I talked to my parents on the phone this morning and my mother had just returned from the grocery store where she had purchased a turkey for Thanksgiving. She is such a pro, she calls them ‘birds’. She usually roasts three birds, so why she came home with only one was a mystery to me. Evidently, the grocery store is running a turkey promotion limited to one turkey per customer per day. She will be going back tomorrow and the day after for two more birds. I said that was a lot of gas and time and trouble to save ten cents a pound.
I could hear her shrug over the phone. “What else do I have to do?” she joked.
This is funny because she has a lot to do. Next week she and my dad will host nearly sixty people for Thanksgiving dinner. They rent chairs, move furniture, set up tables in every room, unpack spare silverware and china from storage, iron napkins and tablecloths, wash crystal, and of course, clean like banshees.
The two of them have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner since 1973. Most years their guests numbered over fifty. Never did my mother use paper plates or paper napkins. There are fresh flowers on every table. And the food? Bountiful, delicious, and all hot at the same time. Even the buns.
She keeps meticulous notes on the menu and it is interesting to see some of the changes over the course of forty years -- the grocery list used to include Tab and now includes Diet Coke. She has tried all brands of turkeys (Norbest is best) and all methods of turkey roasting (she loves oven bags). There were a few years where she tried smoked birds and Cajun birds.
One thing never changes. She always saves the turkey tail for my dad. What he considers the most tender part of the bird is his reward for being such a helpmate. Perfect payment for a man who this morning was gluing the caps onto acorns he had collected for my mother’s tabletops.
When my mother gets out the guest lists, it can be difficult to sift through all the names of people who are gone. They are always remembered in the grace that is said before the meal. During which all the little ones squirm in their parents' arms. This year, there are ten under the age of ten. My mother will need two high chairs.
I know a lot of people go all out for Christmas. I myself go crazy over Halloween. My husband grew up among pyromaniacs who lived for the Fourth of July. Thanksgiving is my parents' holiday. It unifies them. They have their own creeds -- my dad is fierce about the sanctity of family and my mom has been walking around repeating the phrase, "We are so lucky!" for eons. So a celebration where FAMILY comes together to collectively say, "WE ARE SO LUCKY!" to God or Allah or to the universe is, for them, a day that merits a lot of hoopla. They come from different corners of the world and respect each other's cultural holidays like Christmas and Persian New Year, but Thanksgiving is their shared sacred day.
I am so lucky!