tablecloth, and planned to decorate each table setting with coordinating napkins and ornamental place card holders. I leafed through magazines and considered dozens of recipes.
My husband reminded me that I was hosting a single meal and not a wedding. He watched as I ran in and out the door that month, my hands full of shopping bags and coupons; tins full of peppermint bark; sacks full of flour and sugar. I think he worried for my mental health when I stayed up one night painting names on orange glass ornaments that I planned to set on top of the water glasses.
I was driven to have the sort of Thanksgiving Day that a Pilgrim would be proud of. I wanted my friends and family to walk into the dining room with their mouths agape and declare my table to be a thing of beauty. I wanted them to enjoy the day because I loved them.
You’re probably thinking I am going to tell you a story of disaster: that the turkey was dry, or the dog ate the shrimp, or the stove started on fire. We all love those stories where someone is striving for perfection, and invariably they learn that there is no such thing when something disastrous happens. But I have no such story for you; it was a perfect day.
And now, just three years later, I want to let you know that if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. It was worth all the work and worry and the running and the spending and the hours of planning for a single meal. And here is why: Three years have passed since that wonderful day and two of my guests are no longer here on this earth to enjoy another Thanksgiving meal.
My cousin passed away recently at just 33 years-old, and this year, she will not come through the door with her bubbly stride, holding a plate of stuffed shrimp and a bottle of chilled white wine. I will miss her at the table.
And a cherished family friend has also passed–a woman of great creativity and flare.
As I was serving the turkey that day, I had the sort of rosy glow that reinforced my belief that life is ultimately fair, and that the people I love will always be here and that there will always be another Thanksgiving.
This year, look around your table and be thankful. Be thankful for each and every person who has made their way to your home with their vegetable plates and their pumpkin pies in hand. Hug them tight as they scurry in from the cold.
We have a Thanksgiving tradition at my house: Everyone writes down what they are thankful for on a piece of paper and its read out loud during the meal. On that day, my cousin wrote how thankful she was for all of the people at the table, and for all the relationships she had cultivated and rekindled with her family.
I will bring her attitude of gratefulness to our table this year. And I vow to give the day all the joy and the passion it deserves.
Leave a Reply