I’ve spent basically the past 12 hours in the kitchen, even though I only made one thing for our Thanksgiving. I guess that’s what a real holiday is to me: time stops for an entire day with the excitement, the preparations, all the little details, and the things that always go wrong at the last minute (this year, ours was that our turkey was finished cooking about 3 hours early, and there wasn’t any time or oven space to cook the pumpkin bread…) My aunt has been here since before I even woke up, so there have been cooking consultations, searches for serving plates and spoons, conference speaker-phone calls with my cousins about roasting vegetables and loaf pans, and lots of taste testing of the mashed potatoes, one fork each, until they’re just perfect (the absolute highlight of the day for me).
I think Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, in application. There are other holidays that I like better, in theory, but never really live up to what they’re supposed to be — New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day. Maybe what I like about Thanksgiving is that there isn’t any commercial aspect to it, nothing to anticipate or worry about like gifts, just good company and an even better meal.
It’s really my aunt’s Thanksgiving, but we did it at our house this year because her oven was on the fritz. I was worried that the character would be changed — her house is so much cozier, with low ceilings and floors that creak as you move from one room to the next, while my mother tends to do her parties fancier, with both my grandmother’s silver coming out, old crystal water glasses and a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond for 12 wine glasses that actually match. To me it sort of feels like a whole lot of stuff that isn’t really necessary for it to feel like family, but for her I guess it’s nice to use it all when she has the chance. At my aunt’s house us “kids” (we’re all grown now, but there still isn’t even space at the table) usually eat on their couches, watching the reruns of holiday episodes of 90s sitcoms. We have our own special supply of mashed potatoes and gravy, and my aunt drinks much too much wine throughout the day, and there’s a lovely casualness to that. There’s always next year.
Even at a good party though there are always quiet moments when I can understand why people find the holidays so difficult. When you’re not sure what small-talk to make with someone you only ever see once a year, when you feel like you say the same things to each other each time. Moments when you can be surrounded by people, family even, and feel somehow completely alone. Those moments are rough.
But much like with any party, I think my favorite part might be the end of the night, stepping out of my high heels, unclasping jewelry, washing off makeup. It’s fun while it lasts, but can only exist in a limited quantity, and it’s always nice to go back to normal and curl up in bed.