I remember as a child having everyone come to our home for Thanksgiving dinner. For as long as I can remember my mother has been hosting that meal promptly at 1pm. Both sets of grandparents would come, aunts, uncles, my sister, brother and myself. It eventually grew to include siblings-in-law, nephews and a niece. Some years there in South Central PA it would be snowing, some years we'd eat with the doors open because my brother was too hot. The weather seemed to be the only detail Mom couldn't control.
I can remember most of the food. Very little would change from year to year. There was turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, baked corn, green bean casserole (with onion rings on top. YUCK!), baked oyster casserole, cranberry salad, among a few varied things. My sister Cindy was always in charge of the green bean casserole when I was little. We'd banter back and forth about those yucky onion rings (I like them now) and eventually we'd compromise and there would be one corner with no onions just for me. My grandfather would bring the oyster casserole which was another yuck for me, but mom wouldn't make me eat it because she didn't like it either. My job as the youngest was to arrange the olives and pickles for the appetizer plate. My sister and I would spend the hour leading up to the meal taking turns snitching dill pickles off the tray. If either of us were to get caught, she'd yell "It's an APPETIZER plate, Mom!" and we'd all laugh. Some years if Mom was particularly busy she might not even notice until the tray passed by her at the meal and the dill pickles would be gone.
After dinner my brother would meet his friends for a friendly game of football. Tommy, Mike, Mike (yeah another one), Kurt, Butch and a few others would meet at Mike McCleary's house and that "friendly" game would sometimes land one of them in the ER for X-rays or stitches. Occasionally Cindy would take me up to watch. It was cold sitting on the ground watching them, but it was SO MUCH FUN! No one could tackle Mike but Tommy and he wasn't always successful. By the time we'd get home one or both of my grandfathers would be asleep on the couch, my dad and uncle, too, and my aunt would be headed home with a migraine at the mere mention of cleaning up.
I remember sitting in the kitchen with the women listening to Mom entertain her mom and mother-in-law while hand washing all the dishes from lunch. Then she would sit down and take all the turkey meat off the bones for meals later in the week. Years passed and my grandfathers did too, and we still had the meal but without the oyster casserole. Oh, Dad tried to make it a time or two until he learned that's what was causing his gout flare-ups each week after Thanksgiving. The kids grew up ... which was funny ... we just commented last year at how peaceful Thanksgiving dinner had become now that no one had a demanding toddler in a high chair. Tommy's friends all have kids and have scattered so there's no football game anymore. Grandma got Alzheimer's and so we sit and eat with her and hope that somewhere in there is a glimmer of memory as to who we all are. Now, as I prepare to trek home for this meal once again, I do so knowing my sister won't be there to steal the pickles with me or make green bean casserole without onion rings, but I'm thankful. I'm thankful that I had a sister who loved me enough to leave the nasty onion rings off my dinner, thankful my sister would want to spend time with me sitting on the cold ground cheering for Mike (LOL yeah, I know I should have cheered for my brother) thankful for the laughter we shared that last morning on the phone, and thankful for God's divine providence that I was exactly where I needed to be at the exact moment I needed to be there. It may be a little different, but I think I have the Thanksgiving sentiment locked in this year. I plan on enjoying every little detail locking it away for the future.