Thanksgiving festivities are just around the corner. I started receiving the first of the out-of-office replies from colleagues last Friday. The annual Grandparent Thanksgiving lunch at the Young One’s school is on the calendar for Tuesday. Cornucopia embroidered flags are waving in the breeze, and the first text for emergency baking supplies just made its way through the neighborhood. Kroger is a war zone these days, and all of us want avoid breaching that line at all costs.
The Hubs and I haven’t hosted a Thanksgiving meal at our house since the Older One started as a Plebe at West Point four years ago. As a member of the football team, he either spent the majority of the holiday practicing or playing a game.
Last year, he was in Hawaii for the holiday preparing for a post-Thanksgiving game. The year before, he took a bus to Boston with a teammate, and the year before that, my parents braved holiday travelers to take him in for the few free days he had available.
After that first Thanksgiving without him, I decided making his favorites when he isn’t here to enjoy them is too depressing. So now instead of chopping vegetables and baking pies, the most I do to prepare for the Thanksgiving meal is pick up the phone to make reservations at a local restaurant.
The first year we did this, I admit, things felt very different. Usually, I’m up long before everyone else, stuffing the bird and rolling out dough. If I was lucky, I might have enough time to sit down to review the Black Friday ads before it was time to baste again.
That year though, with no bird to roast, I slept in and had a leisurely cup of coffee by the fire. I watched the Thanksgiving Day parade for the first time in years. I took time with my hair and makeup because, well…I had time.
Previously, I had spent weeks planning the menu, carefully managing a balance of tried and true recipes with new ones. Then I’d be too worried about which ones turned out right to really enjoy the food.
At the restaurant, however, I was treated to a true stress-free feast–roast turkey, deep fried turkey, ham, salmon, oyster stuffing, cranberry dressing, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate cake, cheese cake. The buffet went on and on. Everything tasted wonderful, and I didn’t have to do anything but lift my plate to ask for more.
And when the meal was finished, I walked away. No dishes to wash, no turkey carcass to dispose of, no post-meal work at all but to collect my family and go back home where I made a cup of tea, web chatted with the Older One and spent the rest of the day just being with my family.
After that first year of paying for someone else to prepare my meal, I knew I had found a new tradition. The Older One will actually be home with us for Thanksgiving this year, but I don’t intend to cook a turkey for him. I intend to spend the day with him and the rest of my family, enjoying their company instead of watching them from the kitchen.
I know in time, I will get the urge to take on the meal prep again, but for now, I am happy with dining out on Thanksgiving. As long as I have my family around me, that’s all I really need.