November 28, 1991: My gravy may clump, my mashed potatoes might lump, but my turkey dinner is a snap compared to what Mrs. William Bradford faced back in 1623 when she woke up Thanksgiving morning in her little log hut near Plymouth, Massachusetts.
That Pilgrim lady had no microwave to nuke her turnips, no home-baked pumpkin pie from Tice’s Farm, and no rubber gloves to stave off second-degree finger burns while peeling the roasted chestnuts. She didn’t even have a Butterball Hotline to call in case the plastic pop-up gizmo got stuck in the bird’s craw.
And her guest list! I’ve got my husband’s 18 cousins from Long Island, my brother who’s deep into EST and never shuts up about how great he feels, my sister who won’t talk to my husband, my son’s latest squeeze who’s a strict vegetarian and a daughter recently back from a semester in Australia pining for her Brisbane boyfriend.
But that’s easy. Mrs. Bradford was was polishing the Gorham soup spoons for 50 Indians, er, Native Americans, dressed in full feather. What a daunting “placement.” To whose right did she seat the Sachem?
Not to mention her couture. Can you imagine standing over the hot flames stirring the succotash while wearing a voluminous linsey-woolsey black frock and pointy buckle-toe shoes? I’ll mince the marshmallows for my yams in a comfy rump-sprung warmup suit, thank you very much.
Am I thankful? You bet. I’ll unwrap the cellophane from paraffin candles bought at Bloomies. Mrs. B. was dipping corn husks into beeswax before she even had her morning Maxwell. Granted, she didn’t have to worry about locating the holiday napkins she’d stashed in some bureau drawer last December and then finding time to iron them before hollering “Soup’s on.” She was too busy flailing the flax against Plymouth Rock.
So all things considered, my Thanksgiving should be a breeze. If I can keep the dog’s nose out of the cheese tray, the cat locked in the guest room, my two-year-old niece from tap dancing on the white sofa, my husband away from the third football game, my son away from the Pouilly-Fume, my daughter off the phone to the Brisbane boyfriend, my Cuisinart from overheating, my manicure unchipped while dicing celery for the Waldorf, and the conversation off Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, I do believe this will be a day to remember as WE GATHER TOGETHER.
That was written 24 years ago when I lived in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Lots of changes since then. I have a wonderful new husband, we live in Maine, the vegetarian girlfriend is gone, as is the Australian boyfriend, but we still have Clarence Thomas to kick around.
This year at Kennebunk Beach we’re having 14 in residence for several days, including my Colorado nephew who moonlights as a bartender at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. He enjoys Favored-Guest status.
We have much to be thankful for when WE GATHER TOGETHER — a huge stack of firewood on the front porch; my daughter’s loan of a spanking new roasting pan that holds a 30 pound Tom; my son-in-law Tim who'll brine, cook and carve the bird; my red-headed 13-year-old grandson Max and his precious 9-year-old sister Maddie who will remind us of our youthful excitement on this special family day; sister-in-law Shirley who’ll ransack the cupboards to set a beautiful table; brother Robert who will be serenading us with trumpet tunes while Mr. Wonderful tickles the ivories; and my sister who loves to do dishes when we can pull her away from the Rummikub table. But most of all we will be thankful for each other. Happy Thanksgiving!
(And again, thanks to Ken Janes for his beautiful Thanksgiving photograph)