Sunday, November 29, 2009

I Give Thanks

It's 3:20 on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and I am sitting at my kitchen table listening to Christmas carols and smelling beef and barley soup simmering on the stove.

The Christmas tree is trimmed, the garland and stockings are hung, and the poinsettias are in full bloom on the hearth. My sweet pup, Max, is lazing around napping from corner to corner in the living room.

For this - and so much more - I give thanks.

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday (with the exception of Halloween - for obvious reasons if you know me; um, it's my birthday!) because it signals the beginning of a season of hope and joy and faith. The days ahead are filled with red and green, twinkle lights, cookie-baking and shopping for that perfect gift to wrap and place under the tree for someone special. But, all must go through the turkey and stuffing first.

My family traditions begin with watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from start to finish - something I've done since I was a little girl. The Radio City Rockettes, the marching bands, the huge balloons and of course, Tom the Turkey!

This is our version of Tom the Turkey at home:

As the parade marches through New York City, the house fills with the smells of a juicy turkey roasting in the oven and permeated by fresh sage, lemons and onions.

While the turkey rests and awaits it's carving, the delicious smells of my mother's stuffing made with celery, onions and autumn herbs come from the oven.

The cheesy, creamy goodness of Grandma's famous cornbake wafts through every room, calling to me like a long-lost sibling. (Ok, that's a bit dramatic, but this stuff is GOOD.)

Cornbake = bliss. No corn bake = no Thanksgiving. Sorry, it's a secret family recipe.

Dad always whips up his mother's cranberry-grape salad that I only recently realized was divine (leftover hangups from my picky-eater childhood precluded me from indulging in years past). Red grapes, pecans, cranberries, Cool Whip; I'm not sure why I don't have this recipe...

This year, instead of my usual streuseled sweet potato casserole, I contributed smoked gouda macaroni and cheese to the menu. We finished the table off with fresh green beans and "smashed" potatoes as my brother used to call them. Oh, and a relish platter of cranberry sauce, sweet pickles and whole black olives (no, I no longer put them on my fingers and eat them like I did as a kid).

And of course, pumpkin pie for dessert.

Man, I need a walk.

The days following this great day of thanks will be hectic, and I know that at times (e.g., when I'm standing in long shopping lines or sitting in holiday traffic) it will be hard to remember the true reason for the Christmas season.

That's when I will channel my Thanksgiving Day memories and remember how grateful I am for my family, my friends, a job, a warm home and food on my table. I have been richly blessed. For that, I give thanks.

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