My husband and I live far away from our families, and now that we have small children, we rarely get home to celebrate the holidays with those we love. I can be a little bit blue around the holidays; I miss my parents and sister, and a house filled with family and old friends more than ever. Some of my Washington friends point out how lucky I am that I’m able to miss those awkward family gatherings, and I suppose this is a case of the grass being greener. But I also realize that there is something uniquely special about holidays spent at home, alone with my husband and three boys.
But family gatherings — particularly for Thanksgiving — are a quintessential American tradition, and I want my boys to experience some of that classic Americana. Even though my children are very little (all four and under), we do Thanksgiving right: Elegant table settings, china, flowers and candles, and of course, all the traditional food — a whole turkey (no dismembered turkey breasts for us dark-meat lovers), stuffing (specifically my mother’s heavenly stuffing, which I wrote about last year), mashed potatoes, green beans with chestnuts, and cranberries.
We’ll start the day off with a long walk to a coffee shop (we try hard to please the First Lady each holiday by planning a brisk walk before stuffing our faces with food only she is allowed to eat), then back home to begin cooking. Everyone helps out. My four-year-old has developed some pretty good butter-knife skills, and my three-year-old likes to help with pie crusts (after I nearly take a layer of skin off his hands from a thorough scrubbing). The one-year-old stands knee high and screams a lot (could he be the next Gordon Ramsey?).
We’ll rake leaves later in the afternoon, and then after it gets dark, we’ll roast marshmallows in the fireplace (that is, after my hyper-nervous husband performs his annual lecture on the danger of fire to the three toddlers — two of whom will be crying at the end). And of course there will be pie. This year, my four-year-old returned from school with a recipe for pumpkin pie. He’s in charge of desserts this year.
My boys will likely grow up with very little Thanksgiving regularity — we might be invited to someone’s house one year, another year we might make the purgatorial 18-hour drive to our families’ homes in the Midwest, or we might go crazy and plan to take a vacation over Thanksgiving break. In other words, we’re not on a path to create any annual Thanksgiving traditions in our house.
But we’ll all be together, and that makes it perfect.