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Pins And Needles: Thanksgiving Traditions

...Roasting Pan and I are really quite close. He knows I start planning for this special meal days ahead. I like time on Thanksgiving Day to contemplate all four of my sons: their man talk and boy talk and parent talk and son talk, and note the few gray hairs, the certain weariness and the special compassion that fatherhood and unclehood brings...

On this Thanksgiving Day Gloria MacKay writes about family, and turkey, and pumpkin with whipping cream and/or ice cream (vanilla, chocolate and/or butter pecan) - and all the warmth and wonderful magic that make the celbration extra-special.

To read more of Gloria's splendid columns please click on Pins and Needles in the menu on this page.

Since the year my sister died my favorite Thanksgiving dinner was the only one I didn't cook. We always took turns. She cooked on the odd numbered years and I, on the even. One fatal odd numbered year, a long time ago, she was no longer with us and I was the only one left in the family with a roasting pan big enough to hold a 25 pound turkey.

Every year, sometime after Halloween, I think of Roasting Pan perched on the top shelf of my pantry, blue and white speckled lid slightly askew. He takes up more room than he's worth ó too big to drag down for Sunday dinner, too high to reach without a stool, too cumbersome to fit in the sink.

If he hadn't belonged to my grandmother I might have pitched him long ago, and learned to deep fry our Thanksgiving turkey in peanut oil, the way people do it these days. On the first Thursday after the third Sunday in November you can smell the sizzle in the air.

There was a time, it seems like only yesterday, I almost retired as my familyís holiday cook. I had two daughters-in-law and one sonís significant other marching into my steamy kitchen balancing pumpkin pies as fragrant and shiny as the toddlers who pranced alongside. Soon, I dreamed, I would hand over not only Roasting Pan (all he cares about is his day in the sun, actually just five basted hours in the oven, but what does he know) but also my recipe for marshmallow impregnated yams. Even though no one ever took more than a sniff and a stir I fixed them year after year.

"Where's the sweet potatoes?" someone always asked.

"Right here dear. Iíll pass them."

"No thanks. Just wondering where they were."

Traditions around our house tend to evolve in strange ways.

One tradition I would soon end with no regrets was the cooking of the Thanksgiving dinner. Others stood waiting to grab the baton, so I thought. But before long, the "others" ate at different tables, so I still preside, as much by default as desire.

Roasting Pan and I are really quite close. He knows I start planning for this special meal days ahead. I like time on Thanksgiving Day to contemplate all four of my sons: their man talk and boy talk and parent talk and son talk, and note the few gray hairs, the certain weariness and the special compassion that fatherhood and unclehood brings.

He must have been frantic the year I left him sitting on the shelf, untouched by even an aroma. First, it was Scott who phoned. "Mom, I called to talk to you about Thanksgiving."

"Yes...?" What's there to say, I wondered?

"Well, we decided there is not much sense in all of us driving way up there. It gets dark so early and it's too cold for anyone to go down to the beach."

"That's true," I sighed. They weren't coming this year. None of them.

"So, would you mind... would it be okay... if the four of us guys cooked Thanksgiving dinner at Craig's house this year? I'm afraid you would have to come early and keep the dogs and the kids out of the kitchen."

Playing with the children?

"Would it hurt your feelings?"

"No. No. Not at all. Great idea."

Next, Craig was on the phone. "Mom, I ordered a twenty seven pound turkey. Is that about right?"

"Perfect," I gulped. "You'd better borrow my roasting pan."

"No thanks, I bought one of those throw away ones."

I shuddered at the thought of my old friend on the shelf flipping his lid. I could almost hear him. "I suppose she's going to watch football all day while the guys hang out in the kitchen with their aprons on."

That sexist pot was half right. No aprons in sight, but the children and I did commandeer the remote and sprawl on the floor until dinner was served. Once I was seated I did not get up, not even one time. It was a strange feeling but somebody has to stay put. I had forgotten that someone could be me.

When I marveled at the feast my sons chanted together, "It was a piece of cake." Actually, they served pie. Pumpkin, with whipping cream and/or ice cream: vanilla, chocolate and/or butter pecan. Hmmm. I always made people choose.

These days Roasting Pan and I are a team, again. And we have help, again. Two amazing women now grace our table and I have plenty of help with the chairs. My grandchildren are taller than I am, although they say they don't grow, I'm just shrinking). I still start planning days ahead for the same old reasons. What goes around still comes around ó particularly the marshmallow impregnated yams. It's a family tradition.


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