Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgivings past

Do you hold many happy memories from Thanksgivings past? This morning on the way to work I reviewed my Thanksgiving memories on my mental viewfinder. Out of 30 Thanksgiving holidays, only a handful stand out as memorable, and not typically for joyous reasons.

There was my first Thanksgiving away from home. I was 14 and attending school on the East Coast. It was cost prohibitive to travel cross-country for the holiday so my parents cooked up a plan for my sister in Alabama to pick me up instead. We had not seen each other since I was 9 and she had come to visit us in the Southwest. There wasn't much to talk about during the 12 hours drive to her place in Huntsville. For the Thanksgiving meal we dropped in on her local friends. I looked to the food for comfort from my feelings of isolation and homesickness, but even that missed the mark. There were no mashed potatoes! None! How does one *do* Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes??? Tears rolled down my cheek as I tasted my first bite of sweet potato casserole. It was my first experience with the dish and I was confused as to why dessert was being served alongside dinner. I was miserable. That was the last time I saw my sister in person- 17 years ago.

There was the last Thanksgiving I spent with my parents. Gathered around the table in New Mexico with not only my aging parents but also my mother's friend Dorothy. Dorothy was quite fascinating. She was in her 80s and still drove the same car her husband had purchased for her in the late 1960s. A lovely pink showboat kind of car. At 16 I was really starting to experiment with makeup. I can't remember the full details of my facepainting that day, but I do remember that as Dorothy passed me the mashed potatoes she told me I looked like a hooker. The rest of dinner was a blur as I ate and again desperately wished I was somewhere else. This time I longed to be with my new boyfriend J and his family, but it was too soon in the relationship to progress to such measures.

There was my first Thanksgiving with J and his family. I was 17 and had been invited to join the family for the meal. It was such an honor. The company and food were both terrific. I felt accepted and loved and everything was right with the world.I ate, and ate, and ate. After dinner a strange thing happened to me. I stood up and my tummy literally hurt. I walked down the hall to the restroom and with every step the pain intensified. I tend to panic over new medical experiences so I was terrified and assumed the worst. Ruptured appendix? Stomach cancer? I had never felt anything like this before. I needed to lay down. I told J I wasn't feeling well and went down to his room. I closed the door and laid on the bed. No good- I was still in agonizing pain. Some instinct told me to take my pants off. I did, and that helped considerably. I still hung on the verge of vomiting. Food poisoning maybe? I got under the covers and tried to rest. I was sweating. Sweating! J
came to check on me. He opened the door, saw me under the covers dressed from the waist up and inquired as to my condition. I told him my symptoms and my secret fears of food poisoning or organ failure. He laughed. Snorted and laughed. He laughed and I thought I could be dying! He asked me if I'd ever eaten so much candy as a child that I'd gotten a tummy ache. "Never", I told him. I'd never eaten so much of anything to get a stomach ache. He explained his theory- that I'd simply overeaten to the point of nausea and again expressed surprised that it took me 17 years of living before having such an experience.

There was another Thanksgiving with J's family where his father brought a homeless man to dinner. I don't remember much about the meal or the event other than the man was very grateful to break bread with us.

There was the first Thanksgiving I spent in upstate NY after moving there post college graduation to be closer to my siblings. I spent the day with my sister S, helping her prepare the feast for the rest of our brothers and sisters. Myself and another sister were in charge of the mashed potatoes. Never having made potatoes for a crowd we assumed (rather incorrectly) that a pound of potatoes a person seemed right. So we cooked a 25 pound bag of potatoes to feed the 25 people attended. Big mistake. We had potatoes out the wazoo for weeks. Weeks!

Comment and share some of your Thanksgiving memories, for better or worse.
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