Thanksgiving means a great many different things to folks here in the USA. For some, it’s about football. Others, it’s being surrounded by family. For most, it’s about the food. But for me, I need the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to make it feel like the holiday.
I don’t know why exactly. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m all about food! So why would a gal who’s not a fan of marching bands and rarely recognizes any of the pop music entertainers atop the floats be so fixated on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? I suppose it’s always been the magic and pageantry of it all. Or perhaps it is because the parade has always been the one constant in an ever-changing holiday for me.
As a young child, our family would gather at my grandparents’ tiny home in Findlay, OH. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins, grandparents, great-grandparents and anyone that happened to be alone on that day would celebrate together. The enormous turkey would be stuffed with oyster dressing and put into the oven the night before to roast on the lowest of settings. To this day, I’ve never tasted a more tender, sweet piece of turkey than what my grandmother, Nellie, made in that tiny stove of hers. She would hand-peel steaming hot boiled potatoes (a method I never fully understood the justification of until I was much older) just as the sun was rising for her secret recipe potato salad. Every palate would be sated. She had candied yams with marshmallows, mashed potatoes and gravy, ham, turkey, multiple types of stuffing, and the list went on and on ending with a stack, yes, an eyeball high stack of pies! We’d watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television followed by a full day of football. We’d laugh and play and make plans for our Christmas gathering.
As the years passed, the family Thanksgiving in Findlay, OH, slowly shrunk in attendance. Grandchildren and cousins got married, moved away, had children, and began hosting their own holiday gatherings. My husband and I hosted his family in our home many years ago. A while back, I volunteered at a soup kitchen. Others, I’ve spent with friends and loved ones. In fact! One year some of my dearest friends — family really — gifted me a ticket to sit with them in the marquee section of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That’s right! There we sat, in full view of anyone watching the parade on TV. Mum caught glimpses of us and it was like she was right there, too.
But the most recent years, I’ve spent the morning working, only to come home and make Thanksgiving dinner for my pug, Lenny, and I. Mum asked me what I was doing for the holiday every year and she would be furious if no one had invited Lenny and I to their celebration. Her “mother bear” protective nature never failed to make me smile. As my aunt said to me three weeks ago, “You never have to doubt her love for you. Not many have a Mom’s love like you did.” No matter where the two of us were on Thanksgiving day, we always spoke on the telephone — if only for a few minutes.
So this year, when friends reached out to me and invited Lenny and I into their families’ homes for the holiday, I should have been elated. But I declined every invitation as I simply could not predict my emotional state and it wouldn’t be right for me to accept and then cancel at the last minute. Lenny and I are an incredibly lucky pair as our friends graciously understood and altered their invitations to, “How about this…you can ACCEPT at the last minute, okay?” Mum would be thrilled that we had received such warm and lovely invitations. She would NOT have been happy with me for declining.
Whether my thinking is sound or not still bears to reason, but I decided a few days ago that Lenny and I would spend Thanksgiving together…at home…alone. We, or rather I, need to truly absorb and feel her absence. And I need to be able to laugh, cry and scream, in whatever succession it happens.
I’ve planned the perfect “Mum” meal — FreshDirect Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and a pint of vanilla ice cream which we will put on top of a slice of warm pecan pie in our RLF mug. For those of you who truly knew her, you’re probably giggling at this menu. For those of you who know me (a professional chef/baker) but are just getting to know her, she had an insatiable sweet-tooth and two of her most memorable food quotes are: “I’d eat crap if it were wrapped in a Crescent Roll” and “the perfect house is one without a kitchen.”
I know my friends and family will be only a phone call or text away so Lenny and I won’t “really” be alone. The kid and I will curl up with a plate full of hot crescent rolls in the morning and and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will march on.