One of my most memorable Thanksgivings involved my then-18-month-old-daughter, Katie's first cross-country flight. While we flew--time certainly did not. Seven screaming, crying, and fussing hours later, Katie managed to fall asleep just as we were landing. We had a wonderful fall weekend in Massachusetts with family, trying to avoid thinking about the return flight back. Apologies again if anyone reading this happened to have been on the planes with us.
2012 was the year our turkey fryer caught fire. As I watched the flames leaping from the pot, I didn't know if I should worry about the house burning down or the fact that my 18 guests (who chose our family to celebrate with as opposed to blood relatives) will only be eating side dishes and pie for Thanksgiving dinner. Fortunately, I always have a backup turkey and my neighbor kindly fried it in her pot. Worse case scenario, I also always make a killer house drink in which most would have forgotten they were even supposed to have turkey on Thanksgiving. Hmmm...I think the oil may still be in the pot, circa 2012.
My most memorable Thanksgivings have been attending Aggie football games with my dad. For many years when the Aggies played on the holiday, we would eat an early Thanksgiving meal and travel to College Station to watch the Aggies play. The most memorable was attending the last time we played the University of Texas and even though we lost, I will never forget that game. I also, value spending the time with my father because football has always been one of our common bonds.
In years past, I have had some memorable Thanksgivings - some attending The University of Texas-Texas A&M football game in Austin and others on the beach in Southern California. However, this year my wife and I are hosting Thanksgiving for 30 of our neighborhood friends and their families who lost their homes in the Hurricane Harvey flood. We are cooking turkeys and we have asked each family to bring a dish, dessert, or something that reminds them of Thanksgiving. We are planning a day of fun, laughter, gluttony and football and expect it to be a very memorable Thanksgiving.
In 1987, my then partner Jeff and I were in Bethesda, Maryland, so he could participate in an NIH trial for Interferon for HIV. We didn't know anyone there, and were so moved when one of the medical staff invited us to have Thanksgiving dinner with his family. I was overwhelmed at the gesture at such a scary and emotional time for us. I remember feeling thankful (and hopeful) for time we had left.
In 2013, my mom literally cooked everyone's favorite dish and dessert. There was so much food that we had it spread over two rooms. Because we invited everyone we knew to come by, there were little to no leftovers. I often look through old pictures and found this one of my mom's parents, my beloved grandparents, and the spread my grandmother prepared every Thanksgiving. This is where the spirit of feeding the whole neighborhood was instilled in my mom and she made that Thanksgiving very memorable with lots of smiles and full happy bellies.
I did not inherit my Mom's ability to cook this kind of spread but I'm working on it.
My family is British, so Thanksgiving wasn't a particularly sentimental event. I've typically done things a bit differently each year with friends and family and friends who are family. Perhaps the most memorable Thanksgiving for me was spent in Nicaragua in 2013 with a bunch of wonderful strangers from around the world learning to surf for a week. Great way to work off the calories! Regrettably, I have not hit the waves in earnest since then, but I plan to change that on a trip to Indonesia in December with my husband of one year. It's time to make new holiday memories!
In 2015, my parents, brother, fianc and 13 aunts, uncles and cousins gathered in Carmel, California for Thanksgiving. It was great to get everyone together in a breathtakingly gorgeous place. Late afternoon Thanksgiving day a few of us drove over to Pebble Beach to grab a cocktail, as is necessary when navigating such a large family gathering. As the sun began to set over the Pacific, a lone figure appeared from out of the approaching fog near the 18th green. This kilt-wearing apparition began to play the bagpipes - that gloriously beautiful sound only true Scots seem to create - as the temperature quickly dropped and we hunkered down by the fire next to loved ones and strangers alike. Giving thanks came easy that day.
My most memorable Thanksgivings, since my parents died, have been when the entire family is together. With all of us spread out between Houston; Nashville; St. Louis; O'Fallon, IL; and who knows where (LA, Nashville, NYC or London) for one particular family member, it's become increasingly difficult for us to accomplish that. This photo was taken in 2013 and I believe it's the last time all spouses, children, and grandchildren were together, which is typically filled with lots of hugs, laughter, wine, food and, of course, games of all sorts!
Every Thanksgiving morning since I can remember, there has been a dancing turkey in our house. My biggest passion since I was literally two years old has been dancing, so this family tradition is by far my favorite. In the morning, I come downstairs to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade with my mom and dad. My dad and I sip coffee and watch as my mom scurries around the kitchen with her Thanksgiving "Linner" preparations, as we always eat nice and early around 2:00 pm or 3:00 pm. This allows for a generous food coma nap during the football game. Before my mom stuffs the turkey, she always brings me into the kitchen to watch, giggle, and sometimes participate as she shakes and wiggles the turkey about, simulating a type of dance. As my family loves Bruno Mars, we typically have one of his songs playing in the background to add to the fun. My dad watches us laughing as we excitedly shake and jive with the turkey, even at times creating a conga line and dancing through the kitchen. It's one of those ridiculous family rituals I look forward to every year, as it fills the house with laughter, music, and most importantly, a dancing turkey!
My husband and I usually spend Thanksgiving on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our wedding anniversary falls during the Thanksgiving holiday and the Big Island is where we honeymooned in 1980. In 2005, we traveled to the Mauna Lani hotel where we played golf on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. My husband insisted we get to the beach before sunset. When I arrived at the beach, a minister, photographer and Hawaiian dancer awaited us with leis, a heart shaped flower arrangement in the sand and the most vivid sunset I have ever seen to renew our wedding vows. After the ceremony we sipped champagne and spoke of the wonderful life we had together, the love we shared, and our future dreams. It was a magical time. This year we will return to Hawaii and celebrate our 37th year together. This holiday will be especially poignant. I was run over by a car this year and spent a month in a wheelchair. My husband had heart surgery. Count us healthy, grateful and determined to live life to the fullest.
I knew moving to California from Texas would present new surprises, family dynamics and adventures, but I never thought about what would be in store for the more traditional times, like the Thanksgiving holiday. Safe to say, my most memorable Thanksgiving was in 2013.
We had just bought our home and it wasn't in shape to throw a festive event, so we decided to have it in Napa. What I didn't realize was that the tradition there included setting a table outside--had the pilgrims done this?-- sitting by an outdoor fireplace well into dark, and the most unusual part, not making a turkey. That's right! Now not to be sexist, but in my memory, cooking the bird was the dude's job. You know Mom would be fussing with all the trimmings and Dad would be out with his beer basting the bird.
Well, I learned that year that in keeping with a California tradition, it wasn't necessary for me to worry about a thing, my girlfriend had it all under control: her ex-husband would be on hand to barbeque the turkey! That's right, welcome to California-- or should I say, "Modern Family" where more the merrier is taken to heart, egos are swallowed and all the "orphans" large and small, be they friends, relatives or exes come to celebrate a day where good fortune is the headline, not politics.
A little unusual, yes. More time for football, absolutely! But, now four years later I can say I'd do it no other way. Just raising the bar for gratitude, or maybe considering a new California attitude.