This is the first time in decades that Thanksgiving isn’t at my parents’ home in Connecticut, in the house and town where I grew up. This year, my three siblings and I are each having our own dinners.
My parents are going to my sister Naomi’s, about an hour and a half drive. Her three kids will be home so there will be 7 at the table. “I’m looking forward to the cooking even if it is a small crowd,” my sister said.
My brother is staying home, with his two daughters, nephew and in-laws. His Russian wife says it’s the only time they don’t have any Russian foods. My sister Madeline, who customarily had traveled to the family homestead a few days earlier to help, didn’t want to leave Maryland this year. They just got a new puppy that needs attention. They’re going to her brother-in law’s about a 40- minute drive and she’s baking cakes and pies. I’m having my kids, spouses and grandkids; we’ll be 10.
It’s all good. Yet I miss that we’re not convening at my parents’. It was the only time everyone got together and the cousins (9) saw each other. With two married and working, another college graduate working, two in college, three high school juniors and one 5th grader, everyone lives in far-flung states. They have disparate interests and friends; I’d like them to have some connection with each other and their aunts and uncles. My parents’ have a long ranch house with a table that can seat 20; none of us have that kind of space.
Along with accepting the gravy gavel from mom, we each make some of the foods that we always had. Cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes. We use her recipes and call her for advice. And we’ve adapted our own.
Given my Orthodox children, I have a kosher turkey and no dairy in the sides or desserts. We’ve all become quinoa lovers, so this dish will be making its Thanksgiving debut. I asked one daughter-in-law to make something “apple” for dessert, and opted for small-hand sized pumpkin muffins instead of a pie. I’ll still make a traditional pecan pie.
So as I tie my apron strings, I think about those dinners. A bit wistful and sad for times gone by; yet glad that my siblings and I can cook a bird with all the trimmings, just like we always had together. I like that we blend the old traditions with new ones we’re discovering.
What about you? Have you taken on the dinner for the family? Do you feed a huge crowd or a small group? What’s your favorite family Thanksgiving tradition?