Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday, a time of year I begin to anticipate once Halloween is over – phew – with the pumpkins and Indian corn still decorating the front porch.
Six years ago, however, I lost my beloved mother to cancer over the long holiday weekend. There was no turkey that year, and Larry and I spent our days at the intensive care center of San Diego Hospice. Since then, I have struggled to battle against intense feelings of sadness and loss during Thanksgiving.
I am determined this year to “reclaim” Thanksgiving and enjoy the richness of the holiday. I want to mark it in new and special ways that will remind me of all the gifts and goodness I have in my life today.
We will be eating a bit more lightly, celebrating our recent weight loss. I simply don’t need to make a pumpkin cheesecake – and I can give the turkey enchiladas a miss as well. Believe me, it will still be a feast and we will be groaning as we push back from the table.
This year, our dear friend Jan will be celebrating with us. Jan knew my parents well, and shared many holidays that included Larry’s mother and other family members. These small gatherings have become a pattern during the holidays and I have come to accept and even treasure the ease and intimacy of a smaller table. I will still set the table with my mother’s and grandmother’s lovely china and crystal, but we are likely to wear jeans. Jan has a particularly outrageous turkey t-shirt she wears to celebrate the day…We will eat when we are hungry and maybe squeeze in a beach walk over in Coronado.
But back to the menu, I may give pie-baking up this year. I’m not a huge fan of pies and Jan will make a magnificent one that Larry will drool over. (What is it about Midwesterners and pie?) I do like pumpkin custard, though, and might throw together a Pumpkin-Orange Flan.
Many years ago, I took over the gravy-making, simplifying the recipe first my grandmother and then my mother prepared every Thanksgiving. I whip up a cognac-flavored gravy in about 15 minutes that is quite decent. A couple years ago, I broke with family tradition and made a cornbread pan dressing. The women in my family always prepared a turkey stuffed with dressing, and used Pepperidge Farm packaged mix. I make cornbread and love the crunchy-topped stuffing. I think my turkey roasts more evenly – and more quickly – stuffed only with some onion, garlic, fresh herbs and our Meyer lemons.
Finally, I am planning to say a few words when we are seated at the table, expressing my love for so many people who gave me so much in my life. Then, I will turn to Jan and to Larry and tell them how thankful I am to be with them, celebrating my favorite day of the year.
Happy Thanksgiving –