I’m seven years old. Cousin Frankie is visiting from South Africa. He’s my mother’s cousin and he’s over six feet tall. I come from a family of rather short people (not me, I’m adopted) and in this crowd he’s a giant. He lifts me to his shoulders. I am queen of the world. He gives me a whisker rub. He leaves me with a gold bracelet with my name engraved on it. I love cousin Frankie.
I don’t know exactly what year it is, but it’s the early 1970’s. I am wearing a long lavender dress. Long dresses are in fashion. We eat Thanksgiving dinner in a lovely large room at a country club. I will, many years later, hold my wedding reception in this same room at this same country club. I will wear a long dress that day too, but it will be white.
For many years in a row there is Thanksgiving dinner at my mother’s dining room table. She carves the turkey in the kitchen with the electric knife. It sounds as though there is a horror movie being filmed. We don’t dare enter. My grandmother brings the dressing, an old German recipe. It is delicious and like nothing else I have ever eaten. One year, in my early adulthood, she asks me what I would like for Hanukkah. I tell her I would like that recipe. She writes it for me in her spiky German inspired script. I treasure it, but cannot reproduce it.
I am a college student, on a study abroad semester in Great Britain. I miss my family and I miss the sound of English without a British accent and I miss salsa. I buy a plane ticket home for Thanksgiving. My father is furious at the idea but gives me the biggest hug of anyone at the airport. It was worth the money for that memory. I returned after a week much happier and much better adjusted. It was worth the money for the peace of mind.
We’ve recently moved away from family, the boyfriend (future ex-husband) and me. His brother and a friend live with us. Their grandfather and his crazy wife are in town. The four of us young people manage to cook our first Thanksgiving meal, and our elderly guests enjoy it greatly, as do we. The green bean casserole turns out too peppery, but other than that it is perfect, and Leon Lett doesn’t score his touchdown. I love that.
My son is small and his uncle is in town (father’s brother) as is his aunt (father’s step-sister). We hold Thanksgiving at our house (as has become tradition) and decide to do it on the back patio. It is a gorgeous warm day and we have a wonderful holiday.
I am in the midst of my divorce. We want to keep things as normal as possible for our 12 year old so I cook Thanksgiving dinner as always. I invite my ex-in-laws (out-laws?) to my home as I have for years. I also invite my ex-husband. I do not invite his girlfriend. We wait for him. We keep waiting for him. He finally calls. He has totaled his car on the way to my house. Nobody is hurt. His father picks him up. We carry on as if nothing has happened, because this is what we do.
I am in a new relationship. He is so different from any man I have ever known except one. He is like my father in many important ways. He wants to fry a turkey. This is completely unlike my father who had no interest in preparing food (although he did enjoy eating it, very much). We go on a quest to find the exact turkey fryer he wants. We end up with one that he thinks will do. It is just the two of us for Thanksgiving that year. His fried turkey is delicious. We have a new tradition. Fried for Thanksgiving, roasted for Christmas.
Life keeps changing. We change with it. Looking forward to many more Thanksgivings.