It's Thanksgiving morning, 9AM. I have no turkey to roast, no pies to bake, no sides to prepare, no stuffing to stuff.
My home is quiet as a churchyard on any day but Sunday. The wind outside is blowing and the temps are in the low 20s. There is a dusting of snow on the ground.
My husband is still asleep; my mother-in-law is too, each wrestling with fatigues born of insomnia, injury or illness. Even our faithful dog Dewey is slumbering, having awakened my husband at 5AM for a quick trip outdoors. They are safe and warm and snuggling in their beds on this cold November day.
Our sons are halfway round the world in Australia. I miss them but I reassure myself they are safe and happy and on the adventure of their lives.
My brother, his wife and daughters are on the West Coast. We haven't seen one another in five years. The girls have their own families now and I know my brother is surrounded by love.
Our table stands empty. It will not be set today. But it rings with the memory of holiday dinners, family, friends and parties.
My parents are gone and, I believe, in a better place. Every holiday fills with their presence, their customs. My mother would spend two days getting ready for Thanksgiving and our menu rarely varied. She served Waldorf salad on her mother's cranberry pressed glass plates (which I still have), roast turkey stuffed with a traditional herbed bread stuffing, candied yams in butter & brown sugar, green peas, home made cranberry sauce, oyster dressing (a second stuffing for those with sophisticated palates), gravy, mashed potatoes, crudités of carrots, celery, black olives. The table was always set with her Irish linen or old lace tablecloth, linen napkins, her fine silverware, Lenox dinner plates, crystal goblets. There were fresh flowers, candles and music. Dessert was always pumpkin pie and minced or pecan pie with whipping cream.
My father always carved with his steel butcher knife. He loved to sharpen that thing on his whetstone and made a very big deal of it. Grace preceded the meal. Ours was an observant family, at least, outwardly.
Afterwards, mother and I did the dishes. She had no dishwasher until they retired and, if she had, it wouldn't have mattered as she would never have put her good dishes, crystal and silver in it anyway.
When I married and lived far from home, my husband and I celebrated Thanksgiving meals I prepared or we went out. I remember one Thanksgiving in Chicago where we were on vacation. We stayed at the Ambassador East hotel and had reservations in the Pump Room. Very chic. By the time we sat down and ordered, they were out of turkey! We had to eat fish! That still makes me smile.
Today, my husband, my mother-in-law and I are dressing up and going to a lovely hotel in our mountain town where we will be served a traditional Thanksgiving meal. We shall sit and dine on fine china with fancy cutlery, crystal on a white tablecloth and enjoy spectacular views of the mountain range. It will be nice and easy.
Aside from the people I love who are gone or away, I shall miss the leftovers.