As I was doing research on the first Thanksgiving, I found out that the only females left alive after those first awful years of sickness and starvation were four women and two teen girls. It is said that those six women alone cooked the food for the entire settlement and all of their guests on feast day. I could relate to those ladies!
Let me just say this right now: I have a love/hate relationship with Thanksgiving. I love my family and friends, and it makes me happy when we are all gathered together. BUT, because I have the gift of being able to cook a turkey, uncountable side dishes and desserts, AND have them all done at the same time, historically I’m the one who ends up cooking the entire Thanksgiving meal by myself. By the end of the day, my kitchen is a mess and I not only forget to be thankful, but I don’t even LIKE anyone who happens to still be in my home at that point (am I the only one thinking of Mary and Martha right now?).
See, I have a hazy memory from my childhood of that famous Norman Rockwell painting of Thanksgiving and I’ve been trying to recreate it ever since. I want the happy family gathered around a table filled with scrumptious holiday food. And, I want to be the smiling matriarch sitting peacefully at the end of the table. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that you can’t have it all!
Over the years I have tried to delegate, I really have. One year I told everyone to bring a side dish. But, instead of the expected potatoes and veggies, I got dozens of COOKIES! So, the next year I assigned specific dishes for people to bring. Instead of arriving with their food prepared, my guests came (when my part of the meal was ready to be served) with bags of ingredients they hadn’t cooked yet that they’d picked up on the way! It just became “easier” to go back to doing everything myself.
This year I’m trying something new. I announced to everyone that I will cook the turkey and dressing and that is all. I have it on good authority that my son has decided to make Chex mix (because I’m sure THAT is a traditional Pilgrim food!) and my middle daughter announced that she is bringing cranberry sauce and then she quietly added: “From a can.”
So, our meal this year will be eclectic and rather bizarre. I will have to remind myself (numerous times) that the Pilgrim’s meals were probably made up of whatever they had laying around. I imagine they were so grateful to be alive that matching dishes and a perfect menu were far from their minds.
And you know, a funny thing happened when I looked up that famous Norman Rockwell painting that I’ve been trying to recreate for all these years. I looked at it through my adult eyes, and the table isn’t laden with food. There’s a turkey, celery and a fruit bowl. That’s it. And, the leaves aren’t even cut off the celery! And, while grandma is smiling, she also looks a bit tired to me now. Plus, that family around the table? Some of them look like trouble. But, the best part is that if you look really closely you can see what looks like canned cranberry jelly!
It finally hits me that I have already achieved the Norman Rockwell vision of Thanksgiving! I can relax now and spend more time thanking God for his many blessings. Oh, and eating Chex mix.