Thanksgiving morning began before dawn during my childhood, as dinner was served at mid-day. Snug in my bed I could hear my mother toss together the breadcrumbs and chestnuts, the oven door creak and slam as she shoved the basted turkey into the oven; spinning clicks of the kitchen timer being set, thumps of a rolling pin. Water filling pots, dogs scolded. The next five hours were about timing — jobs diviid up the night before, tightly coordinated oven space, fillings whipped, potatoes peeled. Even as a small child I had a job, perched on a stool, a glass bowl full of cranberries on the counter in front of me, chin-level, my mother handing me a fat needle threaded with dental floss so I could string — berry by berry — necklaces for all the guests. A few minutes before noon we pulled the aprons off, fluffed hair, found shoes and were presentable in the nick of time for my grandparent’s Cadillac to roll into the driveway.
This year we don’t host, staying in a daughter’s house several states away, assembling our dishes at leisure as the turkey won’t be plated until the end of the day in someone else’s kitchen. There will be walks in the woods, bike rides and pancakes. I wake at five o’clock anyways and watch the sun come up, remembering over a hot mug of tea. They are all gone now, from the Thanksgiving of my childhood, their places taken by my children, their spouses, new dogs, new friends, bigger tables. And other, adult friends I called family are missing; I still want to call my girlfriend and ask her what she is wearing. A year and a half is not long enough to change that habit. Instead, I will text her daughter. This is precious time but I recognize, as the day brightens and the memories shift around me, there is sadness amongst the sweet.
I get up, tea cold, to roll out my pie crusts. My ghosts jostle at my elbow, urging me to make it thinner, bake it longer, get the flour off the floor before it tracks into the living room, chose a different outfit. The kitchen can be very crowded at Thanksgiving. Then I hand them all aprons and cranberries and we get to work.
Wherever you are, however the day is spent, I am thinking of you.