Thanks Giving

For me there's a mingling of excitement and terror surrounding Thanskgiving. I've been hosting the dinner and weekend for our extended family for probably 20 years now so you'd think I'd have it down and could do it in my sleep. Well, I probably do half of it in my sleep anyway, getting up at the crack of dawn to get the bird in the oven. I won't go into my animal pacifist rap here. I'll save that for another blog.

There are a few traditional (for us) dishes that are required every year. One is the spinach-artichoke-cheese casserole. I can still remember the first time I ever made it. I was a 20 something newlywed who'd never cooked anything more complicated than spagetti in my entire life (ok, except for the time my girlfriends and I made dinner for our dates before the Sadie Hawkins Dance and we cooked salmon croquettes we'd learned how to make in Home Ec and just about burned down the kitchen - oh and spagetti, which was stuck to the ceiling for a week afterwards and Marybelle tanned my hide over that one).

So my husband-at-the-time and I were invited over to dinner somewhere and I had to bring a dish. My friend and supervisor at work (Louise Lawrence Schesel, the perfect, best dressed, cutest woman I knew and who I absolutely idolized) gave me a recipe for a never-fail casserole. Since I wanted to be the perfect wife and guest and just like Louise, I fought down the intimidation I was feeling about "casserole" and gave it a shot. It involved squeezing a lot of chopped frozen spinach dry with my bare hands and doing this one other fascinating process that was totally empowering: MAR-inating. Once everything is mixed together you MARINATE it for 24 hours. So all you have to do is take it out of the 'fridge the "day of" and pop it in a cool oven, turn on the oven and you're good to go.

Sometime during the past few years, this particular holiday dish turned into 2 casseroles and then 3 casseroles so now when I go to the store to buy the ingredients people stare at the lady with the cart full of boxes of frozen chopped spinach, and there's no room in the 'fridge for the turkey any more.

So it's a process: the shopping, the prepping, the squeezing, the MAR-inating.... that I have to gear up for, usually for a week or two. Then inevitably by the day before Thanksgiving I'm busting out of my skin trying to keep my mental lists organized; my husband can't see himself in the bathroom mirror because of all the sticky notes on it......

Thank you, God, for my husband. My hunter-gatherer. No woman could ask for a better husband. He's loving and thoughtful and patient. He takes out the trash even when he's too tired, goes to the store if I have a craving, kisses me first thing in the morning, last thing at night and constantly throughout the day, brings me flowers, opens doors for me, listens to me even before his morning coffee, loves his two stepkids with all his huge heart. And did I mention he's good lookin'?

Thank you, God, for my children. My perfect daughter and my miracle son. I love them fiercely. They mean everything to me. They are so wonderful and so right and so perfect in every way that I can't even verbalize it. My emotions overflow when I think of them and I lose the ability to put into words how constantly amazed and grateful I am that they are in my life, that they came from my body and are such strong, wonderful people giving so very much to this world. Last year, my son made the turkey. The year before, for the first time, he got up early with me and we made it together. This year, tonight, my daughter is coming over and we are going to cook together. We are going to peel potatoes, make pies, sqeeze spinach. My sister is driving in from Dallas to help out. We'll stay up too late and play cards like we used to do when we shared a bedroom growing up. Thank you, God, for my sisters.

I talk to my dad every day. He's the most amazing man in the world. He is always happy. He has a thoughtful word for everyone he meets and is the most distinguished and gracious man I've ever met. My girlfrends all were in love with him and some still are. If I were a man, I would want to be just like him. And best of all, he's a great father. He's Papa. He's John Wayne, the Marlboro Man, a movie star and a crooner all in one. From the time we could toddle, his three daughters would run to the door at 6 o'clock when Daddy came home from work, climb all over his lap and drink his coffee in the morning.... he taught us how to ride a bike, drive a car, reach for our dreams. Thank you, God, for my Papa.

My mother passed away in 1973. She was killed by a drunk driver on a Sunday afternoon. She is sorely missed. She didn't get to meet Bradley or my wonderful kids, or my fantastic nieces and nephews. She was an amazing woman. One of the most unconditional and enduring gifts my mother ever gave me - a true legacy and blessing - is my two sisters. Beautiful women who, along with my dad, I've known longer than anyone else in the world. We've laughed and cried together, shared each others' hopes and dreams, stood up for each others' marriages and stood by in the best and worst of times. We know we can always lean on each other and tell each other anything. I thank God every day for my sisters.

I hear so many people say, when the holidays roll around every year, "why can't people be like this to each other all year long"? And they make resolutions and determinations and slowly things fade back into the routine again and after a few weeks the holidays - and the holiday spirit - are forgotten: a thing of the past.

But this year I'm thinking about all those I know and love who are fighting for their lives, their homes, their jobs, their families, their country.... and praying that this time I will hold on a little longer to that spirit of love and peace and compassion and hope. That this time, we will ring in the new year with clear hearts and minds and the knowledge that it doesn't take all that much effort to make a difference.

Maybe it won't be so hard after all, this day of Thanks Giving. Here's my wish to you, who are reading this right now. I hope your life is happy and healthy and that the road down which you travel takes you where you want to go without too many bumps. I hope when you sit back today and look at the things you have going for you, you can smile and be thankful. Have a truly wonderful day.  (ls)

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