Both my mom’s parents and my dad’s parents lived in the same town as we did growing up. There were no long treks over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. There was a constant flip-flop of where we’d go and what time to be there. Was it dessert only this year? Add to it that my parents divorced when I was six, and you’ve got the fun of which year the flip happened. Honestly, the years we went with my mom down to her brother’s house, are my favorite memories.
Aunt Julie and Uncle Kyle lived on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, 2 hours from my hometown. It felt like the longest drive of my life each time we made it. We would make the drive down on Wednesday night and at the early hour of 4 am, the guys would go hunting. The ladies would stay in and start meal prep. The cousins would watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Mom, Grandma, Aunt Julie, and assorted friends would prep the meal while the kids played. I have no memory of ever helping with meal prep. We prayed that this year we wouldn’t run out of water (nearly always happened) and that the guys would shoot at least one deer amongst them. There was no “kid’s table”, just everyone sitting where they could, balancing paper plates of food, wearing jeans, camouflage, and t-shirts. Pure bliss. Those were the best Thanksgivings. (Though my grandmother probably thought it was a bit low-brow. She always dressed up.)
In contrast, at my dad’s family we dressed up, the kids sat in one room, the adults in another. Sheer boredom. Great food, but sheer boredom. We’d eat dinner at my paternal grandfather’s, then head over to my step-mom’s family for dessert. It was a bit more fun there, but not much. I just don’t remember the free-wheeling, run all over, read, nap, etc that happened with my mom’s family.
Being a military family, we deemed Thanksgiving too short of a holiday to make the long trip back to our hometown, so we’ve been hosting for 14 years. Each year has brought an interesting menagerie of friends and food. In the last few years family has started making an appearance, which has added an new layer to our fun.
The first year we truly hosted a full dinner (with lots of friends) was 2004. We lived in Germany, and with my husband an officer, we had American-sized appliances in our apartment. Since my oven was the only one that could accommodate a large turkey (thank goodness for the commissary!), I hosted. Having never been in on the Turkey Day prep before, I had no idea what I was in for. Prior to ’04 we had fixed a small meal for Thanksgiving.
I asked our friends to bring whatever dish was traditional in their family. Wow! Did we have an assortment of foods! Macaroni & Cheese with Tomatoes, Stuffing, Green Bean Casserole, Rolls……I have a picture of the feast somewhere. I managed to roast a turkey and call it a day. The best part was sharing the day with new and old friends. The oddest part was that while it was a holiday for us, the Germans were going about their normal routines.
My next favorite Thanksgiving is 2007. My husband was deployed and the thought of making dinner for just me and 3 kids, aged 2, 4, and 6, was more daunting than I wanted to consider. My dear deployment-sanity-saving friend Brandi & I decided that with 7 kids and deployed hubbies we should combine forces to celebrate. We wanted good food & little clean-up–we chose the DFAC. The DFAC (aka chow hall) is staffed with world-class chefs and each facility on an Army post competes with the others to design the best ice-sculptures, desserts, etc. Excellent food, no clean-up for us! The only down-side is the lack of leftovers, but in the end not cleaning up wins out over leftovers.
In 2011 my dad & step-mom made the trek to Texas. Since they would just be in town Wednesday through Saturday, we decided to treat them to the DFAC instead of spending the day cooking in my tiny kitchen that only accommodated one person. Turkey Day dawned with temps in the 70s. By the time we left to go to the DFAC for dinner, it was in the 40s. We returned to our house for homemade pies. It was a nice visit and a great meal. Again, no clean-up!
Last year we hosted 3 of my 7 sisters, a fiance, a brother-in-law, 2 nieces, a nephew, and my mom for a grand total of 14 people in my house. It was lovely. I wish all 7 sisters, my brother and their families could all join us. My husband would go nuts, my house would be insanely full, and it would be blissful to me. If that were to happen, there would be 31 of us. At least one of my sisters would refuse to sleep here. The rest could pile in! To have all the cousins here at one time……
I’ve spent the last week prepping for my girls to dance in the Nutcracker this weekend–not prepping for the influx of family arriving next week. I’m not sure that influx is the correct word. There are only 3 coming. My mom is bringing her parents down. My grandparents are incredibly active and have made the drive twice before, but Mom is bringing them to Thanksgiving dinner this year. The kids will love having Grandma, Great Grandma Shirley and Pops here for a few days. I’ll love having them in my home for a meal. Oh, and I’m buying all the ingredients so Grandma can make me a batch of her cinnamon rolls. *wink*
All this brings me to the original reason I sat down to write this. (I’m not disciplined enough of a blogger to make a plan) Last year while trying to figure out how to plan out the meal, I found a great planning guide for Thanksgiving day, appropriately entitled The Gobble Guide. My biggest problem has always been that not everything is hot when it’s time to eat. This simple sheet made mealtime nice & organized last year. I’m sharing the link with you here for your very own guide.
Eat well next week!