My husband and I found ourselves devoid of invites for this Thanksgiving. During the past few years we have gone out to restaurants for a no muss no fuss holiday meal. No shopping, no cooking, no cleaning, no shortage of space in our refrigerator. That practice also saved us from the agony of family encounters, family largely faking it when they briefly acted glad to see us. We don’t think any hearts were broken due to our absence.
Rand, my spouse, likes Thanksgiving for the food. The company of family is not a big priority to him. His mother died when he was a mere three years of age; his father, a retired Air Force Colonel took his four children out to the Officer’s Club for the big event. Rand recalls ice sculptures and piles of fancy schmancy delectable foods. He remembers eating shrimp. Getting him to go out instead making the arduous journey an hour away to a relative’s home who would eventually reveal they could have done without us was a drop kick for me. We don’t have children of our own so there was no one to disappoint. Last year I got a text message from one of my sisters as our invite. The size of the gesture was met with a comparably sized reply of a simple “no”.
We debated hot dogs or tacos for our turkey-less day. Going out to eat was fun the first couple years, but I find myself feeling even more of an odd duck looking over the dining rooms at moderate to large-sized groups sharing the meal in what appears to be a family having their own good time. That is the part I cherished the most about the holiday; having a boat-load of relatives and family friends come to my parents’ house to crowd around the dolled-up ping pong table in our basement to break bread, pass the mashed potatoes, and make the usual chatter as to how fast the year has gone by, again. Grandma would invariably come close to choking on a bone from the bird, Grandpa sarcastically commenting how the stuffing would have been good had there been oysters in it. Mother would give one of her sighs of defeat, losing once again to win the affection of her father’s taste buds. My own father was too preoccupied shoveling down the food to notice. That never helped. Eventually, when there was but a few bites of this and that on his plate Dad would stir it all together and proclaim, “it’s all going down the same pipe!” His best friend Paul, would shake his head and laugh. Paul’s wife Millie chortled while she downed her high ball, sometimes losing it and snorting it all back in her glass. Always a nice addition to the annual attempt at blue-collar refinement. My Aunt, who was married to my Dad’s brother would look away in disdain, giving her husband a beseeching look that said to eat with such heathens was more than she should have to bear. Meantime, her spouse, who grew up at the same kitchen table as Dad was doing the same with his plate, speed eating with his mouth open and dropping food down the front of his shirt. The only thing that changed from one year to the next was our age and the eventual addition of a boyfriend/fiancé/new family member. One year Mother forgot to take her hair out of the pin curls and put on some makeup. Oysters did make it into the stuffing once, Grandpa didn’t make a peep here nor there about it. Mother fumed from her place at the head of the table. I think I was the only one to notice billows of smoke coming out her ears and nose holes. Everyone’s’ attention was keened on their own plate, with an occasional interruption of “ Would someone please pass the butter for crying out loud.” A television in the living room above us announced the kick-off for football, the men would abruptly adjourn, feet beat up stairs to gaze at the boob-tube in a food crazed stupor. Even my Dad would go up, who didn’t give a rat’s ass about sports, but he was one of the guys needing to share in a moment expectant of testosterone.
That is what I miss about Thanksgiving.
We didn’t have tacos, nor did we indulge in wieners on buns. I received one of my ’angelic’ messages on Tuesday to go to our nearby grocery store, the solution to agonizing over what to feed Rand and I would be revealed to me in the meat department. No kidding. Sure enough, I ran into Jennie-O who was invited into my shopping cart; a half breast of pre-seasoned turkey, wrapped in a roasting bag, no need for thawing, the guest of honor at our solo event and just the right size for the small oven at our cabin in the mountains. Also included was Bob Evans Green Bean Casserole, Country Crock loaded mashed potatoes (with real bacon) and mashed sweet potatoes (with real brown sugar), a Fresh Express Caesar Salad kit, and our little friend the Pillsbury Dough Boy packed a tube of crescent rolls. Nothing a microwave couldn’t handle and worst case scenario, the woodstove. We really went whole hog and ate off of our finest Corelle ware instead of Dixie paper plates. I didn’t mind the dishes and he never missed the ice sculpture. At the end of the dinner we donned our coats to go out and look up at all the stars shining down on us, half of which are invisible to us at home. As much as I will always miss the revelry of family and friends, it was one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve enjoyed since leaving home and coming to Colorado.