17 Nov

5156343776_1f6f1dff21_oIt is November and I feel myself curling inward. Wrapping up in several layers of blanket burrito. Cocooning myself from everything in the world while I’m feeling weary, heartsick, vulnerable and, well…Novemberish.

November has always been a tough time for my family. I have awful memories from when I was a teenager of a certain Thanksgiving meltdown involving my mother and a broken freezer. This in itself is probably nothing unusual for families, and I bet everyone has dreadful stories of Thanksgiving meltdown trauma, but hers was fueled by addiction, and after the holiday we were motherless for a month or so while she was in a rehab facility. At least, that’s the way I remember it. My recollection of many, if not all, of my teenage years are hazy because they were just so wretched, and I think I have purposefully forgotten most of the details.


At any rate, a few years after that, my uncle died, and Novembers became a very sad time for my grandmother. I suspect Uncle Fred was her favorite, and she never quite recovered. With the passing of the years, each November would bring a deeper and deeper funk, and I believe that may have cast a pall over the rest of us as well. Then, a few years after that, my Aunt Carla died in November. A few years after that, my mother passed. Not in a November, but an early December. But still.

So…November-December is traditionally rough on my family. Now that both of my grandparents have passed (my grandmother just earlier this year) it is just my sisters and I–and of course our one cousin who is very nice and we aren’t as close as we should be and that is no one’s fault but my own–and while my sisters and are not exactly “lost”, we’re just feeling a little out of our depth sometimes, I think. I mean, everyone’s dead. We’re the “adults” now. Never mind that we’re all in our late thirties/early forties and have been adults for several years…it’s just that now we are literally all that is left. We have no one else to turn to for help or advice, or anything at all any more. Though to be honest, I haven’t needed to do that in a very long time (and my mother never had a lot of help to give anyway) …it’s just…we don’t even have that option now. They are all gone. It’s just us.

So, I guess I have some pre-Thanksgiving jitters. For the past 10-12 years or so, I’ve been doing the majority of the preparations and cooking for Thanksgiving, but my grandfather was around to peel the potatoes, which he always did with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade blaring in the background, as both my grandparents were terribly hard of hearing and neither ever wore their hearing aid. My grandmother would emerge from her bedroom wearing one of those festively seasonal old lady sweaters and a spritz of Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door. She and my mother would hover around me and insist that the dressing/stuffing (Which do you call it? We’re a “dressing” family) needed more broth–no, more broth!–make it soupy!–it’ll dry out in the oven! And answer all of my questions about how much onion or celery or sage do I need, and so on. I’d been making it forever at that point, and I instinctively already knew the answer to these questions,  but it was, I realize now, such a comfort and …ugh, I can’t believe I am typing this because I hate this phrase…but a blessing to have them both there with me, at the same time, in my adult life to guide me through the rigors and rituals of Thanksgiving dressing. With and without oysters.

Thanksgiving dinner has always been at my grandparent’s house, for as long as I can remember and no doubt even before that.  This year it will be my kitchen that the food is being prepared in. It will be my dining room table (and spilling into the living room, because our dining room table is not actually all that big) that my guests will be sitting at. We can have wine with dinner if we want! We never really did that before, what with all the rampant alcoholism that some people brought to the table. It’s just going to be weird. And different. Growing up, I always thought to myself, “when I do Thanksgiving dinner, it’ll be different!” I suppose I thought turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes seemed a little homespun, or common or something. I wanted fancy. Or maybe exotic. Like … curry or something? … tamales? Who knows what I wanted. I just wanted …different. And now that it’s all up to me, and I have all the control I could want over this holiday’s menu, I just can’t help but think how nice it would be if we kept it exactly the same.  Because things are already different enough as it is.


My youngest sister is in town now, flown in from Indiana on an early morning flight to spend the next week with us. We are both in Orlando, staying at our other sister’s house, for the first part of her trip. She arrived exhausted, and is napping in the guest room, channeling my grandmother with her house-shaking snores.

I think we are all cocooning over this next week. Slowing down, resting quietly together. We are all processing how different this year has been, how different this holiday will be, and trying to get to a place where things feels okay again or figuring out if that place of normalcy even exists. And I know that all of us, in various ways, are currently trying to do the same thing. You get it, I know you do.

So from my blanket burrito to yours, I’m wishing you peace and quiet and a soft place to rest right now. If we don’t hear from each other for a while, we’ll know why. And it’s okay. We will see each other again when we emerge from our cocoons.

In the meantime if you post your Thanksgiving menus in the comments, you will have given me many delicious things to ruminate upon over the next week 💗

Angeliska says

Hey honey pumpkin. I'm thinking of you, and sending you big love.
In the meantime, I'm planning to (probably) make my Thanksgiving staple dishes, and maybe develop one more... They are as follows:
Pomegranate Persimmon Autumn Gold Salad
Cranberry Apple Chutney
aaaaand working on a golden beet/parsnip red lentil curry situation!
We'll see. Holler if you want recipes!
Rest, be very gentle with yourself, and remember that you are adored.

S. Elizabeth says

I will indeed holler because I am intrigued by your salad and your chutney! Chutney! There's my "exotic"!

Celephais says

I have been away from your blog for a while now, cocooning in my own metaphorical (and quite often literal) blanket burritos as an escape from...oh, a kind of depression or malaise, I guess, among all sorts of other things. What a perfect post for me to return on. Perfect in the sense that you so exquisitely capture feelings unique to your own particular situation but to which I can clearly relate.

In any event, I'm teaching abroad this fall, so Thanksgiving means the first time in, well, ever that I won't be with friends or family. Instead, I'll be heading to Edinburgh on Wednesday for a few days. Not a bad trade-off, as trade-offs go, particularly since I'll get to see The Divine Comedy play, but still...

If I were at home with family, Thanksgiving would be very Midwestern and very traditional, consisting of the usual suspects

- A turkey (loved as much for its presence in leftover sandwiches as for its appearance at the Thanksgiving table
- Stuffing (we're a stuffing family)
- Mashed potatoes and gravy
- Green bean casserole
- A relish tray (olives, pickled beets, etc.)
- Rolls
- Canned cranberry (complete with the imprint of corrugated metal)
- And two types of pie (pumpkin and fruit pie, usually cherry) for dessert

Staid, safe, and satisfying.

*My* menu, however, will probably consist of whatever's on the menu at whatever restaurant happens to catch my eye. We'll see.

Best to you and your family during this emotionally challenging season.

S. Elizabeth says

Teaching abroad sounds wonderfully exciting! And I'm sorry you've been experiencing the malaise and depression, as well...but I am so glad that you stopped in to say hello as it is always a treat when you peek in :)

Ah, the relish tray! My sister and I were trying to think of the word for this plate of nibbles just yesterday, and it entirely eluded us. "...the pickle tray?" "No! The olive tray!" Heh.

Theodora says

Ah I am so sorry to hear you have had such a rough time of it ;( I can sympathise very much regarding alcoholism. So many people in my family have willingly drank themselves to death. My granddad on my Dads side was a violent boozer who smashed the house up every night in a drunken rage….unfortunately my Dad also inherited that particular character flaw so I grew up with him being off his face every evening… making his already volatile temper a hundred
times worse. (With my mum pleading with him to stop) He’s finally gotten sober and had therapy but I think the damage has already been done to everyone in the family. My dad’s rages were so bad when I was younger I confess I am still quite frightened of him!

In any case – though this is a difficult time I hope that spending the holiday together with your sisters will bring you some comfort. I am English so we don’t celebrate thanks giving over here – but I know that above all it is a time for family. Take care of yourself. And sending positive thoughts and vibes your way.

S. Elizabeth says

Oh, many hugs to you, friend. A childhood destroyed by the demon of drink deserves a do-over (at least I feel like mine does!) I find myself so envious--to the point of irrational hatred sometimes, I'm afraid--of those who have/had normal family lives, you know? Well, "normal", whatever that is, ha! I am so happy though, at your mother's insistence, he is getting things straightened out. :)

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