I really love Thanksgiving. I love the menu-planning. I enjoy the cooking prep that begins the weekend before and extends right through Thursday midday (my very last culinary act yesterday was to assemble an apple crisp and slide it into the oven at 2 p.m., just as Rick finished carving the turkey). I even relish the supermarket trips that take me to three or four stores in place of the usual one or two in order to find exactly what I have in mind (produce from Whole Foods, staples from Market Basket, cheese – of remarkably high quality at remarkably low prices – from Trader Joe’s, and fowl – turkey, duck and chicken for the legendary dish known as turducken – from Roche Brothers, because that was the only butcher I could find willing to debone all three for me the week of Thanksgiving). I love the way everyone in my husband’s family of origin praises my cooking throughout the meal because they’re glad I hosted and they didn’t, and I appreciate the fact that my sisters-in-law and my nieces are always up for a walk after we eat.But I always forget that one of the best parts of the day comes after the guests leave, when the table is cleared, the dishwasher is running, the leftovers are in the fridge, and for at least an hour or so, no one is asking me what they can have to eat.
It’s such a peaceful time. Darkness falls early on Thanksgiving; our guests left yesterday at around 4:30, and by 5 it was dark. I hadn’t had time to read the newspaper that morning, having gone for a run and then started in on the remaining cooking and kitchen preparation tasks, so I sat down with the kids and my Kindle. I read; Tim watched football; Holly worked on her Christmas wish list. Rick was already sound asleep, explaining to me that a long nap was critical since he’d be up late watching the Patriots game.
The sense of peace came from more than just having it be the end of a busy day. There’s something about Thanksgiving that feels like the deep cleansing breath before the holiday season kicks off. We’re not big holiday shoppers; we won’t be at any malls or department stores on Black Friday or quite possibly for the entire holiday season, but there’s still a lot to do once December begins. And even though most of it is a lot of fun – concerts, pageants, parties – it’s still good to have a conscious moment of rest before the calendar dates start filling in.
My family of origin likes to have Thanksgiving dinner at night; when we were growing up, we’d do other things all day – those who weren’t cooking, anyway – and then get into feast mode at about 6 p.m. It took me a while to get used to an early afternoon Thanksgiving meal; the first few years we celebrated on that schedule, which is more traditional in my husband’s family, I felt like we’d missed out on all the other possibilities of a free day. But I’ve come to like the schedule, eating a big holiday meal and then having the late afternoon and evening free.
So Thursday evening was blissfully serene. By a little after six, the kids were starting to ask me what they could have to eat, but even that was easy; they were happy with reheated mashed potatoes, leftover cooked carrots, a small slice of pie. All I felt like eating by that time was cottage cheese on crackers. I wish there were more nights with the hushed calm of Thanksgiving night. I felt thankful for a lot this year: health, happiness, security of various kinds. But as night fell, I also felt thankful for that particular moment: the quiet after the storm, even though it’s a good storm.