Author: Drew Laughlin, Lisa Sulka | Photographer: Photography by Anne
Thanksgiving: Family, Food and Football
Thanksgiving for us has always meant family, food and football. There has always been turkey and all of the usual accompaniments, many more than any reasonable person would try to eat. My father liked his cranberry sauce tart and with the skins of the berries still in it. He was alone in this, except for me imitating him. My father is no longer with us, but to this day, we have two cranberry sauces on our table, one with the skins that I alone eat, and a slightly sweeter one without skins preferred by everyone else.
It used to be that my day consisted of waiting for the meal to be ready. This mostly involved watching or playing the aforementioned football and trying to stay out of the way of the organized chaos going on in the kitchen. Nowadays, we actually start preparing the food two days in advance. I have become responsible for preparing and carving the bird. I tend to experiment at this. I brine the bird, which means that preparation begins the day before. I have roasted birds, fried birds, and smoked birds. These are routinely praised at the time, but, it must be said, on some occasions someone requests that we try something different than we did last year. My carving skills continue to be a work in progress. Every year, I vow to get a better carving knife.
Although Thanksgiving Day is filled with the bustle of cooking, it also represents a pause from our routine. It’s a free day to relax, catch up with family, and maybe even catch up with ourselves. It is the beginning of a time for reflection that continues through the holiday season. We consider all those things that keep us so busy and reflect on whether they are in service of what’s really important. We remember how joyful it is to be truly thankful. Melody Beattie put it well: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
As for me, I have a lot of friends and family out there with whom I need to catch up. Maybe I can find a way to slow down and find time for that. Best wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving and an enjoyable holiday season.
Thanksgiving has always been a special time of year for my family, even when I was a small child. I remember sitting by my mother several weeks before Thanksgiving, and watch her write out the menu. The menu was very important as the four children (my sisters, brother and I) were able to have our favorite side dish along with the turkey and dressing. My side dish was macaroni and cheese, the way my grandmother fixed it. It actually should be called cheese with macaroni, as that was the main ingredient. Our favorites never changed: oyster pie, squash, mashed potatoes and rice, to go along with the giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans and fresh rolls (and plenty of them). Yes, it was a very starch-heavy meal, but oh my, how good it was. After dinner, my father would retreat to watch whatever football game, or games, were on that day.
Speed forward to when I am the parent. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as I find myself going through the same litany of writing out the menu and getting suggestions from our three children. The schedule of events for Thanksgiving in my family is as follows. The morning of Thanksgiving, our children wake up early to watch the entire Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In our family, this officially starts the holiday season, and there is something so exciting about seeing Santa Claus for the first time. While the parade is on, I am prepping the food for an early evening dinner. With everything ready to go, and the parade over, we head out to visit friends, who for many years have hosted a mid-morning/mid-afternoon get together. This is a great time, because all of our friends are together, and our children have grown up together, so getting them in one place is wonderful.
After this, while the turkey is in the oven, we head out to Pinckney Island, a tradition since our children were infants. This is where we take our Christmas card pictures, usually from the same bench overlooking the river. We walk for about an hour, playing catch with the football, racing, and taking funny photos every step of the way. From here, we head back home and prepare for dinner. At dinner, after our prayer, all of us say one thing we are thankful for.
When asked what I am thankful for, I would say everything above. I am so thankful to have parents who raised us to know that family comes first. And even though one holiday enhances this, it is every day of the year that family is first and foremost. I am thankful to have a wonderful family of my own, and a husband and three terrific children who share the same values.
I am thankful to live in a beautiful town with so many people who love it as much as I do. I am thankful for the opportunity to give back to Bluffton in my role as mayor.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.