More Thankful NowWhen I was a child, I had a love/hate relationship with Thanksgiving.
I loved Thanksgiving because I knew that it was one of the "commanded appearance" holidays, which meant that even though my father said he hated his family and also that he hated my mother's family, that we had to go somewhere.
And that part was good because my mother hated to cook, so the only way we were going to have a feast on Thanksgiving was if someone else cooked it. I'm sure her dislike of cooking had something to do with her mother's perfectionistic nature. Though she never discussed cooking with me, she did tell me that her mother often made her clean and re-clean items.
"Once, she made me clean the toilet ten times," my mother moaned as she stood over me while i scrubbed the toilet, "and then she finally did it herself."
Thankfully my mother didn't make me re-clean the toilet that day, but as you may have guessed, she wasn't into housework either.
So the love part of my attitude about Thanksgiving was all about the fact that both of my grandmothers liked to cook. My mother's mother would cook a huge turkey and also add handmade Italian specialties like cheese-stuffed ravioli to the traditional menu. My father's mother also cooked a good turkey, but sometimes she would cook lamb. I still remember how my aunt shared with me how wonderful the savory bits at the bottom of the roasting pan tasted.
So I didn't care where we went for Thanksgiving. But my parents did. Even as a child it was easy to tell that my father would rather not go anywhere. He'd complain for days about how his parents had been cruel to him.. So my mother would say, "Let's go to my family's house, then."
And my father would launch into a tirade about all the things wrong with my mother's family. And after days of arguing, we kids would be woken early on Thanksgiving. Usually we'd go to my mother's family and save Christmas and New Year's for my father's family so he could spend hours lecturing his mother with Bible verses about why she shouldn't be drinking.
And, boy, we'd better scurry to get dressed and not complain about whatever was offered for breakfast, or my parents' frustration would have a new focal point. And I certainly didn't want it to be me.
So after my parents argued about what to bring (because of course my mother hadn't cooked anything) and after my mother whined for awhile about how she couldn't bring anything store-bought and that her mother would ridicule her for anything she made herself, they'd settle on a bag of rolls and head out.
When we got there my mother would purse her heavily-lipsticked crimson lips and act as if she was desperately happy to see her mother and siblings, while my father refused to come in the house. He and my grandfather would stand in the driveway and talk about cars until my grandmother said my father was rude (she was from the era that dictated that it was permissible for her to label her son-in-law as rude but not her husband) and my mother went out and brought them in.
Then there was the dinner conversation, peppered with little digs about how insensitive and uncaring my father was (which was true but not helpful) and my mother's answer of blaming her children in on manner or another.
And through that I would eat as much as I could, not caring if it made me feel sick on the 2-hour drive back to New Jersey, because the overstuffed feeling was less painful than the crampy empty-stomach feeling. And there would be leftovers that my grandmother would insist we take home. And my mother would say, "No, that's OK," but I would take them and say, "Thank you, Nana."
Maybe it wasn't helpful the way my grandmother tried to care for us kids at least a little. Maybe it would have been more practical if she had shown some confidence in her daughter and praised--something--about her. But it was what it was at that time.
Which brings me back to my title.
And as is the norm for most stories, the 'more thankful now' part isn't as riveting as the dysfunctional part. So I needed to create a contrast, to help you understand why cooking a 12 pound organic turkey and serving it with mashed potatoes and storebought rolls for my small family and a few friends makes me feel more thankful than the Thanksgivings of my past.