Thursday, November 18, 2010

Skipping Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a personal holiday. It is pie, and it’s my mom.

My mother is a planner. Before thanksgiving my mom plans. She knows how much flour, butter, eggs, milk, turkey and potatoes she needs for the meal. There are multiple trips to the grocery store and cooking for days. These days are the real thanksgiving. These days contain all of the fun of the holiday. The fun is the work, though most of it is done by my mom. Mom makes most, if not all of the food.

All the while her daughters are fighting, running through the house. When we lived in our old house we would run from the kitchen to the dining area, to the living room, the entryway and back into the kitchen. I can still hear mom telling us, “This is not a racetrack!” as we zipped around and around. I’m not sure how often we got in her way and forced her to drop bowls, ingredients and otherwise, but I don’t remember her ever kicking us out of the kitchen. She is an amazing cook and we all want her food, but I also want to be a part of it.

There are a plethora of pies (more on that later), but there are also rolls. My mom makes rolls from her Mother-in-Law’s recipe. The rolls have to be made in a Tupperware bowl, but not any Tupperware bowl, a specific size, so they raise just right. When I was at home my mom only had one bowl, and it was clearish with a red lid. Now she has a couple, but when I think about the rolls I picture the red lid. I now have my own, it’s red with a red lid. Once they rise perfectly the dough is spread on the counter and cut into circles, often with a drinking glass. Each roll is slightly creased with a knife that has been dipped in melted butter. It is then folded in half. They are the most delicious rolls, perfect texture, with enough flavor to enjoy, but not overwhelm. My mom knows just how much to smoosh the dough, just how brown they should get in the oven and just how to finish them.

Now for the pies.

Dad gets a lemon meringue pie (with extra meringue), my older sister gets a chocolate pie, I get something different every year (my favorite so far was an eggnog cheesecake), the next daughter gets a lemon meringue-less (the extra meringue goes on dad’s) pie, the next girl gets pumpkin chiffon (not baked).
I realize now that she probably did this to avoid the tears that would come if one kid got their favorite pie, but the others did not. Inevitably the child without their favorite would whine about not getting a pie as well. I prefer to think of it as something she did because she wanted us to each to have a pie that was made especially for each of us. It was like a birthday cake, but on a different day of the year. This one act meant we were recognized as HER daughter, as an individual, someone that deserved their favorite type of pie. My family is an overwhelming bunch of people. It is sort of large, and completely crazy. Sometimes it felt like I was lost in this sea of people that I should know, and I should have something in common with, but in reality I was an important individual in an amazing group of individuals. Thanksgiving makes that point, every year.

Thanksgiving is a meal my mom puts more effort into than any other meal the entire year. It’s a day of Mom that follows days of family. Days when we don’t have to pretend, we don’t have to put on masks, we can just be ourselves, celebrating in our home. All of this is what makes November 25, 2010 the only day this year that I wish I could just skip entirely. I can’t have the family time, I don’t get recognized as an individual in a non-verbal, non-ceremonious way. I don’t get the benefits of the love my mom puts into a meal when I’m thousands of miles away and I would rather pretend that it doesn’t happen at all than acknowledge I’m missing it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Tradition: Picturesque Family

Thanksgiving is about the three F’s in my life: Food, Family and Football. If you asked my husband he would say that I come from the Cleaver (like Leave it to Beaver) family. They somehow appear to outsiders as polished and perfect. the truth is that my family is crazy with tons of insanity and fighting and lauging. The only time I think my family might actually appear perfect is on Thanksgiving, it really it so picturesque it is almost unbelievable

Once the food is ready we sit down at the table. Someone says a prayer, and then dad goes around the table and asks each of us what we are thankful for. Dad pulls out his power knife and carves the turkey. The plates are my mom’s fine china, the goblets are filled with something sparkly, most likely sparkling apple cider. We pass the food, which could feed 3 times the number of people at the table, and consume the food in record time complimenting my mom’s amazing skill.

There is general chatter and some laughter and teasing. It is exactly the sort of scene you would expect to see on some network TV show.

But all of that, every moment of it, makes up maybe one tenth of the reason the holiday makes me so homesick. Tomorrow I’ll tell the real story, the reason why every Thanksgiving spent in MA instead of OR is torture.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Tradition: Halloween Grinch
I enjoy the dressing up, the Halloween parties, Halloween treats, etc but I HATE trick or treaters. I don’t know why, I’m not as cynical as my mom about them, but I just don’t want to answer the door. Unfortunately I live in perfect trick or treating neighborhood so unless we turn out all lights and leave the house we will get little dressed up kidlets at our door. This year I had a better idea

Over the summer Jim purchased some super cheap curtains lined with blackout fabric. They really helped with the sun over the summer and I’m hoping they help save some energy this winter as well. The biggest problem though, is not our windows, it’s our door. It’s ugly and desperately needs replaced (the result of deferred maintenance). I close the heating vents of most the house only opening those in the living room, kitchen and our bedroom closet. Our front hallway is super drafty and always cold in the winter, but I had a great solution. This year I purchased a couple of 3M hooks and hung a queen-sized comforter in front of the door. It covers the door, the little windows next to the door and covers the molding as well. This has made a HUGE difference in the draftiness of the house and I’m hoping to see our heat costs reflect this change.

More importantly, because I hung it up on Halloween we didn’t have to completely turn all lights off, we just turned out the porch lights, closed all the curtains and enjoyed a movie in dim lighting. It was successful and we received not a single trick-or-treater.