With apologies to Norman Rockwell, (I’ll get to Edgar Allan Poe), I don’t remember Thanksgiving feasts that looked anything like this. When I was a kid, my brother, sister and I were dragged from one grandparents’ home to another to eat until we gagged. My maternal and paternal grandparents lived blocks away from one another — over the hill and through the town (kind of like over the river and …), but it was always separate meals, and I never understood why we just couldn’t all get along and eat together.
After the grandparents passed on, and I had my own family, I refused to give in to that drama or the “one house at Thanksgiving and the other at Christmas” or any of that other hoopla. I cooked for everyone. Sometimes 23 people … in a kitchen that would flip a breaker if the toaster and coffeepot were on at the same time. I entertained step-in-laws and people I didn’t even know. And we had good times.
Now, as a member of a blended family, it’s a struggle to schedule a dinner. But it’s OK. I’m cooking this year, for the first time in a long time. We usually attend the George family feast in New Castle, Pa., a gathering of 100 of my brother-in-law’s crazy kin, but since we have a stepwedding this weekend, a quiet day at home is on the menu.
One time we did this at-home cooking thing, the harrowing schedule of “who gets the stepkids and at what hour” turned into yet another laughable equation of a 15-minute window when we were “allowed” to eat so not as to interfere with the other family dinner. Someone should have told the turkey. “Nevermore,” quoth the Pamela (that’s me). “Nevermore. ”
This year, we are cooking a bird and eating whenever that bronzed beast is baked to perfection. And I don’t care who shows up or when. Thanksgiving in a blended family isn’t about ridiculous schedules of who gets the kids when or any other hooey where people want to control one another’s lives. It’s about being thankful and being together whether it’s over a baloney sandwich on a Tuesday or a tofu platter on Saturday, rather than the big day.
Last Saturday, we saw Thanksgiving in action. My husband and I had the privilege to share a Thanksgiving meal that Dick Hiles and Bonnie Zahn host annually at the Rotary Pavilion. We gathered with a bunch of people neither one of us knew, and everyone had a story. I discovered my former neighbors from when I was a kid, and my tennis buddy Dave Burton and his wife were in attendance. And we met a couple with a disabled foster child who will forever be in my heart. Everyone was thankful for what they had.
So am I. I’m sitting here at 4:30 a.m. with my neighbor’s Christmas tree lights twinkling on their outdoor tree. My husband is the most giving man on Earth, and my three kids are all together for a week for the first time in years. And as my older kids are living in different cities, I know future holidays may not be this “together.” My family has survived some incredible odds, tragedies, loss and more. And thank God we are all together.
On Thanksgiving, I will hoist a glass — a big one — to all the ancestors, all my family we’ll miss this year and all the stepfamilies who need to skip the drama, the unrealistic expectations of a Rockewell Thanksgiving and enjoy the fleeting moments of togetherness meant to be cherished for what they are — moments. Forevermore.