Like many, this year’s Thanksgiving will be different. I’m planning a full Thanksgiving turkey dinner for two. And that stark reality brought to me a realization that I need to give up on a dream, finally. A blogging buddy (Linda – blog link) posted recently about letting go of dreams. I need to let go of the “happy family dinner” dream. It’s time.
It’s a solid dream, based on childhood. We had a small family, but holiday dinners saw us all seated around the table, saying grace. I chuckle to this day about my mom serving ham on Easter with my Jewish aunt & uncle at the table. They were not very strict in their religion and joined us for all the holidays – Christmas, Easter, and also Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. We adored the Carvel ice cream cake or bakery strawberry short cake they would inevitably bring. But, their presence was a big part of the holiday.
Holidays were about family gathering with lots of conversation. Everyone seemed to help in the kitchen pulling things together before dinner and later cleaning up. Mom inevitably burned something, but I learned how to make everything associated with big family dinners, especially Thanksgiving. Looking back, it was more about the family around the dining room table I recall – the sense of family. I kept in touch with that aunt & uncle via regular notes for years after I no longer went home for all the holidays (too far to travel). Did they know I always had (and still have) fond memoirs of them?
I tried to recreate that feeling of a “Norman Rockwell” holiday dinner for years with my in-law family. It never felt the same. If I said dinner at 5, folks would walk in at 5:10. (One year, my SIL brought the rolls in at that time; rolls which needed to be cooked. It’s hard enough getting everything on the table warm, and then a 25-minute cooking delay for rolls?). For years, no one helped with cleanup; dirty dishes (sometimes for 15-18 people) stacked up in the kitchen. I recall one year, a niece’s boyfriend felt guilty for not helping clean up, apologizing to me as they left, and they had come only for dessert! My niece had never ever even attempted to help clean off the dinner table after eating, much less go into the kitchen to help in any clean-up. As the nieces and nephews grew up, they no longer came to dinner (nor have they kept in touch). Then their parents (my BILs and SILs) began to have other things to do for the holidays. A coupe of years ago, I called it – “the end” – no more Thanksgiving or Easter dinners. Hubby had pointed out the lack of appreciation from his family for years; I kept hoping for that sense of family from my childhood. So after trying for 16 years, my family holiday dinners (as dysfunctional as they were) disappeared.
But I recently realized I still had the dream of family (or extended friend family) around MY table for a holiday dinner. The past couple of years (pre-pandemic) we joined family friends around their table, and enjoyed the company (and very much appreciated the invite!). But, it’s not been dinner around my table. It didn’t realize I still had the dream; it’s hard to let it go. This year, I’m making all the foods I love for Thanksgiving – enough to feed that family around the table – for the last time. It seems silly to make the whole spread for two people, so I honestly do believe this is the last time. Yes, it is time to let go of that dream.
I am also pondering gratitude, as one is prone to do on Thanksgiving! Did I ever express gratitude to my parents for making those wonderful family dinners happen, year after year after year? Do they know how much it was appreciated – then and even more now? So Mom (I know you read my blog), thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know I’ll never recreate it in my own home (and that causes me tears), but I am so very thankful for the memories of our regularly celebrated “Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving”.