Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. This year I'm missing my sister Maureen--she and Olivier went to France, to say bon voyage to his brother and sister-in-law, leaving Bordeaux to open an inn in Indonesia. Missing my nieces, too--Mia will be with her friend, and Molly will be with her husband Alex and his family. We'll all be together in spirit, as well as with Rosemary...sometimes that's the best even a close family can do.
Thinking of Maureen and Olivier in France, I remember having Thanksgivings in Paris. The day would start by reading Art Buchwald's yearly-repeated column in the International Herald Tribune. Then I'd make dinner, including a not-so-easy-to-find dinde, for all my American friends there. There'd always be at least twenty...
I'm very lucky, though; a young friend, Nyasha, is coming down from Massachusetts to spend the holiday with me. I love having visitors from out of town, and I'll enjoy showing her all my favorite NYC places, and having a special dinner.
Growing up always had dinner with my father's sisters and family--Aunt Mary, Uncle Bill, and Billy Keenan, Aunt Jan and Uncle Bud Lee--either at our house in New Britain or the Keenans' in Elmwood. When it was at ours, we had lots to do to prepare. Wednesday was a half-day at school, and my sisters and I would run home to help our mother and grandmother.
We'd go down to the basement to get the good china and crystal glasses, and we'd wash everything till it sparkled. Mim would bake pies, and we'd help: apple, pumpkin, and mince. One of us would make cranberry-orange relish--a recipe via Ocean Spray from the Whitneys, the family across the street for whom I babysat--and another of us would bake cranberry and date-nut breads.
The three of us would help polish the silver, and fill bowls with nuts in their shells. My grandmother had a turkey platter, a green oval with a splendid turkey, its tail spread and preening, displayed on a hutch in the dining room. We would take it down, the only time all year, feeling excited to know the next day it would be laden with turkey.
(Photo below from right: Tom Rice, Bill Keenan, Mary Keenan, me, Billy's elbow, Lucille Rice raising her glass, tiny corner of Maureen's hair.)
After dinner, my father would lead a walk on Shuttle Meadow golf course, across the street. It was always wonderfully bracing and damp, and usually cold, and we'd tromp through the rough toward the brook and ponds, to see if any ice had formed yet. Given my father and Uncle Bill's humor, there'd be lots of laughter.
Dinner at the Keenans's was great, not only because we were guests and had only to bring the pies, but because Billy had these toy horses that I loved and wanted to play with long after it made sense age-wise. When we got older and could drive, "the kids"--my sisters, Bill, and I--would go to the movies. Billy and I were recently reminiscing about seeing Silent Movie at the Elm Theater. Dom Deluise's line, "I need a blueberry pie badly" made a particularly deep impression.
Billy was a football player; if he had a game we'd go see him play at Northwest Catholic. Later, when he went to Amherst College, one of my teenage highlights was to head up there with his parents and my sisters, tailgate in the parking lot, and feel like hot stuff because we knew Billy. (Photo of Rosemary, me, Bill Keenan.)
This year Thanksgiving falls on November 25. That is a bright and shining occurrence. It happened once many years ago. Mrs. Whitney, my "other mother," (and currently bookseller extraordinaire at G. J. Ford ) gave birth to her second daughter, the exceptional and luminous Sam--aka the best midwife in the west in my novel Dream Country. Sam lit up our lives from the minute she was born, and continues to do so while being the best midwife in the west, raising her daughter (my goddaughter) and twins, and telemark skiing in the mountains of Park City, Utah. (Photo of Sam and Sadie)
We all attended Vance School--from my mother to my sisters and me to the Whitney children (aside from Sam, the birthday-Thanksgiving girl, there are Tobin and the twins Sarah and Palmer.)
Every year all the classes filed into the auditorium, and we'd sing We Gather Together and Over the River and Through the Woods. May you all be gathering together with your families and friends, all your loved ones.
Cranberry Orange relish:
1 bag cranberries; 1 seedless orange; 1 cup of sugar. Make in two batches: chop up the orange and put half plus half the cranberries and half the sugar through a Cuisinart, food mill, or grinder. Then do it again. The relish will be delicious and you will be happy.
The photo above is of Maureen and me in the kitchen at Hubbard's Point.