What I love about Thanksgiving has nothing to do with turkey
And everything to do with Jello mold
Football games, food, friends, family, and pie. Lots and lots of pie. All kinds of pies.
Travel delays, traffic, crowded trains, bad airline food, uncomfortable beds, and heated political conversations. All kinds of heated political conversations.
I love every minute of it.
Over the years, the look of our colorful Thanksgiving tapestry has changed. The golden threads that weave through it, however, have thankfully stayed the same.
Early days: Sitting at the kids’ table
My first memories of Thanksgiving were at Grammy and Grampy’s house. They lived in a wonderful brick home on a quiet little street 15-minutes from our place. Their house was always full of “Auntie this” and “Uncle that,” and on Thanksgiving. It felt like the aunts and uncles were everywhere. The table extended all the way from the dining room into the hallway to make space for all of us.
I loved Thanksgiving at Grammy and Grampy’s house. Unlike Passover, when you had to endure the long and incredibly boring Seder, on Thanksgiving, you could just show up and eat. And, between dinner and dessert, Uncle Sam did his disappearing spoon trick. To this day, it is still a mystery as to where all of those silver spoons went. I wonder if my grandmother was curious about the same thing.
Home from college
I went to college in Providence, Rhode Island, which was about an hour from home. Usually, Dad would come and pick me up from my dorm and bring me home. We’d talk about a test that I was sure I failed or a boy who had just broken my heart. Just getting in the front seat with him for the drive home always made me feel better.
Mom and Dad had taken over the hosting responsibilities. Grammy and Grampy came to our house along with “Auntie this” and “Uncle that.” Mom served the same menu but added her own special touches. The buttery green beans with the crunchy onion rings were a plus. The cranberry/pineapple/mandarine orange jello mold….not so much. Ask the cousins.
Back from work in the big city
I moved to New York a couple of years out of college for a job in the fashion industry. I bet you didn’t see that coming. Me. A short, dark-haired psychology major working backstage at Ralph Lauren’s fashion shows on Seventh Avenue. Ralph liked me because, in contrast to the tall blond beauties who glided down the runway, I made him feel tall.
I looked forward to taking the train home from Penn Station. Navigating the mass of people rushing to their designated spots always stressed me out; however, when I finally settled into my seat, there was always an interesting person to share Cheez-Its with as we made our way home.
The feast was still at Mom and Dad’s. Some things stayed the same. In case you were worried, the jello mold was still on the buffet. Sadly, the aunts and uncles were gone. New faces took their place. A boyfriend, a girlfriend, or even a fiance or two.
Back to the kids’ table
Mom and Dad moved into a spacious townhouse with a dining room big enough for all of the new adorable new additions. Between my sister, brother, and me, we had six of them. The youngest belonged to me, so I got to sit with the little monsters for dinner. It would be only a few years before every one of them grew taller than me.
The Thanksgivings at the townhouse were special in their own way. The kids and I stayed upstairs for the weekend. My boys were a part of all of the rituals. Watching the Macy’s parade with Grandma. Playing football with my brother and his high school friends (they still do that). Picking at the crispy end of the stuffing while the turkey cooled. Helping Grandma unmold the jello mold (yup, still there, just a different color at this point).
Now, I wish I could sit at the kids’ table
Planes, trains, and automobiles. That’s what it took to get everyone back from college to celebrate the holiday. At some point, Mom and Dad handed over the reins to my sister and brother-in-law for the Jewish holidays. My brother and sister-in-law got Thanksgiving. And the table got longer and longer. Friends, friends of friends, guests of friends, soccer teams, and football teams, everyone was welcome.
The college co-eds sat at the end of the table and laughed, told secrets, and shared apps on their cell phones. The newly graduated proudly shared their business cards and opined about work-life balance.
It is then that I realized we’d become “Auntie this” and “Uncle that.”
So much has changed over the years. We’ve lost loved ones. Our babies have had babies (well, one - my sister is a grandmother). We’ve started new jobs. Quit old jobs. Graduated from school. Applied to new schools. Had hips replaced. Run marathons. Adopted dogs. Adopted cats.
So much change. And so little change. When I walk into my brother and sister-in-law’s home on Thanksgiving, with my beloved and his sister, we will be greeted with warm hugs, laughter, and love. I know there will be delicious food. There will be silly card games. A fire in the hearth. And yes, there will be jello mold.
Most of all, we will be grateful for each other and for being together.
Dear readers, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving next week, at another time, or in another way, take the time from the hustle and bustle to enjoy being with each other. At the end of the day, it’s really all that matters.
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Wishing you a wonderful holiday as well.
This essay is fantastic. Tried reading it aloud to share with family and started bawling in the middle of it. Handed it to my wife, Kathy, to continue but she couldn’t either. Powerful writing, indeed. Thanks. And Happy Thanksgiving.