My First Thanksgiving Dinner




Southern California Thanksgivings often arrive with sunshine and a beckoning for the beach instead of a cold fall day that draws you to a warm kitchen. Sunshine or not, the first time I hosted thanksgiving I was all in. This right-to passage meal was like graduating into the apron clad world of women.


My three little ones were 1, 3 and 5 so I was all about hard work. We invited my in-laws and my husband’s two sisters along with Aunt Sandy to join our table. The fact that they said yes and didn’t trump the invite felt like a victory. This was my chance to prove to my husband’s Latino family that this gringa could find her way around the kitchen.


The table was dressed with fine china, pale orange roses and candle sticks with white tapers. Martha Stewart would have smiled on the setting from her recent confinement behind iron from insider trading violations. This was the nineties but I still held my homemaking-hero in high regard.


I hadn’t noticed that all the chairs under the table had been tied together with shoe laces. Jake, my five-year old had a thing about joining objects together with many little knots. Stripping our shoes of laces was one of his first-choice weapons of tying things together. Little people have their own world going on down low.


As a young mom I use to pretend I was a cooking show host and my kids would laugh as I chopped away in the kitchen and faked a funny French accent to describe my manic culinary activity. Meal time was usually a high point in those days of young family life.


Ron worked long hours and the kids and I had found pleasant patterns to our life although I was lonely for adult relationships. My family lived a few hours North and I often felt I was on my own.


The turkey basted in rosemary, olive oil and fresh lemon juice filled the house with a savory aroma. Potatoes, wild rice salad, fresh green beans, a harvest green salad and sour dough rolls all ready to go. I also made some homemade salsa to add as a condiment.


Only a half hour after the set time my family dressed to the nines brought pumpkin and apple pies in black plastic pie pans from Vons. My children were dressed in casual clothes and I looked down at my jeans and heart felt a familiar ache. When we marry into a family we gain a new family but this comes with a loss.


Sitting down at the table after the chairs were set free, my gentle husband led the family in one of my family’s past traditions. We placed 3 kernels of corn at each place setting and shared, what you are thankful for, who you are thankful for and what you look forward to in the year to come.


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