To my mind Thanksgiving has always been the most familial of holidays. I know for a lot of people, it’s Christmas, but I grew up celebrating Christmas always with just my parents and brothers and sisters. We never went anywhere. We never visited relatives. We opened our presents and played with our toys and stayed home and made a lazy day of it.
Thanksgiving was different. It was a day of feasting, to be sure, but feasting with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. Sometimes there were friends who had no where else to go. We always had much more food than we needed. The adults always gathered in the living room after dinner and talked and talked and talked and reminisced about bygone days. The younger kids played until they couldn’t stand up any more, and the older kids, torn between the desire for play and the desire to hear family stories, sometimes joined the younger kids and sometimes the adults.
Sometimes in the evening we would gather around the piano and sing hymns everyone seemed to know. We all felt much closer than we really were. Or maybe we really were closer, and the distance produced by space and time and difference was what was unreal.
There was always turkey, of course, and mashed potatoes and gravy, and home-made dinner rolls, and plenty of butter. Usually there was pumpkin pie and green bean casserole with French onion topping and jellied cranberry sauce and dressing. But what I remember most was not the food. It was the comfortable feeling of satisfaction, the fulness of being sated with food and family and fun.