Happy Thanksgiving, my readers!
For much of the past dozen years, we have stayed with the same script. Thanksgiving is all about family, and so our family is almost always together. Mom makes a fantastic Turkey dinner; Dad makes the pumpkin pies using the super-secret Freed Family recipe (so closely guarded, I only became aware of the exact recipe last year); sister Angie assists Mom in the kitchen; brother Darren brings over his family almost every year (with his fiancee Erica and her 2 daughters, Britney & Caitlyn); many times my in-laws join us, as they will this year; sometimes my Aunt Linda (Mom's sister) comes to join us from her West Virginia home; and other members of our huge extended family come to join us, as well.
My daughter, Melody, and I are usually up early. We watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV, question why anyone would want to go to NYC on Thanksgiving to see the parade live, then discuss what we would do if we did go...
We eat a light breakfast, anticipating that we will be eating constantly for the rest of the day...
We pack up Faithful Pup Scout and head over to Mom & Dad's, this year with a few of our own pumpkin pies, now that I know the recipe!
The NFL games are usually already started and blaring on the TV when we arrive. Our family is full of sports fans, particularly football. We're all diehard fans of the Steelers (and Redskins, when my in-laws are with us), so it gets pretty lively, especially if the Steelers are playing.
Mom always has appetizers out, whether it's fresh veggies and dip, or chips, or shrimp.
Everyone grabs their seat in the family room, and, except when Brit & Cait are with us, the seats usually stay assigned throughout the rest of the day (the teen girls grab the best seats as soon as they arrive, and don't move out of them until we eat, so the rest of us play musical chairs throughout the day).
The meal is the best part of the day. Everyone heads to the dining room, where the seats are assigned: Dad at the head, Mom to his right, me to his left. The prayer tends to rotate among my Dad, me, Melody, or my father-in-law, Jim. We usually have a pre-meal game or assignment, many times arranged by Mom and Melody, involving thankfulness in some way. Sometimes it's as simple as saying what we're thankful for; other times, it might be a full ten-page quiz that is meant to be shared around the table while we eat. It's always fun.
The turkey is awesome. Mom has mastered her preparation. There are rarely any surprises. The meal is as traditional as it can be. And there is never enough room on the plate for everything that is served. Dad is the carver. Mom sits just long enough to get a few bites in before she rushes back to the kitchen to reload. Dishes are quickly passed around the table. Some items, because there are so many, are usually already cold by the time we get around to actually eating. And it's all great!
There is laughing, lively discussion, some shouting to be heard, and everyone is in a joyous mood.
And then the meal is over. We tend to linger at the table, not wanting it to be done too soon (unless the Steelers are playing). Then, at some point, though there's never a clear signal, everyone gets up and the table is cleared. It's a group effort. Mom never gets stuck with all of the cleanup. She plays referee, deciding which leftovers go in which microwave-safe storage plate or bowl. Angie usually mans the sink, rinsing off plates and placing them in the dishwasher. It's a madhouse, but there's organization under the madness.
Then it's back to the family room, to our unofficial assigned seats, and the desserts are served. Melody almost always plays hostess at this point, asking each person what they would like for dessert (pumpkin pie, cheesecake, mincemeat pie, jell-o, cookies...so many to choose from), then rushing back to the kitchen to tell Mom and she dishes it out, Melody then bringing a fresh plate to everyone.
We then begin to reflect on the day, and past Thanksgiving Days. We tell stories. Invariably, we talk about my wonderful wife, Teresa (now resting in Heaven with our Lord), and our traditions. We rarely learn anything new, since we tell the same stories every year.
And then the fun really starts. Out comes the Catchphrase game. Catchphrase is a little electronic disc that has a word or catchphrase on it, and each person, split up into two teams, must describe what it says (without saying the word) so that their team can guess the word, while a timer counts down, faster and faster, and once a team guesses the word correctly, it is passed to the next person to describe a new word, all while a timer counts down faster and faster. Whichever team is holding the disc when the buzzer sounds is the loser for that round. It is fast and frenetic and oh so funny. And everyone is laughing. It's great!
After an hour of that, it's usually getting dark outside, and my in-laws are the first to call it a day. Slowly, everyone begins to say their goodbyes, with hugs all around, and they journey home. Melody and I stay until close to bedtime, staying overnight at Mom & Dad's many times.
While driving home, when we do drive home, I always spend a portion of the drive thanking God for another wonderful Thanksgiving. He has blessed us so much, even as I battle through the sadness of another year gone by without my wife by my side, but knowing she's in a far better place.
Thank you, Lord, for this day, for your blessings, for our health, safety, and happiness. Thank you for my Melody, who I love so much. Thank you for family. Where would we be without them? Thank you for my life, Lord. Amen.