Six days in Northern California afforded an idyllic visit with all our progeny -- two sons, three grandchildren -- as well as a taste of seasonal weather and the fall foliage we miss from years in the northwest and mid west.
An extended family of 13 sat down for the ritual feast with a delightful mix of traditional and innovative trimmings prepared by many hands: veggies (fennel and Brussels sprouts), starches (sweet-potato gnocchi with a sauce of brown butter, maple syrup and sage; cornbread; sausage-laced stuffing; scalloped potatoes), condiments (jellied cranberry sauce; cranberry-garlic chutney; turkey gravy), crudités (carrot, celery, jicama), green salad; and dessert (pumpkin pudding or apple pie -- choice of lattice crust or crumb top -- topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream).
Our younger son, the host, prepared an 18-pound free-range turkey (fresh, not frozen) -- brined overnight and slathered with mayonnaise to produce tender, juicy meat. Steve (having previously sharpened all the knives) carved and arranged turkey slices on separate platters of white and dark meat. Leftovers made wonderful sandwiches the next day, plus a Friday-night dinner of turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, and a crock-pot of rich broth for soups to come.
We proudly watched a video of one granddaughter acting two Pilgrims' parts in her kindergarten Thanksgiving pageant -- very traditional except that the entire text was presented in Spanish. BTW, the other Pilgrim had been disabled by stage fright, but our brave girl made the show go on.
Spirited sessions of Euchre went on into Thursday and Friday nights. Steve and I tried to be graceful losers in this fast-paced, counterintuitive card game handed down from my paternal grandfather to become a staple of family gatherings.
Every holiday evokes remembrance of its past observances in good times and not-so-good times: a Mt. Wilson picnic and other outdoor meals in southern California, a retreat from Pennsylvania to Ohio, an Illinois gathering of relatives from three states, family transitions in Idaho. Years marked by loneliness or bereavement balance the lavish celebrations. Everyone switches roles from host to guest and back again. Meals are well planned or unplanned, eaten in amity or enmity
Who knows what November 2011 will bring? I'm looking forward to it already.