Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Memories

Next to Halloween, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What I like about it is that Madison Avenue hasn’t figured out a way to commercialize it. Oh sure, Safeway and Fred Meyer will try to get you to spend a lot of money—$150 this year—to get a free turkey, but for the most part they have had to resort to whipping up the buying frenzy for the day after Thanksgiving in what has become known as Black Friday. We are untraditional in that we don’t participate in Black Friday because that is the day we celebrate Thanksgiving.

We started doing that a number of years ago when the children lived in Tacoma and there was only one bridge across the Narrows. Apparently every grandma with family in Tacoma must live in Gig Harbor or the Olympic Peninsula because it took the children two hours to make a twenty minute trip. Finally, my middle son asked if we couldn’t just have dinner the next day. It seemed highly unorthodox, but we quickly discovered that the turkey and stuff and all of the trimmings tasted the same on Friday as on Thursday and a new tradition was born. Now we have moved our celebration 150 miles to the Long Beach Peninsula where my mother, her sister, and my cousin live. It’s a logistical battle plan to get everything to our old Victorian in Ilwaco, but otherwise my little extended family is alone and resort to Thanksgiving at Denny’s or something equally as sad.

I asked some friends what their favorite Thanksgiving memories are. One said that her brother made a “pie” of marshmallows, peanut butter, candy bars and every other sweet he could get his hands on when he was a child. Another said that her mother let her and her siblings chose their favorite food and prepared everything from tacos to spaghetti for Thanksgiving.

One of my favorite memories is of one of our first years during our stint in California. The holidays made me more homesick than I was on a daily basis, missing the green of Washington and my extended family of uncles, aunts, grandparents and my dad. We had only my husband’s cousin, who being from Iran was a little fuzzy on what Thanksgiving was supposed to be, so we did what we could to make the day seem special. At the time I was working shelving books in a library and had brought home a book of children’s poetry just before this one particular Thanksgiving. My middle son decided to read a poem to entertain us after dinner and I still remember him getting dressed up in his best clothes and putting on a red bow tie. Suddenly the thousand miles between California and home shrank and Thanksgiving came to where we were. It was priceless.

Our first Thanksgiving back in Washington was pretty special. After some help from my cousin we were able to secure a house to rent in Chinook. My uncle in Beaverton, Oregon had sent us a turkey and the Elks in Long Beach gave us one, too along with boxes and boxes of food. Our table groaned that year and my mother’s sister and my cousins and their children all gathered at our house and it was reminiscent of years long ago at my grandparents in Vancouver.

When we began taking Thanksgiving from Gig Harbor to Ilwaco we began another tradition that just happened as a result of the long, usually dark, drive from Gig Harbor to there. Wednesday afternoon after school I would take my daughter and my youngest son, the dog and the turkey and whatever else we needed and we’d head out. After stopping to eat along the way I’d turn on KGO talk radio. That’s a San Francisco station that I got into the habit of listening to during our six years in the Bay Area. Bernie Ward was the late night host and the night before Thanksgiving was always a discussion of cooking turkeys. While Amy slept in the backseat, Nadir and I listened to all the calls and all the ways people were cooking their turkeys. Because KGO has such a big broadcast tower they would get calls from all over the Western and Southwestern United States so there were lots of opinions. We made our trek this way several years in a row until one year Nadir cooked the turkey himself after having soaked it in brine.

Buying our 15.5 pound organic turkey yesterday was bittersweet because now Nadir lives in the Bay Area and won’t be with us this year, but I can already feel the merriment next week will bring as most of the rest of us gather in our old house. We have friends whose only child lives elsewhere and have been adopted by us. They are in charge of the turkey and have been ever since they persuaded us to let them barbeque one. It was and always is the best turkey I’ve ever put in my mouth. They have trucked their Weber all the way from Gig Harbor to give this gift of a succulent bird to us.

As with most other Americans, my weekend will be filled with preparing for next week. One of the beauties of Thanksgiving is that it is something that every American participates in. Since it is not a religious holiday, no one need feel left out. I know as I bake my cornbread for stuffing and make my sweet potato casserole to be frozen and then driven, that there are others baking pies and polishing silver. We are a part of a huge celebration of remembering our blessing.


Kim Thompson said...

Great post!

Jo said...

And a lovely Thanksgiving it was! We may have been fewer in number, but still did justice to the day. Thanks for a special day.