It’s a fact which causes me a fair amount of angst.
I have wonderful memories of Thanksgiving growing up. We would spend Thanksgiving Eve chopping and gibleting and preparing ingredients to be thrown together and cooked all day long on Thanksgiving day. Dad would enjoy a few beers while we hustled around the kitchen all day. Then, once we hung up our figurative aprons after drying the mountain of dirty dishes and pans, he would bake his pies. On occasion (blame the beer), he would forget an ingredient or two, but usually the pies were masterpieces. The next day, more of the same, with singing and festive music, culminating in a delicious meal and family fellowship. We would set our table to the nines, with elegant cloth napkins in beautiful rings, exquisite centerpieces, fine china, and Waterford crystal drinkware. Tapered candles around the room would glow warmly. The family silver—which we’d spent days cleaning in preparation—would reflect the lights like twinkling stars. And dinner would be followed be yet another mountain of dirty dishes.
End the hazy-around-the-edges flashback scene and pan to the stark present: We purchase the Bob Evans Thanksgiving dinner and spend maybe an hour heating it up. Scarf it all down, then I toss the few dirty plates and utensils into the sink to be washed at a later time (like, when there’s nothing clean left to eat on). This year, we took our meal up to step-daughter’s poor-college-student-living-in-a-two-bedroom-apartment-smaller-than-a-closet-with-a-rent-the-size-of-my-mortgage place and sat at mismatched chairs around a small table in their dining room/living room/den. Yes, there was a papasan chair involved. There might have even been milk crates. Either way, it was a far cry from my childhood memories.
Don’t get me wrong. Our family gathering this year was lots of fun. We had plenty of food and tons of laughter. The just-starting-out-in-life apartment was quaint and brought back fond memories of my own early adulthood (cue the hazy edges). We drove down the Chicago Magnificent Mile and oohed and ahhed at the beautiful Christmas lights.
To a certain extent, my family’s Thanksgiving celebration reflects who we are: low-key and low-maintenance. Hubby doesn’t cook and the kiddos are too young/easily-distracted-by-television to help much with cooking, and no one seems to mind that I take the easy way out and order Bob Evans. Then we get a nice long weekend to do whatever we want.
But I still worry I’m doing it wrong. Am I robbing my children of their own twinkling, sparkling, hazy-around-the-edges memories? By taking the easy road, am I relegating Thanksgiving to just another meal? By allowing our celebration to be “just us,” am I denying my children the understanding that family is so much more than parent/child? (And if so, how do I invite my family to someone else’s celebration, just so we can avoid being lame?) Should I force my children to polish silver and dice vegetables with me just because that’s what I did as a kid? Do I break out the fine china and crystal and cloth napkins, regardless of how much I (don’t) love doing dishes and laundry, because those are my memories that I want to impose on my kids?
Like I said, I struggle with it. And I’ll probably write a very similar post after Christmas, when it’s once again “just us” being low-key and low-maintenance. In the meantime, I’m hankering for more Bob Evans turkey dinner. Maybe I can talk the hubby into going there tonight!