Usually on Thanksgiving, people drive or fly back to the old homestead to celebrate with family and friends.
My memories of the celebration include a long dining room table that actually fits in the dining room, a place we only visit on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The dining room is now only an option in much of the construction industry, particularly in our large cities.
Preparation of dinner begins at 7 a.m. when the turkey is stuffed and placed in the oven to cook for hours while potatoes and vegetables are prepared, pies are baked, and cranberry sauce is stirred.
This year, the epidemiologists are begging us to stay home and celebrate Thanksgiving only among members of the same household. Since I’m the only one in my household and my Schnauzers can’t set a table or carve a turkey, I thought I would bring you a few tales of Thanksgivings from my life to share if you’re alone.
Picture it: Weymouth, Mass., 1966. My parents and I drive up to a small cottage set among tall trees belonging to my aunt and uncle. There’s an accessory dwelling over to the right; the domain of my grandmother, Winifred: a one-room studio with a jalousied porch and a bathroom where the curtain rod also serves as a clothes rack. I step out of the car, smelling the scent of pine and hearing the dried needles crunch under my feet.
This is my father’s family. My uncles and young cousins are in the living room, my aunts and grandmother in the kitchen, while my mother is on the back porch, stringing together an assortment of mismatched tables and adding a tablecloth. Several card tables are set aside for the children’s area. Two space heaters will keep us warm and soon we are called to the table.
A high caloric dinner ensues, consisting of turkey, stuffing, gravy with giblets, mashed potatoes, squash, turnips, and green bean casserole, complemented by mince and pumpkin pies. After having her fill, my grandmother, the matriarch, rises from her seat at the head of the table and announces, “I got the dinner. You do the dishes.”
Fast forward to Alexandria, Va., 1983. I’m living in a townhouse, for which I paid $83,000, in a subdivision called Windsor Park, one of only two in the immediate area. There’s a 7-Eleven and a fresh vegetable stand nearby and a church down the main road. Years later, the area becomes a cute, little place called Kingstowne.
The other interesting thing to know about this particular Thanksgiving is that I’m in love – dizzying, heart palpitating, feeling high as a kite love. Naturally, I have to impress him with my culinary talents, so I cross my fingers and cook a turkey-for-two and some of the trimmings to share in my 9×9 dining room. My first attempt at cooking a turkey is successful! If I ever fall in love like that again, I might be tempted to cook another.
Washington, D.C., 2012. Since neither one of us wants to cook, my friend, Kathy, and I start a five-year tradition of having Thanksgiving dinner with Champagne at a different D.C. restaurant each year followed by a first-run movie, with a short dog-walking break in between.
What movie do we see? Who knows? After a big meal and a couple of glasses of Champagne, I usually fall asleep halfway through it anyway. After our last celebration together, Kathy tells me that she’s moving back home to upstate New York in early 2018. Our five-year run has ended.
Alexandria, Va., 2018. I spend Thanksgiving with other strays (those who have no other place to go) at a Friendsgiving dinner hosted by my friend, Laurie.
Getting off the elevator in her building, I can hear a lot of noise coming from her place at the end of the hall. People are laughing, clinking glasses, and introducing themselves to one another. I am welcomed with pre-COVID hugs all around, although I only know about five people.
Laurie has started with a table in her small dining area and adds multiple tables until they form an L shape from dining room through the living room, seating about 30 people. I’m not sure I would even know 30 people to invite were I hosting the dinner.
Which brings us to today. I’m having a Zoomsgiving this year. Each person cooks one dish and holds it up for the others to see while our mouths water. There’s no dining room required and you don’t have to do the dishes.
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.