I am of the mind that anything Autumnal essentially delivers (in equal doses) a mix of quiet internal elation and body-numbing nostalgia. Basically the emotional equivalent of alcohol. Which is why when Ryan suggested we host a Fall Get-together, you probably could’ve peeled me off of the ceiling.
Or poured me another.
I think I will always love an excuse to gather people together around pretty tables and good food because it just feels like life is being lived. We spend each breath connecting and conversing. Each moment right there in the present. I just love the fact that for an evening, everything feels naturally, effortlessly, distinctly alive.
In the Fall the air is cool and brisk – begging for toasty warm plates and steaming cups of liquid warmth (or in our case, glistening coupes of chilled, bubbly Prosecco. There are no hard rules people). Sure, we were rocking some classy plastic lawn chairs, we were scrambling for table space – and yes, I had purchased enough food for 200 people let alone 20, not to mention the planned activities (I think it’s the teacher in me). But if I were to be completely honest, nothing beats sitting around a table chatting with some of your most favorites – whether it be friends, family, or some happy combination of the two. Even if that’s all you do.
Especially if that’s all you do.
And this crew was top notch.
I will also say that having friends bring their favorite go-to dishes is an amazing way to add some new recipes to your repertoire (and the best way to try new things). We had friends introduce us to new dip recipes featuring goat cheese, and another who brought an Autumn Oktoberfest style beer from Shipyard that is probably the best I’ve had of this kind. Besides, I think with food it’s “the more the merrier”. Too much food is always better than too little (and may keep your husband from ordering 3 large pizzas at the end of the night because he’s worried that people aren’t “eating”. Did I mention he’s Italian)…
We were eating pizza for a week.
But really it was the perfect evening, and not only that – it was also the perfect practice run, because we agreed to host our first Family Thanksgiving this year.
(when I say “we agreed”, of course what I mean to say is that I politely, shamelessly begged everyone to come over).
With plans changing and then changing all over again this year, I wanted to plant everyone in one spot for just one of the Holidays. I wanted everyone to be able to sit around the same table and experience a little bit of life. We had the opportunity to spend some quality time with Ryan’s parents on Thanksgiving Day, so on Friday, everyone came to our place for round 2.
Ryan & Andrew took on the Turkey and did a banner job – especially when faced with the difficult task of keeping my anxious father at bay, who kept trying to take the lid off every ten seconds because he really needed to “turn the bird”.
And there was the chance to see my gorgeous cousin and her equally gorgeous new Marine. I was sure he’d been debriefed, but I do hope we didn’t entirely scare off poor Dan. Good man.
Honorable mentions also go out to my sweet aunts for bringing snacks and Gram, who although she was battling a bout of pneumonia, rallied like a champ.
Most valuable player goes out to my fearless sister who at 6 months pregnant sat alongside my coughing, wheezing grandmother (who’s rally had clearly come to a screeching halt). Sprawled across our guest bed, poor Gram shifted up and down a slew of pillows gathered from around the house – Hay calmly holding a tissue up to her face to catch the barrage of God only knows what.
And of course there was my wonderful mother; she gladly helped me to finish the rest of the food and complimented my table, even days after the event. Though she (slightly tipsy from 1.275 cocktails) rather precariously set the hand mixer down on the countertop, only to turn and see it plummet (with vigor) to the floor (sending mashed potatoes literally everywhere, and really what Thanksgiving is complete without a potato shower?) she alone brought to the table the tastiest, most traditional dishes that managed to make me feel like we’d captured some part of our Thanksgiving’s past, when my Grandparents would host us all at their beautiful home.
It seemed a bit ironic – Gram asleep in our guest room, my Mom tornado-ing around the kitchen, and myself pouring water carefully into each empty water glass, just as I used to do as a child. But this time it was my table, my home, my water glasses. It felt strange. I’d so longed to be able to give my family these feelings, this familiarity – but somehow I couldn’t reach it. I felt then the wave of realization wash heavily over me. Everyone was here. It was exactly what I had wanted.
But it was different.
And for a time, it would be different. Because each of us was different, and we would have to let go of old notions. My grandma could no longer enjoy a holiday event with the same lightness and fervor she had in my memories. The weight of caring for both my Father and Grandmother had drawn the light from my Mother’s eyes and heavied her heart. My sister, usually carefree and zany, was on the precipice of a great change in her own life – the magnitude of it following her everywhere she went, though she never let it weigh her down or cloud her vision. Each of them, vulnerable and yet so strong.
All of them, pretty amazing.
I felt at that instant such pride for these many generations of women in my family, and recognized that this must be a transitional period. One that all families would go through. Only in time would new traditions begin to have a familiar fondness wrapped within them. Only with time would the poles shift and the lightness return to a spirited Holiday gathering. It was there in moments – if you looked closely enough. But it would take time to tend and to grow. To be big enough to illuminate even the darkest of corners.
It was in all, a truly wonderful evening. There was chaos, chatter, laughter, good food and drink, and the occasional family kerfuffle – which did in fact echo Holiday tradition. And though I don’t think we all sat at my table together at any one point in the evening, it looked beautiful. At some point we all enjoyed it’s beauty, because we were all there.
On this night, we were able to appreciate each other, for right now, and for always, and it is a blessing. I am so grateful for each of them – in their entirety. And as it is first and foremost, a Holiday of Gratitude, I think we did do it justice after all.
And you know, if you just can’t seem to capture the spirit and the essence of the Holidays (that comforting, body-numbing nostalgia), at least there is always alcohol.
A big thank you to my husband, for always keeping my glass just the right amount of full.