Saturday, October 29, 2011

My First Thanksgiving

Needless to say, November 2011's big national holiday will not be my first ever.  I've always celebrated Thanksgiving with my family.  When I was very young, we used to pack into my parent's GIANT Chevy stationwagon (and before you ask, yes, it was complete with the rear facing seat, or, as I always referred to it, the "back-back" AND wood-grain accent exterior) and drive three or so hours to my Grandmother's house in Northeastern PA.  I remember those drives being torturous.  We always had to wait for my Dad to be done with work to leave NJ, so, to avoid traffic, we usually ended up packing into the wagon around 9:00 PM Thanksgiving Eve.  It was about an hour past our bedtime, so me and my sisters were always in our PJs, and the back-back of the wagon was folded down, lined with blankets and pillows, transformed, magically,  into our "little house on the turnpike" bed for 5.  I'm sure that, according to Mom and Dad's plans, we were supposed to lay in the back-back, listen to a few Raffi lullabies, and fall asleep so that they could have some quiet time for adult conversation.  Well you can imagine how often those plans actually came to fruition.  Usually, one of us would start talking, the others would join, the youngest would start crying, someone would have to pee, another would feel car sick, someone's arm would be touching someone else's leg, and all hell would break loose in the back-back.  Oh the joys of growing up with siblings (and, I assume, raising children).  Maybe the reason I've never really witnessed my parents effectively communicating is because they were constantly stifled by their children's antics coming from the back-back.  But I digress.

Three hours or more (depending on traffic at the hellacious Delaware Water Gap) later, we'd be heading up Gram's muddy driveway, looking for a warm place on the floor to rest our weary heads. 

Thanksgiving morrning, I'd wake up to the smell of turkey cooking in the oven.  I'd go downstairs, hoping that some of my cousins would be there and awake also, to have breakfast and start helping with the set up process for the day.  My favorite thing to do was build the fruit tray.  It always had a pineapple center, and the trick was to get the apples, bananas, oranges and grapes to pile up at an angle so that the whole tray was symmetrical with the top of the pineapple as the largest peak on the tray.  We'd usually have a group of 20 or so.  The kids would all eat at the kitchen table, fully extended, sans tablecloth, with paper plates and cups.  The adults would eat at the dining room table, which was really a trail of several tables, dressed in table cloths and set with china from Gram's vast collection.  I'm sure it wasn't perfect, but I remember those Thanksgivings with awe just because there were so many to be fed, and we always had more than enough, despite my grandmother's kitchen being a "one a$$" kitchen, as it was so lovingly referred to by my Auntie Dot.

As I got older, my Aunts and Uncles (and my parents) started to have Thanksgiving at home.  I was probably 15 ot 16 the first time we had Thanksgiving at my childhood home.  It was weird because it was just the 7 of us.  I remember begging my Mom to just order pizza and to use paper plates, most of which was influenced by my desire to have an easy clean up.  I think I succeeded once, when Mom allowed us to have lasagna instead of turkey on the actual holiday.  Of course, we had to have turkey with all the fixin's the weekend after Thanksgiving to make her happy.  We spent a couple of Thanksgivings at other relatives houses (usually my Mom's sister's or brother's places) and once we even spent the holiday in NYC.  I was in the Macy's Parade in my last year of college, and my whole family came in to see me march, carrying the "Little Bill" balloon.  That was, so far, my favorite Thanksgiving ever.  But again, I digress.

This year, things are a bit different.  My parents aren't hosting Thanksgiving.  After much deliberation, Greg and I have decided to host our first Thanksgiving at our house.  We invited my family (including Grandma) as well as Greg's parents, his great Aunt, and our friends John and Helen.  I'm not sure how many people we will actually have, but I'm planning on 15.  I'm very apprehensive about hosting - we have never really had that many people for a sit down dinner in our place before.  PLUS we have to find room for everyone to sleep here, which means I'll be kicked out of my own bed for a few nights.  And, to be honest, I'm not always a gracious hostess.  I love my house (the inside anyway) and I like it the most when it's clean, and everything is in its proper place.  When my family visits, there's always chaos, just because of the number of people that encompass "my family."  Add Greg's parents coming and shacking up with us from Tuesday until Saturday, and I am pretty much guaranteed an out of sorts house for at least a week.  Which means I am going to be out of sorts, which translates to me becoming a cranky, selfish, whiny, angry person.  And Greg will bear the brunt of my frustration.

Adding to my insanity is my need to try to make the table/house look festive and nice without losing the charm of our house.  Currently, my dining table is fully extended, with a tablecloth on, and I've been trying for a week to figure out what to put in the center so that everything looks great.  I'm trying to figure out where to get enough chairs for everyone to sit on.  And I'm trying to decide what to include on the Thanksgiving menu - to make it special for my house.  I even asked Greg to have his parents bring down extra china so that we have somewhat matching table settings.  Basically, I've entered the month of planning stress which, I assume, is typical for first timers hosting this holiday.  I never thought I'd even consider using cloth napkins, but when I saw them while shopping for a table cloth, I couldn't help but grab a few packages to use for Thanksgiving.  Now I'm spending time trying to figure out how to configure the confounded things so they don't look awkward at a place setting.  I'm seriously detail oriented, and all the stupid stuff that people won't even notice is going to make me crazy. 

I might have to start doing yoga just for the month of November to keep me somewhat sane and to save Greg the headache of listening to me worry/complain/cry/freak out over every stupid little detail.  Wish me luck, I know I'm going to need it.

No comments:

Post a Comment