Happy Thanksgiving...

To be honest, I was a little bit bummed this year that Justin and I were unable to work out a holiday compromise so that we could spend Thanksgiving and Christmas together. Justin’s parents originally made arrangements for him to fly out to Colorado to spend the week with them at their vacation home there, but he ended up snarled in a scheduling snafu at work, and had to spend most of the holiday weekend working. 

We’ve already started negotiations on a deal for next year, so hopefully we won’t have to be apart for the holidays again. This year, however, I found myself headed down to St. Louis without him, much to the chagrin of my paternal relatives, who are especially keen to meet him for the first time. I can’t really blame them though… he is pretty great.

Thanksgiving with Dad’s family was spent in all the traditional ways.  All of our classic dishes were there, along with a few new items: salad with mandarin oranges, almonds, and celery; a range of cranberry preparations; perfect homemade rolls from my cousin Andy’s new wife, Chelsea; broccoli-rice casserole with Velveeta cheese (I think this might actually be my favorite item on the menu); corn casserole (most decidedly not my favorite dish of the day); green bean casserole; Aunt Dolly’s much-beloved rice and ground meat stuffing; Aunt Faye’s traditional bread stuffing; sweet potatoes with the marshmallows (which I actually ate this year for the first time, though I dug down to the bottom to get some without the sugary topping); mashed potatoes and gravy; and of course, turkey.

I’m unclear as to how many turkeys we prepared this year, but it had to have been a lot to serve our crowd. I did my best to count the people in attendance and came up with a minimum of 45 people. I don’t know how my cousin Candy does it, but she’s a saint for hosting such a large group every year. Furthermore, we found out that next year our family will be growing of factor of three; one engagement and one pregnancy were both announced today, and another cousin of mine is due to have a baby sometime this winter.

 My contribution to the annual potluck, as per usual, came in dessert form. I brought the gingersnap almonds that I’ve already discussed, and the “S” cookies that are a family tradition on Dad’s side. In defiance of his numerous persistent demands, I did not make orange icing to decorate them with (not everyone in your family is a Fighting Illini fan, dear), but instead opted for a lovely burgundy shade more in keeping with my own personal taste. Thankfully, Mom and I both wore purple so we could match our dessert.

More popular than my homemade offerings was, I believe, the bag of Garrett’s caramel corn that I picked up on my way home from work yesterday and brought down on the plane. Dad’s relatives always request a visit there when they’re in town, so I thought I’d surprise them with a bag, and it was a huge hit. The jumbo-size bag was gone by early evening.

Of course, we also played our annual games of bingo and “rob your neighbor,” though I chose to sneak in a nap during the latter, as I’ve long boycotted that particular game for what I perceive to be its undermining of family affection togetherness, in contradiction of the holiday spirit.

Cousin Daniel wore this awesome turkey hat all day.

Overall, there was much to be thankful for this year, from good food, to happy news, to the mere chance to see so many familiar faces in one spot. Spending our Thanksgiving is a tradition for us that goes back so far, there is actually a video that we watched at last year’s Thanksgiving of seven-month old me, rolling around on the floor with seven-month old cousin Daniel, while my cousin Sheri cradles my newborn cousin TJ in her arms. 

Even though the family has expanded by leaps and bounds since then, we’re still gathering just as we always have. It means a lot to me that we’ve maintained our traditions across all those years, and that my huge family is so close in spite of the distances that separate us. I’m grateful to have been able to spend Thanksgiving surrounded by so much love (“rob your neighbor” excluded.) Happy Thanksgiving!

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