Saturday, November 23, 2013
Our First (And Only) Thanksgiving Alone by Margo Hoornstra
A recent post here at Roses of Prose by Alison Henderson got me thinking. You may remember Alison shared that this would be her very first Thanksgiving with her only daughter living too far away to make it home for dinner.
I could relate because, quite a few years ago, I was the daughter in a similar situation. Alison's daughter moved away from home to accept a new job. I had moved far from home, not so much by choice, but with my new husband who was Regular Army.
The Viet Nam conflict was in full swing. Those years were chaotic for many of us just starting out. Six weeks after our wedding, my husband was sent to Fort Knox for basic training. Obviously, no wives allowed. That was hard to accept. I returned to my old room at my parents house. Ron and I saw each other only a handful of times over the next three months. That was hard too. Then he graduated from basic and was assigned to missile school at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. The good news, I could now go with him. The bad news, we'd be three days drive from where we lived in Michigan.
At the ripe old age of nineteen, I was away from home for the first time in my life. Sure my husband was with me, or more accurately, I was with him. We were so in love and thrilled to be together again. That didn't stop either one of us from being homesick. Especially as the holidays rolled around.
"You didn't miss much on Halloween." It was my father's attempt at humor. His way of softening the blow. His way of accepting the fact that both of his children - my brother was in the Navy at the time, stationed in California - wouldn't be home for Thanksgiving this year.
Determined to enjoy our own celebration, we went to the commissary and bought a turkey and, as they say, all the trimmings to cook in our new house. We invited some soldier friends over who would have otherwise spent the day in the barracks.
Forget the fact that I wasn't then, nor am I now the greatest cook. Having no clue what I was doing, I stuffed the turkey and put it in the oven as I'd seen my mother and my grandmothers do. We made mashed potatoes, probably a vegetable, though I don't remember what it was. We served gravy of some form or another. I don't remember the specifics of that either. What I do remember is, as we sat down to carve our bird, the first slice was tinged with green. Not a good sign. Upon further exploration, we discovered I'd neglected to remove the bag of giblets. But, hey, they were cooked too and the rest of the meat was fine. And we had a story to tell our children and grandchildren.
One of our guests, who happened to be a cook, baked a yellow cake with chocolate butter cream icing that was fantastic. The best we'd had, ever. Another story to share.
We talked, we joked, we laughed, we played cards after dinner. In short, we all had a good time. For a little while, none of us thought about being away from home, being away from our families, missing out on the traditions we'd known all our lives.
In the years since, we've been very lucky to be home when those holidays roll around. Celebrating with our parents and grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. As time went on, with our children and, more recently, our grandchildren.
There's something I've come to realize. That first, and only, Thanksgiving alone - we really weren't alone at all.
Have a terrific Thanksgiving everyone! Where ever you are on that day. Whomever you are with.