Thanksgiving, in our extended family, is my holiday. My mother-in-law does Christmas. My sister-in-law does Easter. But I do Thanksgiving. I have recipes that date back to my great-grandmother. Everything is from scratch. The table is set. The décor is fall. I would shoot for House Beautiful magazine layout perfection every year. I’d fail miserably, but I’d shoot for it!
Yeah, my table never looks like that, except in my head. LOL
Before the Big Day, it’s a two- to three-day cooking and baking frenzy. The first day is prep and storage. Everything is cut up and put into Tupperware bowls for easy access on T-Day. The second day is baking. I bake six to eight pies. And a jello/cream cheese mold my grandmother used to make (sometimes, because actually, I’ve never liked it LOL). T-Day starts at 4:30am with the turkey and followed by continuous shifts in my oven for the various dishes until 1pm, when we all sat down in our holiday best.
I also have a small house, with a husband, three kids, and four dogs. My mother-in-law comes to us. My three younger brothers join us. My uncle joins us. I worry about seating every year. I have to have a head count.
Then, a few years ago, I got a monkey wrench thrown at me – a family friend didn’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving. I hesitated, I’ll be honest. Where would I put them? What about my nuclear-family traditions? But, kindness won out and I invited them. Most everyone would, I know, however I did have to scramble a bit.
We had a lot of fun! We shared new stories and incorporated a new menu item brought by our guest. We played musical chairs, because, yes, I was short one seat. But we giggled and laughed and had fun, even though we were crammed at the table like sardines. I accidentally ate off the wrong plate.
The next year, I invited them back. And, that was the year I loosened up and invented The Open Door Thanksgiving.
I put the word out that my table, small as it is, was open to anyone who didn’t have their own family table to put their feet under. I got two takers that year.
Everyone pitched in. My one friend came over the night before to learn how to make pie crusts. My daughter took over making the stuffing. I learned that they are just recipes. So what if the stuffing was thicker on one side than the other? My son volunteered to make the sweet potatoes, so he could “ensure” there would be enough.
My brothers and my sons are closer in age than I am with my brothers. I decided we would start the dinner together and finish together, but if we were at different tables for the meal, the world wouldn’t end.
So, the younger set took over the family room. I put up a card table with a Christmas tablecloth, because that’s all I had left. At the kitchen table, the older set enjoyed their dinner and got to know the newcomers. Some crazy stories were told that day! And jokes about the resurgence of the “kids’ table” for adults ran rampant. LOL
But, I noticed everyone really talked and shared and got to know each other. After dinner, we all regrouped and had pie on the deck and, later, pulled chairs to the family room to watch football. That Thanksgiving ended more with relaxation than exhaustion. By taking the formality out, we let genuineness in.
We had fun together. And we’ve all gained new “family” that now my mother-in-law invites to her Christmas dinner.
And no one is left alone on a holiday.
This year, I will have my family, my mother-in-law, my brothers, plus my mother-in-law is bringing two gentlemen who have no family. My son knows that his coworker, who isn’t married, is more than welcome if he doesn’t have a relation to go to. I’m not exactly sure how many I’ll have yet. I’ll make plenty of food. And I’ll find chairs somewhere. And, I’ve extended the Open Door policy to the entire weekend! I’ll keep pies and coffee on hand, so any friend that stops by can have a little Thanksgiving with us.
I’m not going to shop. I’m going to be thankful.
It will be messy. It will be noisy. It will be crowded.
But it will be fun.
So, consider having an Open Door Thanksgiving. Watch at your church for someone who’s alone. Listen to a coworker. Ask your elderly family members if they have a friend who doesn’t have family nearby.
It probably won’t be Better Homes and Gardens magazine perfect.
But it will be perfect in the ways that count.