Such lovely words: staying home for Thanksgiving

November 21, 2006|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,Sun Columnist

I am beginning to like Thanksgiving.

I didn't always. Halloween has long been my favorite holiday. No greeting cards. No gifts. Minimal decorating. And the only food shopping is for bags of cheap candy. Your mother never asks, with a chill in her voice, "So, are you coming home this Halloween?"

And Christmas is hard to love. It starts earlier every year, and it is a heck of a lot of work. It is full of all the emotion and sentiment Halloween is not -- you never grieve for those who are absent at Halloween. And by noon on Dec. 26, Christmas has the sad, faded quality of an old housecoat.

So Thanksgiving is starting to look really good to me.

It used to mean traveling home to Pittsburgh, a six-hour drive in ridiculous traffic on Wednesday night and a high-speed return Friday morning to be back in time for the kids' activities and for their friends.

But that crazy business came to an abrupt end after we spent midnight and the next two hours sitting in traffic in Breezewood, Pa., with six Thanksgiving side dishes in the back of the van. "Who does this?" my daughter howled, and I had to agree that no sane person does this.

This will be my second consecutive Thanksgiving in my own home, and I am excited and happy. There's none of the dread I used to feel over the thought of being trapped in a vehicle with two cranky teenagers who never saw the point of driving so far for a meal.

My children will both be home, perhaps for the last time (although I have been saying that about all the holidays for a couple of years, now). I have invited a handful of my son's Naval Academy friends who are still stationed in Annapolis. My nephew has relocated nearby, and he will be bringing his roommate.

My son, Joe, calls these people my "strays," but the more the merrier is what I say.

Jessie, my daughter, will be steaming home from college, and she has big plans for Thanksgiving dinner. She says she wants to cook the whole meal, but you have to get out of bed pretty early on Thursday morning to do that. We'll see how it goes, but it will be fun to have a partner in the kitchen, instead of an impatient and hungry kid.

There will be a ridiculous number of side dishes as we trot out old favorites and Jessie introduces some new ones. I will have to bring another table in from the garage, and my house, so empty so many days of the year now, will seem suddenly very small.

Eliminate 12 hours of driving and a world of possibilities opens up. With Jessie's help, I might get some time in the garden while the turkey roasts. There is still plenty of cleanup to do, and the chill and the honest work will sharpen my appetite.

The plan is for Joe and his dad to pick up a load of wood. Here's hoping that the weather on Thanksgiving Day merits a crackling fire. There will be beer in stainless-steel tubs on the deck -- a far cry from juice boxes, but not quite champagne. I bought flowers for the table and, in a fit of extravagance, some shrimp to keep all my guests from starving if the turkey -- the largest I have ever purchased -- takes longer than expected.

Jessie will do the pies this year. And she insists on fresh whipped cream. I bought fancy coffee, and there will be football.

If all goes according to plan, the end of Thanksgiving Day will find me dozing in front of the fire. Home at last.

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