I tend to measure time by events, and the holidays are one yardstick. Most of my memories of Christmas are tropical ones, with fish instead of fowl on the menu, and sun instead of snow. But most of my Thanksgivings featured the traditional turkey. One time I forgot to thaw it out, and we spent Thanksgiving day with the turkey in the hot bath, and then when it was dry, we tried to defrost the insides with a hair dryer. Another Thanksgiving was in Upstate NY, during a blizzard, and my father had to go fetch my great-grandmother with a sled, because the car was stuck in snow drifts. That was he year the parakeets dive bombed the dining room table – their game seemed to be which bird could get closest to the mound of fluffly mashed potatoes. (Our parakeets had a cage, but they lived with the door open and would fly all around the house, only going into the cage to eat or sleep.) They also liked teasing our German Shephard, and would swoop over her head and tease her. Our dog ignored them, but one day, as one bird swooped low over the napping dog she raised her head and yawned – and the bird flew straight into her mouth! There was an explosion of feathers, the dog jumped up and coughed, and the bird shot out of her mouth, minus most of its tail feathers.
The years rolled on. I spent Thanksgiving in NY with my husband and twin sons, and was invited to Thanksgiving lunch with my father, and dinner at my mother’s house. I couldn’t turn either one down, so my husband and I had two Thanksgiving feasts in one day. It took a few years before I was ready to contemplate turkey again. My father had made oyster stew as an appetizer, I remember – and my French husband had never had cooked oysters before. It was his first Thanksgiving, and he admired my father’s stuffed, roasted turkey at lunchtime. The look on his face during dinner, when my mother proudly presented her stuffed, roasted turkey, was priceless.
My aunt just reminded me of the Thanksgiving we spent near Niagra falls (how could we go there and not actually go see the falls is a mystery, but there you are – I have yet to ssee them!) When my husband met most of my huge, boisterous family for the first time. You have to understand that my poor husband comes from such a tiny family, he only has One Cousin on each side of his family! I have over thirty on each side, which makes more than sixty cousins in all, with aunts, uncles, great-aunts, well – you get the idea – a huge, noisy, fun-loving family … we played charades that Thanksgiving. (My husband had never done this). I don’t know whose idea it was, but we were doing book and movie titles and his was: “Everything you ever wanted to know about sex, but were afraid to ask.” I think this is known as “baptism by fire”.
We had Thanksgiving in a Chinese restaurant one year, and another year we were just too exhausted (my husband was recovering from scarlet fever, the twins had been ill, and we had just flown twelve hours from Rio to Miami – ) to think about cooking, so we ordered pizza and had them delivered. A few years ago, my BF Debbie drove seven hours to pick me and my daughter up at my mother’s house in NY and drove us down to her place in Pennsylvania. She made us a huge Thanksgiving feast, complete with turkey, sweet corn, and sweet potato pie, and it was in July!
We spent a few Thanksgivings here in France with Andrea and her family. An American, and an amazing cook, Andrea made Thanksgiving feasts that would put Martha Stewart to shame. One year we had a goose, and it was amazing.
But this year, like last year, my husband and I gave Thanksgiving a miss. Because we don’t have a holiday here in France for it, there isn’t a day off to get things and to cook. Christmas seems right around the corner, and Halloween was yesterday (OK, no cooking, but loads of candy!) So Thanksgiving was just homemade soup with noodles this year, with a fresh, warm baguette and good cheese. My husband and I took a few moments to express our thanks – for our friends and families, for our health and our jobs, and we made the wish that one day, everyone in the world would be able to sit at a table with their loved ones and share a good meal in peace and prosperity. That would be something to be thankful for.