And boy did she "worry" about the food. Not that she stressed out about it, but she planned and planned for it. I think she really looked forward to the holidays all year long, planning for months ahead of time: stocking up recipes and thinking about what she'd make and how she'd serve it. She loved parties.
She had stacks of magazines with recipes she wanted to try. Countless cookbooks were piled on her bookshelves. Her recipe box was stuffed with 3 x 5 cards. Every year she'd try at least one new dish. Usually, there would be several--sweet, savory, and cookie-y.
We talked every week while I was away at college and I remember she'd spend hours talking to me about how she was planning on setting up several tables and having a different "theme" at each table. She was so excited :) She planned games and had trivia questions for each table. Each group got their own pattern of china (she did, after all, have 5 different (complete) sets). It was all so interactive. Everyone could help, everyone could share. Everyone felt welcome.
The dinner would be buffet style, she'd tell me, and everyone would bring something. Each table would take turns getting up for their food. The whole living room would be rearranged for the event. Sometimes, they even had a table or two outside (the desert is funny like that, weather-wise). My oldest sister's oldest sister-in-law (figure that one out, if you can!) always brought a huge dish of mashed potatoes. Momma made the turkey; Bethany made a ham. There was soup and bread and cranberry-things and all sorts of delicious desserts. The food at that house has brought so many people together...
These Thanksgivings of hers became a yearly thing. Everyone looked forward to them. Everyone wanted to bring someone else: "Is it alright if I bring my sister who's in town with her family?" "Can I bring a family friend who doesn't have anyone else to spend the day with?" Momma was always open to new guests. Her house just oozed welcoming Love all year long--but especially around the holidays :)
Unfortunately, I was never able to attend one of these Grand Thanksgivings. But I did eat many holiday meals with my mother and to experience the Thanksgivings was really just a matter of multiplication. "Where two or more are gathered..." just became "30 or so" and the more was all the merrier.
So, is it any small wonder I've wanted to extend Momma's open arms here in Boston? We're expecting 14 people for dinner tomorrow. Add us, and that's 16 people eating. In a cozy, one-bedroom apartment. We have a 19 pound turkey. I've made sugar cookies, molasses cookies, cranberry relish, and scones. I'll be making the turkey, gravy, stuffing, soup, green beans, bread pudding, popcorn, pickles, candied pecans, and mulled cider.
That might sound like a lot, but it's wonderful. I couldn't be happier. I love planning out when I'll make each dish, lining up my Thanksgiving day by half-hours, starting from when we want to eat, counting back to when the turkey has to come out, how long it has to rest, and when I can fit in things like setting the table and sweeping the kitchen. It's really all part of the fun of planning a big dinner party.
And afterwards, if you're a little exhausted, you're welcome to find a corner and take a nap. I remember that happening frequently at Momma's house :) If my house is welcoming and peaceful enough for you to sleep, I've done at least as well as she did, which is enough for any hostess to be proud of. And I'm thankful for that.