It was an unusual Thanksgiving for me this year. My mom is at that age (91 to be exact) when she no longer wants to travel to cold climes. That rules out my home in New England. It didn't work for my whole family to travel to her home in Florida this year, but given her age and the fact that I haven't been with her for the past few Thanksgivings, I didn't want to miss spending this Thanksgiving with her. So I went to Florida for the holiday and a couple of extra days and came back to New England in time to be with my family before everyone dispersed again.
Of all our American holidays, Thanksgiving is the most nostalgic for me. It was the holiday when friends and relatives gathered at my childhood home. When I was very little, there was one Thanksgiving when my mother decided to entertain relatives on another day over the weekend. Not wanting to prepare more than one feast, she and my dad decided we would go out for Chinese food on Thanksgiving. We were the only people other than the servers in the restaurant. From that time on, my parents decided we would make and host Thanksgiving dinner at our home.
Being Jewish, we had some untraditional foods at our Thanksgiving table. Our appetizer was always chopped liver. Every Thanksgiving morning, I'd wake up to the signature smell of onions frying. There's nothing like it. And the first morsel any of us would eat -- even before breakfast -- would be a spoonful of chopped liver. My mom solicited our opinions to determine if it was properly seasoned. To this day, I dream of waking up to that smell and having that first bite on Thanksgiving morning.
So we decided -- my mother, my sister and I -- that we would make a traditional Eckstein Thanksgiving this year. Even if it was just the three of us. It turned out that Mom's next-door neighbors came as well. Mom shopped for days. A health set-back (luckily easily remediable) set her back a little. But my sister and I decided that Mom's compulsion to find the perfect turkey speeded her recovery.
We started cooking on Tuesday. Wednesday we set the table. I loved pulling out the serving pieces Mom customarily used for the Thanksgiving accompaniments: the oblong relish dish for pickles, the fluted round dish for cranberry sauce, the silver-lidded casserole for the sweet potato pie. Some of these pieces had been my grandma's and some had been gifts. But each one was like a page in a novel that told the story of all of our Thanksgivings and the people that had passed through our lives.
The Eckstein Thanksgiving meal never changes. We never add anything new except maybe the wine. We don't have to. The repetition of our traditional meal year after year is ritual. It sustains us. It marks the passage of time and I'm so grateful to have had another opportunity to celebrate it.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and wish you a happy holiday season to come.