I always miss my family on Thanksgiving. Our "little" family of six lives in Seattle and we have no relatives living nearby to celebrate the holidays with. So, even after living here twelve years, it's not easy to get used to having holidays at home with just our family. For a long time, we traveled on the holidays to our family, but now they are so far away and we have to cross one to four mountain passes depending on where we're going, so the weather has often foiled our plans or canceled them altogether. We've made some valiant efforts, though, and even spent the night in a scary motel because we got caught on the wrong side of a closed mountain pass one year.
My family rarely visits us here. It's really a shame, because we love the holidays and we do it up nice. We always have a nice Thanksgiving dinner, a pretty table, a warm and inviting atmosphere. At Christmas we go all out with the decorations and my kids love Christmas more than anything, so traditions abound. It's a happy time that would be that much happier shared with our extended family.
I'm thankful that we have a "big" family. I used to think about how many kids I wanted and I always came back to the thought "how many is 'enough' sitting around the table at Thanksgiving?" Maybe that's a silly way to gauge family size, but I knew one or two kids wouldn't cut it. I wanted a big, bustling, noisy, chaotic celebration with lots of kids. So, I accomplished that. And I can't wait till there are grandchildren and spouses and more friends. I just love the big celebration.
When I was growing up, we didn't live around family very often, and we moved around a lot. So, we had our own big celebrations with friends. I don't really remember a Thanksgiving that wasn't "big." Now that I'm the one cooking, I'm happy to share with friends. And a few times, that's happened. But, mostly, our circle of friends has extended family living locally and it seems everywhere I turn, everyone has their own family to celebrate with. So, this year, with just myself, Jeff and the kids (minus Arlie, who will be in Spokane) it will feel "small." Not insignificant. Just quiet. My kids will leave after dinner to spend time with their dad and then it will be VERY quiet. I don't mind the quiet sometimes. With four kids, it's a rarity. But, for some reason, at the holidays, quiet feels lonely.
We always make the best of it, though. Last year, our power was out the entire day on Christmas. We had Jack in the Box burgers for dinner, because that's what was open, close by and cheap. It seemed really pathetic and we all agreed it was kind of a lame Christmas. Except for Jeff, who thought it was a grand adventure. He told stories of times when there was no electricity, and we all half-listened until our cell phones died and then we had to listen for real. If anything, it was a Christmas to remember.
I think one of the hardest things about this Thanksgiving is figuring out how much food to make. My mom once wrote me a ten-page missive on how to cook "her" Thanksgiving dinner, which I pretty much follow. Except that it says "Thanksgiving dinner for sixty or so..." and she wasn't kidding! Plus, this year my kids will go to their dad's for dessert so there goes my Thanksgiving fantasy of five or six different desserts. I can't really justify making three or four pies for "just us." So, I decided to make turkey-shaped sugar cookies and have the kids decorate them. Except I've pretty much run out of time and tomorrow Arlie leaves so there's really no point in trying to have a fun cookie decorating activity with all the kids. I also bought these adorable cupcake papers and picks with little pilgrims on them. But I'm not sure if I'll have time to make cupcakes with our full day tomorrow. And I'll be making other stuff on Thanksgiving day.....so........
Plus, there's this whole issue of the turkey. Last year, despite my careful hand washing and cooking techniques, I contracted camphylobacter, which is a heinous bacteria present in turkey that causes one to be sicker than they've ever been - for days and days! I missed the first four days of my new job due to this illness. The health department contacted me - twice! Apparently it's a nasty bugger. All I know is that it turned me off preparing a raw turkey FOREVER. I told Jeff I just can't do it anymore and so he decided this year he will do it. He wants to brine it and he came into the kitchen not long ago with a five gallon bucket from the garage. I said "You are not really going to brine the turkey in that are you?" and he said "Yes, I am. It's only ever had sanitizing solution in it." And all I could think was "chemical poisoning" and the thought that the turkey is just going to sit in some salty solution overnight and is it even going to be refrigerated? I think I'm just going to avoid turkey altogether this year. Besides, it's never been about the turkey for me. It's all about the sides.
Which, to be honest, since I'm kind of "blah" about Thanksgiving this year, won't be all that exciting. Mashed potatoes, to be sure, homemade. Gravy.......well, I don't know if this brined turkey will produce the drippings needed to make homemade gravy so I bought four jars of Heinz gravy to be safe. I have NO idea what it tastes like - I have never purchased store-bought gravy before. The stuffing is cornbread something or other from a box. Eh, who cares? Who even eats the stuffing? I sort of bought the ingredients for Waldorf salad but I forgot the celery. I have some fresh green beans and other veggies. Sweet potatoes - well yams - I do have. Onions. I'm sure it will be a tasty meal - I just don't care that much about it.
And since there won't be much in the way of dessert - especially if I don't have time to make the cupcakes - I bought two tiny frozen chocolate pies for Jeff and I to eat after the kids are gone. It was so "nice" of their dad to take them for dessert (guess who doesn't have to cook a big dinner?) and I'm certain they'll bolt before the dishes are done.
Honestly? I'd rather sleep in, eat snacks all day, and skip the whole thing.
I'm thankful for my warm house, my awesome kids, food to eat, and all the many, many blessings that have been bestowed upon me. I could just do without the dinner. Unless someone else is cooking..............