Our intent is to stuff the bird, but too often we only stuff ourselves.

It’s Thanksgiving.

A day involving eating (or overeating for some of us) roasted turkey (I’m addicted to the crispy skin) and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and cranberry sauce—oh, the list of yummy foods goes on and on and on, usually ending with pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

However, it’s also a day for expressing gratitude and thanks—a day shared with family and friends.

Maybe you remember the Norman Rockwell painting, "Freedom from Want," that graced the cover of a Saturday Evening Post years ago. It showed a family around a dining table, a kindly, aproned grandmother serving a large turkey and a grandfatherly figure ready to begin carving. In the picture, everyone at the table is smiling—congenial and happy together. The image of a perfect family. 

I never bought that Rockwell image. Real families are a collection of people and people are not perfect. I wanted my family to be perfect, but it wasn’t. The turkey on the platter wasn’t the only turkey at our table. My family had issues.

Families today bear even less resemblance to Rockwell’s image. For one thing, they’re not so homogenous. They include single parents and partners, exes and live-ins, tattooed teens and mixed ethnicities. Children kick and pinch one another under the table and babies cry. Estranged relatives may smile at the prospect of devouring the bird and sweet potatoes but not necessarily at the person next to them—the one they argued with 15 minutes before dinner started.

The only similarity to my family was we went to my grandmother’s house for dinner (not over the river or through the woods). She loved to cook. For one day of the year, she insisted that we forget each other’s foibles and flaws and concentrate on eating and our blessings. We didn’t look quite like the painting, but we told familiar stories, introduced new loves and cuddled babies. The best part of the day was the food. Everyone ate together in the dining room—little ones at their own special table.

Whatever your favorite foods, Gramma cooked them. No request was too much trouble. Her buffet table was a cornucopia of "special," "favorite" dishes. Mine were peas and salad with mayonnaise dressing. The dressing was simple to make, but somehow hers always tasted better than mine did. So did her chocolate cake. I’ve searched years for a cake that measures up, but I haven’t found one yet. I think her secret ingredients were love and coffee.

Now I‘m the grandmother (gramma) but I live miles away in another part of the country—too far for holiday dinner with the relatives. My son and daughter-in-law live in New Hampshire—they won’t be coming for dinner, which is too bad because they’re both fantastic cooks. My daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren will go to Donner Lake. Gramma’s invited. Our table won’t be quite as large as past years and the meal will be smaller in scope, but we'll continue the tradition of "favorite" dishes.

My daughter and I like black cherry jell-o salad with walnuts, pineapple and whole, dark cherries and my homemade cranberry sauce—our 'go-to' dishes. My son-in-law loves Brussel sprouts (not me). I despised them as a kid. They smelled funny. And everyone loves stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes and green peas and beans. (I’m getting hungry writing this.)

We’ll stuff our turkey, tell stories and by the end of the day, I’ll be the stuffed one—but I’ll be happy, already thinking about leftovers. Yum, hot turkey sandwiches!

Enjoy your day! Count your blessings—big and small! Hug those special people in your lives and tell them how much they mean to you. Do your best not to be the annoying turkey at your dinner table. And try not to overeat (leave some for leftovers).

While you’re waiting for your bird to cook, here’s a few trivia facts that might interest your guests. Did you know that:

1. The fleshy skin over a turkey’s beak is a snood.

2.  Male turkeys are Toms. Females are Hens.

3.  Mature turkeys have approximately 3,500 feathers.

4.  Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national symbol not the Bald Eagle.

5.  Wild turkeys can fly up to 55 mph, but domestic turkeys can’t fly.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


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