In my mind’s eye that paints a Norman Rockwell picture of everyone else’s Thanksgiving, I see generations of family joined around a giant table year after year with new additions that include more spouses (from more happy marriages) and more children (from more happy marriages). Everyone adores everyone else. Platters are piled high and no matter how much stuffing and gravy and pies are downed, everyone is thinthinthin.
There is no Norman Rockwell painting of our Thanksgivings and the only tradition that has been retained is good food. Our family didn’t keep growing; everyone scattered; and, yes, sometimes some of us were mad at one another.
When we were growing up in New York we had Thanksgiving dinner with distant cousins (everyone else in both our parents’ families was in Chicago)–it was always boring (who were these people we only saw once a year?) and it didn’t last long because eventually the mom-cousin was sent to live in a “funny farm,” according to my mother. After that tradition died, it was just the four of us–we’d drive to Connecticut where we had a summer place and where the days were pretty grim…fall leaves gone, snow still weeks away. When we moved to Chicago (I was in eighth grade), we had Thanksgiving with one or the other of our parents’ extended families. That didn’t last long either: Is it an oxymoron to say people are nice…and racist? Soon enough, it was back to the four of us again.
My single days in New York were marked by Thanksgivings with various boyfriends and friends’ families–but eventually I chose to stay home…alone. I would go for a long run in Central Park, then curl up with a carefully prepared selection of books and movies, and have something very good to eat, carefully prepared by Dean and Delucca.
When Bruce, and then Emma, came along, I thought tradition was a done deal–and, in one way, it was: I was completely happy being with them though it was not the large clan gathering Rockwell might have envisioned. Thanksgiving is Bruce’s favorite holiday; he loves turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and apple pie. It was sweet and cozy, but as Emma grew I started to worry that there needed to be lots of people around. We have no family in Los Angeles so we started doing “Practice Thanksgivings” on the Sunday night before the actual day, inviting all our friends who would be with their own families on Thursday. Everyone really seemed to enjoy it, and would insist we do it again the following year. On Thanksgiving Day the three of us would go to the beach during the day (and every year Bruce would say, “You can’t do this in New York, can you?”), then we’d have a dinner composed of our favorite foods. We’d each choose one dish. Sometimes it was three desserts and sometimes it was mac ‘n cheese, steak and chocolate cake (need to ask who chose what in that happy mix?). It was always wonderful, and we always ate it in bed together watching a family movie.
Over the years we had some Thanksgivings with other families who have kids Emma’s age, and this year we were going to go away with a couple of other families until one of Bruce’s clients announced he was coming to town (and this was not the year to miss a good client). So…we stayed home and did what we do best: We got up and Emma and I played tennis; afterwards we picked up Bruce and went to the beach; then Emma and I had a spa afternoon. We started with showers and used Emma’s Eucalyptus Body Scrub. Next, we slathered ourselves with body butter cream and sat with mud masks while we watched the Food Network (no kidding, Ina was on). Moisturizer and self manicures made us both gorgeous–at least according to Bruce. We had each picked something to have for dinner, and there was no fooling around with anything healthy. Emma chose garlic mashed potatoes; Bruce chose turkey and stuffing (not my favorite and, yes, I did try to count that as two to no avail); and I chose Double- Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. Oh, and it was a double feature: The Way We Were (I love you, Hubble Gardner) and When Harry Met Sally. A perfect untraditional Thanksgiving.