Thanksgiving is without a doubt my favorite holiday for many reasons. I look forward to it the minute the leaves start to turn and you can detect ever so slightly the cool air coming down from the north. It's a time for all kinds of activities that involve home and family, along with a happy anticipation of things to come.
Every year, our Thanksgiving dinner gets bigger and bigger, as our family has grown over the years, along with many friends who join us. There are at least 50 people for dinner, and I love it!
I love planning the meal, setting the table, baking and freezing desserts three weeks before and looking in cooking magazines for new and interesting ideas for the meal. I have to make sure not to stray too far from the traditional recipes, otherwise I never hear the end of it!
Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, gratitude and traditions never lost as we pass them on to our children and our grandchildren.
I remember as a child the anticipation of watching the Macy's Day parade (my computer screen is way larger than our TV screen was back then!) so I could watch my beloved Bullwinkle as he floated on by, dwarfing the buildings as he majestically sailed in the air with antlers that reach all the way across Time Square!
I could hear my mother and grandmother running up and down the basement steps all day. That's where the Thanksgiving table was always set—never in the dining room; always in the basement. We had a second kitchen in the basement for large family gatherings with all the relatives and friends. The long table was set up from one end of the room to other, in order of birth. Starting at one end were the toddlers, ages 2 to 4, with the young mothers looking after them; the "kidlets," 5 to 8; the youngsters, 9 to 12; the teens, 14 to 16; the older teenagers, 17 to 19; the young adults; the young married (and back then everyone married in their early 20s); the adults; middle-aged adults; the grandparents; and the great-grandparents.
I remember sitting down in the almost middle of the table with the "kidlets" and being really annoyed and mad. All I wanted to do was to be with the adults at the "adult table" because that's where all the fun seemed to be—a lot of laughter coming from that end! I couldn't wait to be all grown up so I could be there and laugh too; there's nothing funny about 8-year-olds.
Nowadays, Tony, Alex, Ari and I plan a trip back home to Cleveland (I was born there) to have Thanksgiving with the relatives and relive some of my childhood memories so I can share them with my kids. From the moment we arrive, there is hugging, kissing and pinching of the cheeks and storytelling. We go to take our "places at the table," my kids at their appointed place and Tony and I at ours. I look down the very long table and can't get over how it seemed like yesterday I was at the "kidlet" table and how the time has literally flown by. I look to the left of me and see a sea of people in order of birth, and I'm filled with emotion as I take great pride in our family. Then I turn to the right and totally freak out! I realize that Tony and I are in the grandparents' section of the table and literally two people away from death!
I have to laugh at this point and really stop to say "thank you." Thank you to my grandparents for their traditions and their undying loyalty to family. My mother came to this country as a war bride at 16 years old—not able to speak the language and away from her family—and became the reason that our family is so strong and together, united and always there for one another. Thanks to my father who fought in World War II and served his country with great pride. He passed earlier this year. This is the first Thanksgiving without him, and I am grateful and giving thanks for all the years we were together. I'm thankful every day of my life, for all of the blessings and never ever taking anything for granted.
I can't wait for Thanksgiving every year to get together and to be able to serve all the traditional recipes that we have been doing for so many years. I can't wait to watch the Macy's parade in HD, the football games on the big-screen TV and to eat what Oprah refers to as her favorite holiday turkey, sour dough stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, glazed yams, creamed spinach, French green beans with shallot dressing, cranberry sauce, sour dough stuffing and holiday salad. Oh, yes, and dessert!