I remember Thanksgiving mornings waking me up with the savory scent of onions and celery sauteing in an iron skillet while my grandmother made the stuffing and my mother prepared the turkey for the oven. My brother, sister and I wandered into the kitchen for a peek before heading to the den and plopping ourselves on the sofa to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was a scene repeated year after year until I became a young wife and mother. Because we lived less than two hours away, we traveled to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving, and everything else remained the same, including the menu: turkey, doctored-up Pepperidge Farm stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied yams, stuffed celery, cranberry sauce, rutabaga, and for dessert, a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie. The main appetizer was always my grandmother’s chopped chicken liver. Christmas had similar traditions with a different menu, all prepared by my mother with some help from my grandmother.
When we moved to Texas and were too far away to go back to Connecticut for the holidays, I had the pleasure of planning and preparing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I loved to cook and looked forward to putting the feasts together, even though it took a tremendous amount of work. My Thanksgiving menu looked remarkably like my mother’s, but my Christmas menu was totally different. Where my mother had baked ham as the highlight, I had prime rib for several years until our guests at dinner became too numerous for that to be practical (I didn’t have a pan big enough) or affordable. Since we lived in San Antonio, a fiesta theme suited the occasion. Even after my parents moved to Texas, I continued to host the holiday dinners.
For the past four or five years now, my husband and I have been spending Thanksgiving with my daughter and her family. She does the planning and gives me a task, the baking of the pies, one pumpkin and one brownie. And this will be the first Christmas in years and years that I have not hosted Christmas. We will spend it with our two sons and our daughter-in-law.
I still look forward to the holidays as much now as when I was a youngster, but I have to admit there is a part of me that misses being the host. No more planning the menu, trying out new recipes, decorating the house. I never thought about how my mother must have missed being the host. I just assumed she would be delighted to not have to go to all that trouble. She had done it enough over the years. It was time for her to be pampered for a change. And, yes, there is also a part of me that is relieved to not have so much work to do. But with aging comes the list of things that you cannot do anymore, for one reason or another. Children grow up and move on and want their own traditions. They deserve the same pleasure I had of being the host, and I must content myself with being a guest at the feast. But I do miss my rutabaga.