Thanksgiving turkey
Things That Matter

Leftovers and Long Goodbyes

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Dear friends,

It was Thanksgiving evening, and my son and I were in our coats. We’d been trying to leave for 20 minutes. I was hot, I’d eaten way too much, and I was starting to feel anxious.  

Now our sweet Mama wanted me to take the turkey carcass.

“Let me just wrap it up for you real quick,” she said.

“Thank you, Mom, but we’re good with all the generous leftovers you already gave us.”

“You could use it to make soup.” She was already lifting the bony skeleton into a plastic bag.

My sister hugged me and whispered in my ear, “Just take the turkey carcass. It’s easier than resisting.” 

Sweet Memories

I’ve been reminiscing about past Thanksgivings this week. Have you? Perhaps it’s because the pandemic has changed everything, but my recollections seem extra clear and precious. 

Our mother prepares for the family feast all week—shopping, cleaning, cooking, polishing silver and making turkey stock for the gravy.

When we arrive, she offers her crunchy roasted almonds in a silver dish. Drinks are poured and we crowd in the kitchen to help. We stir and chop and laugh and eat handfuls of Chex mix. The kids play with our parents’ dog, Martha.

The turkey emerges from the oven, golden brown with an aluminum foil cap covering the stuffing. Pop eventually pulls out a sharp knife and says, like clockwork every year, “I guess it’s time to disassemble the turkey.” 

Mom has set a pretty table with fresh flowers, candles, cloth napkins, the family china, and silver cutlery with the patina that comes from decades of service. Music from the stereo plays in the background.

We hold hands, bow our heads, and Pop gives thanks to God for each one of us and asks for blessings on our meal.

 

Thanksgiving dinner

 

Around the table we talk and pass dish after dish, all our favorites—the disassembled turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, scalloped corn, a green salad with fresh oranges, cranberry relish, and Aunt Lois’s cherry bread.  Because we are a gravy-loving family, Mom serves it in a silver water pitcher instead of a gravy boat.

The dishes go around the table again and again, with much encouragement to have seconds and thirds. 

My sister bakes the world’s best pies—pumpkin, pecan, apple, jumbleberry, cherry and more, and these are served after dinner with whipped cream and hot coffee. Most of us have “a sliver” of each, because how can you resist?

Then we sit around the table and tell stories and laugh. Pop picks up a spoon and taps it against his cheek, making hollow little tunes. 

Eventually the sun dips behind the mountains and we begin to think about leaving. This process takes time, as the leftovers will need to be divvied up with many admonitions to take more. 

After the negotiations of the leftovers are completed, it’s time for all the hugs and goodbyes.  

Then we finally load up the car with a slew of plastic containers (and one very large turkey carcass) and make our way across town, happy and well-fed in every way. 

The Difference a Year Makes

On Thanksgiving 2019 we gathered for a large, raucous meal hosted by my niece Emilie and her husband Quinn. Looking back, I marvel at the normalness of the day and how innocent we all were.

None of us had any inkling of the worldwide pandemic that lay ahead, or the heartbreaking fact that here in the U.S. there would be 250,000 empty places at the table this year. 

Our small, simple Thanksgiving 2020 will no doubt be memorable in its own way.

But I would give anything to have everyone gathered for the family feast, and stretch out those hugs a little longer. 

Perhaps this is one of the gifts of COVID-19, the realization of how precious our times together truly are.

I know I will never take a Thanksgiving dinner with the people I love most in the whole world for granted, ever again. 

And Mom? From now on, I promise to take your generous gift of the turkey carcass without a fuss. 

How About You?

How will you celebrate this Thanksgiving?

Will you share some of your Turkey Day memories here?

I’d love to hear about your celebrations, your family’s quirky traditions, and the moments big and small you’re remembering this week. 

May God bless you this Thanksgiving, and keep you and your loved ones safe and well. 

Best always,

Signature for Eliza Cross

 

Grateful thanks to pixel1 at pixabay for the turkey photo and  krakenimages on Unsplash for the dinner image above. 

Eliza Cross is the author of 15 books, including recent titles like Bacon Beans and Beer and Small Bites. She blogs at ElizaCross.com and is the founder of the BENSA Bacon Lovers Society. Her articles have appeared in publications like Sunset, Parents and Writers' Digest. Eliza lives near Denver with her family.

4 Comments

  • Kathleen Pope

    Teary eyed, as I finished reading your sweet tribute to Thanksgivings past, and the hope of what Thanksgiving’s will yet be to come! Normally our family is shooshing down the mountain with extended family in Crested Butte, or frolicking in the surf in Carmel, Ca — both with extended families.

    Always full of laughter, fun, GREAT food, better left overs, fun, deep, light conversations, games, warm hearts, photo’d memories and more. But this year because babies are about to be born, babies were born not long ago and well maybe we didn’t look into alternatives due to COVID, so there you have it, I guess it is due to this pandemic.

    But I rejoice because my college freshman is home, it will just be our little family of 4, but everyone wants to chip in to help (yay me!) and we are blessed with a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, wood in the fireplace, legs to walk, arms to hug, mouths to speak kindness, the ability to zoom, watch sappy Hallmark moves, do puzzles, and rest…together!

    God bless you this Thanksgiving my beautiful friend!

    • Eliza Cross

      Kathleen, I’ve always loved seeing your photos and reading about your Thanksgiving adventures in past years. This year will be different, but all of your plans sound divine! It’s great that Kieran is home, and your mellow celebration is the perfect 2020 compromise.

      One thing I know FOR SURE is that the food at your table will be fabulous! Readers, if you haven’t checked out Kathleen’s blog TheFreshCooky.com you are in for a treat. You might begin with this timely post, 36+ Thanksgiving Menu Ideas for 2020:

      https://www.thefreshcooky.com/traditional-thanksgiving-menu/

      Hugs and thank you for sharing your thoughts. xxo

  • Aunt Lin

    Enjoyed sharing your memories, and picturing all of you together! Having shared in other meals with all of you, it is easy to imagine, and I can even hear my brother’s “musical talent” in my mind’s ear! What a blessing family times together are. If this year we only have the memory and the hope there will be future gatherings, maybe face time, or zoom, or phone calls this year, and knowing our lives have been spared from the current plague, is enough for which to give thanks and be glad.

    • Eliza Cross

      Dear Aunt Lin,
      Thank you for putting everything in the perfect perspective of gratitude for Thanksgiving 2020. You are so right that we have many blessings and much to be thankful for. I am so grateful for our extended family and the good times we have shared. Hopefully, before too long, we will be together again. Until then, hugs and love to you and your girls and all of your family.
      Much love! xxoo

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