FAMILY & TRADITIONS
JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group
25 November 2020
We arrive about 2:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. I walk in the door of my Aunt Catherine’s marble and polished-mahogany kitchen, and the aroma of Thanksgiving fills my olfactory system. My mind brings me back to the 30-something Thanksgivings prior, most of which were enjoyed in this very home. The kitchen island is full of appetizers made from scratch by the culinary expert hands of my aunt. There is a mini-bar set up with several different kinds of red and white wines, homemade grappa, and several varieties of soda. When I think of a holiday feast, I think of her home.
I’m grateful so many family members accepted her invitation this year because we’re able to assemble the childhood-memory-inducing kid table. Sure, I may be at this table with my own children. But while the adults joyfully assemble in the dining room, we get to take over the kitchen table. We are so glad to be in each other’s presence. The conversation is flowing as naturally as a waterfall on a cool fall afternoon. We’re laughing so hard my checks begin to hurt. My children are even joining in on the jokes and laughter. And my heart couldn’t be fuller.
Our first course is a lovely antipasto. My aunt made one ginormous tray. So, we get to head into the dining room to fill up our plates with salad, honey dew melon wrapped in prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, soppressata, pepperoncinis, and provolone picante.
Our second course is a velvety smooth homemade manicotti. My cousin and I take over plating the delectable cheese-filled pasta tubes. She gently places one on each plate, and I bring it to the huge pot on the stove to drizzle some red sauce on top and deliver them two at a time starting with the adult table. When we’ve served everyone, we prepare the last two plates for ourselves and continue to laugh, joke, and finish off a bottle of Pinot Noir.
Our third course is the traditional American Thanksgiving feast. The enormous turkey has been resting for about 15 minutes, and my uncle heads into the kitchen to begin carving it. And just like that, the kitchen turns into a magical effortless flow of family. Some members are scraping manicotti remnants into the garbage. Others are rinsing and putting the dishes in the dishwasher. The sausage stuffing is being spooned into a serving dish. The mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, brown sugar carrots, and stuffed mushrooms are also plated. There is one big serving dish of each for the adult table. And one smaller serving dish of each for the kid table. Someone is refilling the water glasses at both tables. And the little kids are trying to sneak cookies from the dessert table.
With the main course out of the way, the cleaning assembly line gets busy before the final course. Dishes are scraped, rinsed, and placed in the dish washer once again. Tupperware containers are filled and labeled. My uncle starts up the espresso machine and walks around taking orders on how many tiny cups he’ll need to prepare. The endless array of pies and cookies is brought to the adult table. And the fourth course is among us. How any of us has room to indulge in dessert is beyond me, but we each grab a plate full and head back to the kid table.
Before we dig in, I request a toast. Members of the kid table hold up their beverages of choice as I begin:
“Happy Thanksgiving. Last year took away our traditions. But as most misfortunes do, it taught us a very important lesson. Whether we sit together on the third Thursday of November or not, we’re still a family. And one year of absence doesn’t take away our traditions. Cheers to life, laughter, and being together. The wait seemed to be unending, but here we are. I’ll remember the Thanksgiving of 2021 more than any other. I love you all.”