10 Things I Love About Thanksgiving

I logged onto one of my professional profiles on Facebook this morning and found this memory waiting for me:

I would say Happy Thanksgiving to all my FB friends in the US, but since I’m sitting here alone, in my daughter’s house, working on a novel and watching her dog poop on the back lawn while anticipating dinner later at the Chinese Buffet, I’m just going to pretend it’s an ordinary day.

Sadly, I remember that day all too well. It was such a low day for me. My youngest daughter, her husband and the grandkids were out of town visiting the other side of the family. My oldest daughter was working. The rest of my family was a million miles away in Utah … and I was alone, watching my daughter’s dog poop. It wasn’t even my dog.

Things are a bit different this year. My youngest daughter, son-in-law and grandkids now live near the other side of the family, so I won’t be seeing them and the rest of my family is still a million miles away in Utah. but my oldest daughter doesn’t have to work on the holiday, so that’s a plus. At least I won’t be alone on Thursday.

It’s terribly easy to let bad feelings take hold and drag you down, especially around the holidays when, according to everyone in the entire Universe you’re supposed to be full of warm fuzzies and lots of love for mankind in general. If that’s not your reality, depression can land quickly and hit hard.

Well-meaning friends will sometimes invite us to share the holiday with them, and it’s always nice to be invited — but being with someone else’s family participating in traditions that aren’t yours and eating food that tastes different can make you feel lonelier than you would have been if you’d stayed home. It’s a crap shoot, really. You never know which way the pendulum is going to swing. I’ve worked through more than one Thanksgiving, just to sort of forget it was the day.

But this year, I’m determined not to let bad feelings rule, so here are ten things I love about Thanksgiving (in no particular order.)

10. My mother’s stuffing. It’s the best. Oh, I know everybody feels that way about their mother’s or grandmother’s stuffing recipe. It’s like potato salad. Mom’s is always best. But in my case, it’s absolutely true. Sorry folks, but my mom’s recipe wins, hands’ down so there’s no sense trying to convince me otherwise. One of the best things about Thanksgiving is smelling those onions as they begin to cook in the morning.

9. Roast Turkey. I’m not a turkey fan, and can take it or leave it in most of its incarnations. No, that’s not true. I can leave it in most of its incarnations all of the time. In my opinion, ground turkey is nasty tasting and most turkey lunch meat is slimy. But roast turkey once a year is delicious!

No, I haven’t tried a brined turkey. I haven’t tried deep-fried turkey either. I probably won’t unless I’m in a situation where several different options are available and I can taste-test at will. But if there’s one turkey to be had, I hope it’s roasted. I just don’t like turkey enough to mess around with it. That one weekend a year when I actually eat it, I want it to taste the way I expect it to taste.

8. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Homemade gravy, stirred up from the bottom of the pan, and thickened with that pasty mixture of flour and water. Yes, I’m fussy. Gravy is another thing I don’t eat often, so when I have it, I really want it to be the real deal, not something from a package mix or a jar.

7. Mince pie. Not mince meat, really. Just … mince. Well, maybe the mince mix actually contains meat, I’m not sure … Okay. Now I’m sure. Yes, the mix contains meat. It’s just that I don’t have to mince the meat myself, or stir suet into raisins and apples, so I’m not really aware of it. I just hydrate the stuff and put it between a couple of pie crusts. As fussy as I am about other things, I am not that fussy about pie crust. I do prefer a thin, flaky crust as opposed to some crusts you get on a store-bought pie, but I’m happy to buy the refrigerated crusts and save my efforts for other things.

6. Hot rolls and butter. When I was younger, my mother always made rolls from scratch and they were delicious. I’m not such a glad hand with homemade bread — I either under-knead or over-knead or … something. My bread never turns out. Which is why I love Rhodes Bake ‘n Serve. Sadly, I can’t always find Rhodes here in Florida, and none of the other brands I’ve encountered are quite the same … but they’re better than my own efforts at homemade. A smart woman knows to go with what she has. Especially on holidays, rolls must be served with real butter, not margarine.

5.  Pumpkin pie. Again, something I don’t really like and would never choose on any other day, but Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie is sacrilegious. Just please don’t serve it to me without plenty of whipped cream to make it palatable. So maybe I should say that it’s whipped cream I love, not the pie.

4. The fact that my family does not make green bean casserole for Thanksgiving. Thank you, family.

3. My sister’s candied sweet potatoes. I say my sister’s because even though the rest of us use the very same recipe from the very same cookbook, Sandra’s sweet potatoes are somehow better than anyone else’s. They’re always moist and delicious and flavorful. I’ve thought about it a lot over the years, and I think one thing is that my sister follows the recipe exactly. She measures carefully, and she doesn’t mess around, adding this or that to see if it’s better. But I think there’s something about the texture of her sweet potatoes that makes them better. Maybe the rest of us overcook our potatoes. Maybe we under-cook them. I’m not sure what it is. She’s the sweet potato champion, that’s all I know.

2. The noise! When you get the family all together, with everybody trying to catch up and kids running all over the place, the noise can be deafening — but I love it. A beautiful sort of confusion reigns.

1. Family. My dad’s not with us any longer, and I miss him like crazy at the holidays, but my mom’s still here at 90, which is a blessing. My sister and my brother-in-law, their three kids and spouses, and all of their kids. My brother. My own two daughters, my son-in-law, and my granddaughters. Family.

Even writing this, the thought of not being with all of them later this week brings me to tears. They’re the best part of Thanksgiving, which is why, even if I have everything else on my list, Thanksgiving just isn’t right without them — and why, even if I have none of the things on this list, if I’m with my family on Thanksgiving, the day is perfect.

Yes, I do know how blessed I am to have a family I feel this way about. I know that not everyone has family they love spending time with. For some, the holidays are an obligation to be endured and gotten over as quickly as possible. So as hard as it is to miss my family during the holidays, I’m glad I love them enough (and they love me enough) to miss them.

Thank you, family!

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